A Tale of Big Winds and Full Circles 6.9.2010

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The picture on the left is from King Street in Newcastle’s CBD. Over the last six months it’s been the scene of two tree removals that managed to get up residents’ noses. (How sore would that be?)

Two 20-year-old plane trees were removed with the minimum of warning about six months ago; as it turned out – information gathered by distressed residents who heard about it for the first time when the chainsaws and cherry-picker turned up – it was alleged that their roots were growing in drains which was leading to flooding during rain. Locals are still waiting to see what will trees will replace them. Probably none: it has long been an element of the urban forest policy that tree replacement could be suburbs away.

The next upset in King Street was about two months ago when a media release appeared on Council’s website on a Friday afternoon  saying that ten trees had been assessed by the arborist and were to be removed. (Assessed as what? Funny little native trees that provided a bit of green and a home for some birds?) That assessment would be an interesting document to read since council planned to remove them six months ago at least – to ‘do up the block’. 

I guess it’s remotely conceivable that council officers knew the trees were ‘hazardous’ six months before and kept their fingers crossed that a little old lady (or man) wasn’t crushed in the meantime. I wouldn’t want to be the funny little natives on the other side of the street.

The chainsaws arrived the Sunday morning after the media release that no one saw. You wouldn’t think that council has a ‘Community Engagement officer’, would you?

Approximately a week after the trees were removed a council officer gave a presentation to elected councillors in which he said ‘We only remove trees that are hazardous’.

An interesting comment, that. Our former arborist was quoted at the charette – that expensive community consultation which made no difference to the outcome, which is exactly the outcome that council officers wanted according to documents from early last year: our full circle -and has been quoted over the years in the Herald as saying one sometimes has to take trees out when they’re still healthy. This is in the name of ‘whole of life tree management’ and a ‘sustainable urban forest’. He also said ‘Newcastle has moved beyond tree preservation.’

Here’s a shot of a hazardous tree – or what’s left of one. You can see how irregular the footpath was (?) and how inadequate the root system was (?). If the tree was at risk of falling over you can see how it wouldn’t have been held up by the wall on the left (?). I don’t think of paperbarks as being likely to fall over. But then I’m No Expert.

We had 98km/hour wind gusts on Sunday, with damage and tree ‘failures’ across the Hunter. Guess which street was safe? You can see shots on our local news of what the weather was like across town here.

There are lots of people in town and on council who want to avoid another Tyrrell Street – where 15 mature and beautiful fig trees were removed allegedly because they were unsafe, but obnly up to the street level where the substation upgrade was happening. I don’t see how it’s possible to avoid turning Laman Street into another Tyrrell Street if council proceed as they currently intend. All probably so work on the electrical cabling and the water main in the road can be done without interference and all because some arborists don’t like mature trees. We’ll watch them implement the 2005 Civic Park plan which saw the figs gone, we’ll be able to get rid of some mature trees while they are still healthy and we’ll be setting a precedent for other trees in our own LGA and other LGAs.

Let’s make the wrong hard decision. Sounds like an election slogan, doesn’t it?

And to finish, here’s an opportunity for someone to say ‘I told you so’. Some branches did fall in Laman Street in that big wind. Here’s the evidence in the photo below. I brought one home: it’s the diameter of my 11 year-old’s little finger and about two feet long. I’m going to strike some cuttings. These will grow in pure sand. Home

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