Family Fun Day in Laman Street 29.8.2010


Someone lovely has hung signs on the Laman Street figs which I saw for the first time today. 

It felt like spring today so a bunch of us met up to enjoy the canopy we’ll never have again after the tree maintenance  crew arrive. When you have a space with no cars it makes you realise how wonderful Laman Street would be if it were part of the park. Unfortunately that’s not our 100-year vision.  

Avenue planting, I’m told, is one of the most pleasing and calming patterns in which to plant trees. There was a slight breeze moving the canopy and dappled light coming through the trees. Children were climbing the trees and riding their scooters down the street, pedestrians were wandering up the street and using the plastic road barriers as benches. 

There were kookaburras, cuckoo shrikes and fig birds in the trees. I’m told there’s an endangered or vulnerable glider that also lives in the trees which was lovely to imagine. On Thursday night when another Laman Street campaigner and I were visiting the street with an arborist the grey-headed flying foxes were arriving. Such beautiful times while we’re waiting for the chainsaws. 

I was reminded of other street tree disasters: Tyrrell Street in Newcastle which I mention ad nauseam no doubt. Half the avenue of figs was removed; this was up to the level of the substation. There was sadly widespread cynicism about this which persists to this day. It’s such a shame that history seems to be repeating itself. Arborist reports were a big feature of that debacle  controversy. 

What was interesting after Tyrrell Street was that the residents of Swan Street, another fig avenue of Cooks Hill, were threatened with a similar fate but the outcry was loud enough to ensure that electrical cabling work was run up a trench in the middle of the street.  One wonders why, if there are infrastructure concerns in Laman Street, that would not be possible here. 

I sought informal advice about electrical cabling and my resource person (that was the then-trendy term we used for ‘experts’ at university) said that removing trees to do this work would be a last resort; that while there could be issues like crowded infrastructure in Laman Street that he has no knowledge of, alternatives would almost always exist to removing such large and beautiful trees of such major community significance. We were lectured about infrastructure placement at the charade  charette but I was so cynical about those lectures that the details failed to register for long. You can see the services on the ground-penetrating radar here. Rivetting stuff – viewed over 2500 times to date. 

 These alternatives would include under-road directional boring; he said this can be done without even excavating the  road. There’s a Queensland website that has interesting pictures here.

 There’s a fight going on in a northern NSW town called Chinderah to save a beautiful old tree which is – you guessed it – in the way of development. An arborist is actually trying to save it, which gladdens your heart. On a Friday the locals were reassured that the landowner would try to save the tree and on the Monday without warning the chainsaw crew arrived.  

 In Wauchope, another north coast town, thought its figs were safe after winning a battle to save the Hill’s figs in the main street three years ago. Well, sadly, someone bided their time – it’s not council since the area now has an administrator rather than an elected council – and have in recent months started to go for the same tree species but farther up the road. Poor things.

 Hyde Park and the Domain in Sydney are famous sites where battles to save trees were lost. Beautiful Hill’s figs and Moreton bay figs. Earlier in the year I read about a beautiful avenue of plane trees in Belgrade where hundreds of trees were cut down by authorities: there’s an article and stunning picture here.

 I asked a friend recently to tell me a story about a place where tree fights were won and there is one in our very own back yard: Islington’s spectacular row of Moreton bay figs were slated from removal at least twice: once in the 40s and again in the 70s. And guess what? They’re in the cross-hairs again. At least replacement planting has been started there, but it’s beyond me why some of the replacements are magnolia grandiflora.

My concern is that Laman Street will never recover, just as Tyrrell Street has never recovered. Not in our lifetime and not in our children’s lifetime. An ordinary selection of tree in Tyrrell Street and deliberately flouting the wishes of the public and most councillors to have an avenue planting in Laman Street will be forever regretted. 

People’s memories are often short but many of us never forget and try never to let others forget. I wrote recently about how the 5:30am arrival of bulldozers in Birdwood Park in the 1970s with the loss of some beautiful Moreton Bay figs probably ended the political career of the Lord Mayor of the day. I wonder if anything like that will happen after Laman Street is destroyed forever.


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