Good News, Bad News and Cobblers 11 8 2010


Last year, in one of Newcastle’s many tree stories, a councillor helped a Mayfield Street denude itself of about seven mature camphor laurels because a single insurance claim against council for infrastructure damage was successful.

The plan was to poison the trees and remove them, grind the stumps then replant exotics on each side of the street. At its worst the street looked like this. The trees to replace the camphor laurels were to be white cedar trees and pistachio chinensis (see ‘Arnold street choice of replacement trees’).

Well, the only greenery there now is turf. About a year after the business began. Sad.

Read a great article in the Herald today: ‘Council revises figures‘. You’ll be interested to read this example of local government accounting. The Laman Street trees are worth $1million. Or $68000. Or both.

If these figures are both correct, how can we believe that the street tree masterplan cost $200000, or that to keep the trees would cost $xooooo (name your figure)?

I read some years ago an article about a questionnaire given to judges, asking them who the expert witnesses were whom they found hardest to understand. It was accountants. I know my eyes have always glazed over when the poor things have tried to talk to me. Perhaps obfuscation is a skill the most successful ones learn… And when they’re at the top of their game they give in-services to council managers.

And speaking of cobblers, have a look at this from a June update of the spin on council’s website regarding the Laman Street trees:

‘The Hills figs trunk and branch structure along with pruning techniques used on these trees in their early development have weakened crown architecture leaving a canopy that is prone to rapid and unpredictable failure.’

In actual fact, this is not what Mr Marsden said. The problem, he said, was the roots (but see the ground-penetrating radar, available in the links on the right on the home  page). The canopy, as far as Mr Marsden was concerned wasn’t too bad:

  All of the subject trees presented as being in acceptable health at the time of inspection. There were no signs or symptoms of major pests or diseases. There were no major fungus fruiting bodies on the stems or scaffolds…. There were no stem lesions associated with major woody-root and butt rot diseases... Foliage colour and density plus shoot elongation appeared normal. The foliage displayed no chlorosis nor did the crowns display dieback or carry any deadwood of note. Several of the trees displayed epicormic shoot production on scaffolds that are growing in areas which have been suddenly opened up to sunlight following the removal of adjacent trees, a reaction considered normal.

 All of the subject trees have varying degrees of included bark at the main unions, although the extent of included bark is not such that it matches or exceeds the parameters adopted by Council for assessing included bark.

 None of the trees displayed the multi-planted stem arrangement that has led to the failure of Hill’s Figs elsewhere in Newcastle.’

These are quotes from Mr Marsden’s report on the trees. It seems so little is known about the biology and prognosis of trees like these that Newcastle council’s former arborist and Mr Marsden got together and invented an assessment tool for included bark, among other things. I’ll bet they’re sorry they didn’t make the test a bit tougher.

Treehuggers everywhere will be clamouring to use that tool… I’ll give you a break now. Home




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One Response to “Good News, Bad News and Cobblers 11 8 2010”

  1. miriam Loftus Says:

    Isn’t it interesting how many council arborists sprout the same rubbish about the supposed condition of mature street trees & their reasons for removal. Some years ago, when Pt Macquarie Council wanted to remove all 30 mature hills figs from Hastings St in our town of Wauchope, they cited the same reasons as Newcastle is now stating : that is, ‘that pruning techniques used on the trees in their early development have weakened crown architecture, leaving a canopy that is prone to failure..’ Since we recently saved the first block of 15 trees (2 were removed), this argument has no longer been used by Council, somehow suddenly deemed irrelevant!! Now our Council wants to remove the 2nd block of trees, their supporting argument for removal has morphed into ‘insurance problems’. It seems that whenever one argument doesn’t suit them, they reach into their grab-bag of tricks & provide another. We have tried to present council with solid, well-researched alternatives such as root guards (which were deemed acceptable in a recent Land & Environment court case) but, as usual, they show little interest. At the same time, they continue to surreptitiously kill/remove the ancient hills figs in Church St, Pt Macquarie (the most historical St in Port). We will keep fighting for our Hastings St trees (it’s only been near 4 years now..ho hum) & still expect victory. They will not wear us down!! Power to the tree-lovers!! (PS. Why have ‘arborists’ turned into tree-haters? They seem to have been schooled to cut trees down, not preserve them)!!!

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