From Newcastle to Wauchope and Back 30.9.2010

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Banner protecting the Wauchope Hastings Street figs

I’ve been meaning to drive to Wauchope to see the threatened Hastings Street figs for almost a year and when I read the comment from one of the campaigners on the last post I decided to go today. 

I had heard about  these trees around Christmas time. I’ve written about them before – if I’d been better about tags I’d be able to find it now… Basically, a gorgeous little town has two rows of Hill’s figs in one of the main streets and they’re beautiful. Because arboricultural fashion has turned against Hill’s figs – and trees in general, I sometimes think – these trees have been on borrowed time for a while. Because the people love the trees even though council arborists may not, three reports, one commissioned by the community, were written, representations were made to the administrator and the trees were saved – I am sooo simplifying this: apologies. 

Anyway, a shortish time passes and because three residents at the other end of the street – that had never been under threat –  have (longstanding) trouble with their pipes,  that council should have fixed, council decide to get rid of these trees. The residents held a candlelight vigil (this is what inspired our vigil). 

Two weeks ago the bulldozer turned up in the middle of the night to remove the trees but cars were in the way so the team were unable to destroy the figtrees. Apparently there were so many phone calls to the council the next day that the phone system was overloaded at council and they had to get extra staff in to deal with the callers. Since then, residents have been getting signatures on petitions, calling the council, and have manned a rallying point in front of the trees for two weeks. How inspiring. It was lovely to talk with the people there. They had wonderful and positive media coverage today which they kindly showed me. 

They pointed me towards a great boardwalk along the river – under more fig trees – and a lovely cycleway beside the river. What a beautiful place. I know camphor laurels are terrible up that way because they naturalise  but the smell of the flowers is beautiful. 

What else has happened? Four of us had a meeting with the Lord Mayor yesterday which has to have been a useful experience. It was a tad disappointing to realise that the peer review we commissioned by Mark Hartley has probably not been read by every councillor… I shouldn’t be surprised – but I am. I would have thought that if one wanted to take the Tough Decision to remove a million dollars’ worth of trees, one would read every paper that had been written about it. I know the councillors are busy and cannot be expert in every field, and that they therefore have to rely on council officers’ advice… 

And the only other two bits of news are the two vigils we’ve held. Last night a news reporter and cameraman came and did a story on the vigil: the coldest one we have endured; a councillor was there and was interviewed as well. I think the emphasis on the new (as of August) safety information was important. Radio stations and the newspaper also called so the message will get out there. 

Two YouTube film makers dropped in to the vigil and lots of names were added to the petition. 

One supporter made me realise how rigid I am: I assumed that since I have already written in the Laman Street Not Sorry Book that I’d had my go, but he tells me he wrote a poem yesterday and drew a sketch of a felled tree today and he’ll do something else tomorrow. A relative was going to the doctor’s and the doctor said s/he didn’t understand all the fuss: after all, s/he said, ‘They’re Just Trees.’ I guess tree blindness is a recognised disease that has no treatment. Sad. Home

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