SULE vs TreeAZ 8.9.2010


One councillor has been kind enough to respond to residents’ emails requesting feedback on the independent arborist’s report.

He said that among other things (the ‘transition of the space’ argument being one – see last post) his reasons were more around the ‘undisputed arborist advice of the remaining life of the trees. Up to 7 different arborists concluded that the SULE rating for the trees was sound, and that their remaining life was (for most of the trees) in the 5-15years category’.

I’m grateful to Mr Hartley for explaining the issues around SULE, which another independent arborist explained to me some months ago and which the Laman Street action group made available to charette attendees.

SULE stands for Safe Useful Life Expectancy. The SULE assessment is a planning tool that the author has now publically said is inappropriate and has replaced with TreeAZ. In part SULE requires that safety (Risk of Harm) be assessed. The risk assessment has obvious flaws so any safety assessment by the same practitioners is likely to be equally flawed.

It’s hard to find a polite word to describe the suggestion that these trees have only 15 years to live. There are no indicators that the health of any of the Hill’s figs is anything but good. There has not been one piece of evidence provided by any arborist to support the assertion that the trees are unhealthy or in a state of decline.

Perhaps council should explain why we should believe that these trees are any more likely to die than every other Hill’s fig of the same age under council’s care, or does the council intend to remove all trees of this age (as rumour would have it)?  Perhaps council should explain why the trees at the other end of Laman Street, away from the gallery and library, are not subject to the same scrutiny; why trees in Ravenshaw Street near a huge apartment/shopping centre development were actually required by council to be retained and cared for; why Hill’s figs in Mayfield near a pending hostel development were required by council to be retained.(In Ravenshaw Street, council allowed the developer to fell three beautiful trees and gave residents the minimum notice required, as they would – there’s another arborist report to go looking at.)

If risk in Laman Street is not the issue and tree health is not the issue then the only option left is Useful. Perhaps these trees are getting in the way of some greater use.

Every arborist report written for the council included the incorrect assumption that two trees outside the art gallery fell over. Hopefully everyone now agrees that the trees did not fall over and that this assumption was simply wrong. As a result any conclusion based on this assumption needs to be reconsidered.

It would be interesting to know the real reason why council is in a rush to remove these trees since the safety issue has apparently been a complete furphy from day one. Perhaps if they had agreed to a staged removal – which I have never supported unless it’s over many decades – they may have had community support.

Now that council has acquired the land next to and behind the art gallery, why is there a need to do anything on the Laman Street side of it? It will be decades before the street looks beautiful if the current trees are removed. They don’t belong to elected councillors and they don‘t belong to council officers or the general manager. If the issue is public liability, which it clearly isn’t, then they can be happy that these trees have been cleared of impending risk.

So far, the charette cost $70000, the ‘risk abatement strategy’ has cost somewhere between $40000 (the initial figure) to $70000 (the last figure I heard quoted), the art gallery shop lost something like $20000 – make a more consumer-friendly shop – and we need to add the cost of weekly – yes, weekly – committee meetings over 12 months of council officers to deal with this issue – or rather plan their strategy. What a waste of ratepayer funds.

Spend time and energy and our money on something important. Even something real.



One Response to “SULE vs TreeAZ 8.9.2010”

  1. sharon Says:

    Love the beer can shot…….call in Harry Butler to catch the little bugger!

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