Community consultation and the example of Marrickville Council


I went to the very beginning of  tonight’s council meeting to hear about street tree management. The gems that I recall (typically, my pen didn’t work) are:

Mr Johnstone, the council officer giving the presentation, said that council only remove trees when they’re judged to be hazardous.( That has to include tree roots damaging the pavement because there was nothing else hazardous about the trees in King Street.)

This was in reply to a question from Sharon Claydon, ALP, about marrying up the timing of tree removal with tree replacement. (Personally, I was a bit concerned that he said in reply to this that they’re concentrating tree planting in areas where they have few trees. Sounds sensible, admirable and impressive but reminds me of reading that council won’t necessarily replace a tree in the street where a removal took place but could put it somewhere else entirely.)

Michael Osborne, the Greens councillor, asked when the draft street tree masterplan would be released. (This has so far been costed at approximately $200000.) The answer was September or October.

Community tree planting days were held and were terrific.

Residents liked that the Tree Planting Truck had a sign on it saying ‘We are planting 30000 trees’.

The spaces that represent potential trees outnumber existing trees.

The cost of planting a standard street tree is $200-$400. The Lord Mayor was surprised and thought this seemed excessive but it’s certainly in line with US figures.

Community consultation was mentioned as being important but King Street (see last post) is an example of how we have a way to go.

In relation to this, Jacqueline from Saving Our Trees in Marrickville has found that,

‘Marrickville Council has a good history of community consultation across all issues of governance.  Concerning public trees, they put up notification of an intended tree removal on their website giving 14 days notification. They also provide detailed information as to why they believe the tree should be removed & have provided the arborist report on occasion.   
‘The community are invited to send in a submission if they disagree with the assessment & believe the tree should be retained. There have been a number of trees retained as a result of community opposition of the tree’s removal. So far, the community has only protested the removal of trees when they are healthy and there are other methods that could be used to allow the trees to remain.
”Marrickville Council recently started avoiding using nails to fix ‘Notification of Tree Removal’ signs to the tree in response to the community’s request. Now they use sticky tape to fix two signs to the tree which has turned out to be far more effective in keeping the signs attached.
‘Previously people used to reactively rip the signs off.  The Notification of Tree Removal signs attached to the tree contains the same information in full that is on Council’s website.
‘The community are also encouraged to make comment & speak at the Council Meeting when trees are on the agenda.  This is the community’s democratic right & Marrickville Council does not try to prevent the community from participating in any part of the future directions of the LGA.  Anyone can telephone Marrickville Council’s Tree Manager whenever they have a question about public trees, again proving Marrickville Council are serious about community consultation. 
‘Community consultation may not always be easy for Councils, but it does result in trust toward the Council & fosters a healthy open relationship between the Council and the community and this is beneficial on many fronts.  Marrickville Council encourages community involvement and they treat the community as adults who may bring good ideas to the table.  
‘Even when the community disagrees with a direction Marrickville Council wants to take, the community is always treated with respect & if possible, their ideas & requests are implemented.  I’ve witnessed this with public trees, with roads & with budget allocations as examples. I’ve even witnessed children speak at a Council Meeting about issues that concern them & seen Council take positive action on these concerns.  Open community consultation should be the norm for all Australian Councils & I am surprised to learn that it isn’t.’  Jacqueline – Saving Our Trees Marrickville.                 Home

This stump is what remains of a Hill's fig from which a major branch fell in Swan Street. Council has presumably not ground the stump into oblivion to remind us what fate could befall us if we don't watch out.


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