Working Party Meeting no 3 – 2.6.2011


Last night’s Laman Street Working Party meeting went more than an hour over time and took thirty pages of (almost illegible) handwritten notes for me to record so how do I do it justice?

Since it’s often about ‘the vibe’ with me I’ll start with how it felt. This morning it feels positive because there was a real emphasis on moving forward and finding creative ways to solve Council management’s problem that they’ll be sued if a Laman Street tree falls over.

(Parts of last night felt simply awful though, with defensive staff, and discussions about ‘tones’ of reports saying what we can’t do rather than what we can, and repeatedly veering back towards removing the trees and how impossible it is to save them – even though the job of the Working Party is to preserve and manage these 14 trees.)

The rest of this is in no particular order and is very incomplete:

Some very manageable (it seemed to me) figures were mentioned – if the power cables in the street were moved the cost would be $600 000-$700 000 – half of which would be borne by Council. Less than I had imagined. Energy Australia approached Council some years ago before the Laman Street stuff came up and wanted to do it then: the cost,I recall, was  higher than was mentioned last night.

I was pleased to hear Council’s arborist say, when talking about the long-term vision for Laman Street, that we don’t just want shrubs lining the street ‘like tuckeroos’ – I’m not making this up and where was he when Tyrrell Street was turned into a desert and lined with – you guessed it – tuckeroos?

I was somewhat heartened to see that the councillor who was on television talking about the difficulties of saving these trees didn’t just come out and say ‘Let’s chop down them down.’ But he had to be reminded over and over again that the Working Party’s job is to manage these 14 trees – not chop them down. He held up the 14MB document I wrote about a few days ago that shows fig pornography scary photos of tree failures everywhere but in Laman Street. He just found that document ‘by chance’ ‘the night before the meeting’.

He did at one point put the words ‘creative’ and ‘saving the trees’ in the same sentence.

It was suggested that Working Party members ‘leave their baggage at the door’ – hear, hear.

Council staff said the public perceive that NCC don’t know how to look after trees. An arborist pointed out that the community perceive no risk in Laman Street and are mainly concerned that the fences are ugly and unnecessary. It was  pointed out that a single Council manager is in charge of when and if those fences are ever removed – how bizarre is that? Why have elections?

The arborist WP member explained the difference between SULE and the outlook for a tree: without checking my notes he said a tree could have a very low SULE but could still be managed for many years and he gave the example of some London Street trees that are 300 years old and are looked after intensively to keep them there – of course, he made the point that we don’t tend to do that here. He said he had worked out his opinion of the SULE of those trees – which I believe is very optimistic: unfortunately he didn’t share that optimistic figure with the group.

Speaking of what we tend to do, Council staff’s objection to encouraging aerial roots on the Laman Street figs is that it’s not generally done in Newcastle. Che?

There was a huge list of reports provided (the list, not the reports, since the reports are mostly on Council’s website) – and one of them was a University research study, not paid for by Council. A community member asked if other reports not paid for by Council  could be presented to the Working Party and it was agreed that they could. Mark Hartley’s report – come on down. Perhaps we could include some Land and Environment Court affidavits that talk about the trees while we’re at it.

More later, but it was great to see that the next Working Party event will be a workshop that will be open for the public to observe on ways to manage the perceived risk – since it seemed to be generally agreed that we will never agree on the level of risk and Council won’t be swayed that it’s less than they say. Home


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3 Responses to “Working Party Meeting no 3 – 2.6.2011”

  1. Ali Says:

    Thanks Caity, Il look beyond a few typos as you are so busy & thorough in so many other areas. I keep looking for the part where Cr Cook is asked to step down from the Working Party for not well …. working with the party. Im so appalled that he ranted off with his own view undermining IMO the whole aim of the the NCC motion & the purpose of the WP.

  2. David H. Says:

    Thanks Caity,

    great summary.


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