The questions at tonight’s Vigil 28.9.2010


Cracks which led to removal of in $72000 tree by council in 2007

If anyone had told me a year ago that I would be part of a nightly vigil about a bunch of trees I would have scoffed. 

To try to save the mature figs in Laman Street, a group of people get together every night from 5pm to 7pm in the street. Anyone is welcome. 

There’s a bit of a routine happening now, which others have taught me: the signs have to be hung on the  trees, the ribbons around their trunks have to be adjusted, then we sit on the steps (made a bit irregular by those pesky tree roots) in front of Newcastle City Library, and network. And wave to the cars that honk, which is most of them.You could even call it Placemaking, a term that councils love. 

 Every night people come up with different suggestions: tonight it was pedestrianising the street: moving the entrances to the library, Art Gallery and church to the rear of the buildings, and making the trees part of the park: all great ideas that were shared with council by people who attended the charette all those months ago… 

 Every night people ask where the plan to destroy the avenue of trees came from. The disbelief in their faces is something to behold. People swap stories – like the one about the major branch failure of a Hill’s fig in Swan Street a year ago. These are the examples that council officers fear: the tree whose stump sat for a year afterwards as an example to us all, looking rotten; when the branch fell it missed a resident by a whisker. Even so, the resident was not keen to have the tree removed. It was suggested to her, it’s said, that the stump could be turned into a sculpture, but that didn’t happen. 

 One couple arrived tonight bringing their own sign – isn’t that wonderful? Strangers share dahl brought by two gorgeous fellow treehuggers, and share stories. The same people stop on their way home from work each night and have a chat. Occasionally people will tell you of their irritation that if they had known these trees were going to be removed they would not have bought a house in the street. One man’s story was that he went to the library today and tried to get onto this website but it was blocked. Have to check that out!

 One older woman stopped to sign the petition a few weeks ago – I think that was the day Mr Hartley, the arborist who was kind enough to help us with an assessment that disagreed with council : something I had difficulty getting anyone to do earlier in the year – and shared with us that her father had helped save the Islington Park figs in the 1940s.

One of our number helped fight against the removal of the Birdwood Park figs in the 1970s and remembers when the Queen’s visit to open the Art Gallery in the early 1970s was an earlier threat to the Laman Street trees.  And one of our legal team came to the vigil tonight which was lovely. 

Reading about attempts to save trees elsewhere I came across the Anne Frank tree which was between 150 and 170 years old when its health obviously began to suffer. It blew over in a storm eventually. Our trees look so robust in comparison. Closer to home the Queensland government went to significant trouble and expense to save a tree called Pop’s fig. A busway alignment was moved specifically to save this heritage tree. There’s a photo of how stunning it looks here. And I found a book called  ‘A tree saving manual for developers, builders, designers, arborists and landscape contractors’ by Dorney and Kitchen. Sounds like a good Christmas present for some people I know.

I think we’ll all have to find a substitute when the vigil is not needed any more – maybe we’ll need to plan Friday evening dahl and drinks under the present figs for many years to come.  We can hope. Home.


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One Response to “The questions at tonight’s Vigil 28.9.2010”

  1. miriam Loftus Says:

    The Wauchope fig trees have been surrounded by large temp wire fences by Council for a fortnite now. Council moved in in the wee hours of the morning without any public notice to the people of the street (very shifty) but luckily, some cars parked under the trees stopped the dozer which was ready to raze the trees to the ground. They were to have been removed but we have held off their vandalism for 2 weeks so far!! The fences have been hung with banners & ribbons, we’ve had vigils, a scones & cream morning, petitions & info pamphlets & a group of fig-lovers sitting with the trees at all times of the day talking to passers by. Finally, the townsfolk have swung behind us in support – yahoo!!!! Will we win? I don’t know but Council is supposedly consulting yet more ‘experts’ & yet to make up their minds. However, we will protest to the bitter end – one man has offered to strip down to his boxers & climb a tree whilst others will chain themselves to various limbs if it comes to it. Three long years of struggle will be over soon – hopefully in our favour!! Good luck to all supporters of the Laman figs – may they be saved & nutured………

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