More breaking news 20.7.2011

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Laman Street seen from Civic Park

Thanks to Laman Street campaigners who witnessed last night’s Council meeting for this media release:

 

Councillors voted last night to axe Laman St trees and ignored independent expert advice.

Seven Newcastle councillors voted tonight to destroy all 14 Laman St fig trees as soon as possible, ignoring a last-ditch effort by independent experts who said council risk assessments lacked scientific rigour and should not be used as a basis for decision-making.

In front of a packed gallery that spilt over into two rooms in City Hall, the seven anti-tree councillors (Boyd, Buman, Cook, Jackson, King, Luke, and Sharpe) refused to heed advice from Professor Mark Stewart, a leading international expert in risk management, and Bill Jordan, a specialist in wind effects on large objects.

Save Our Figs Spokesperson Gennice Davies said: “Professor Stewart and Mr Jordan pointed to clear flaws in the way in which risk levels had been calculated for the documents on which the council’s insurer based its decision to withdraw liability coverage for the trees.

“For the people who attended, it was staggering to witness the spectacle of seven councillors who were so contemptuously deaf to what these respected external experts – who gave up their own time to offer their expertise to council – had to say about the very reports on which the officers had based the recommendations that the councillors were voting on,” Ms Davies said.

“It’s hard for people who weren’t there to believe, but it was obvious to everyone who was there that these councillors just didn’t want to know anything about what might be wrong with council’s risk assessments, despite the fact that the council’s insurer had invited the council to offer “further expert advice” on the trees to ensure their continued liability coverage.

A picture says a thousand words. Tyrrell Street

“Clearly, these councillors are prepared to use the lack of insurance coverage as a pretext to “justify” removing the trees, to the point that they will actively resist genuinely considering any alternative view, no matter how qualified the source and how reasonable the argument.

After squealing about how much council has already spent on the trees, these seven anti-tree councillors effectively voted to spend between $1.4million and $1.7million of ratepayers’ money to get rid of them.

“Last night was one of Newcastle Council’s darkest moments, and will stand as a shameful marker in the history of a city that boasts its support for its “urban forest”.

“If Laman Street is clear-felled, it will be the enduring symbol of a council that obstinately refused to listen to its community and independent experts,” Ms Davies said.

*******

I foresee another Tyrrell Street. Exactly what a few of the Councillors wanted to avoid.

You’ll be pleased to know that in contradistinction to Newcastle City Council’s usual efficiency there were barricades up in Laman Street before the meeting had even begun.

And Laman Street,until they magically find the money for the redevelopment from somewhere – Cr Nelmes pointed out that the funding for this does not exist so Cr Buman suggested that Council take it out of the ‘Hunter Street funding’ – will be bare and ugly and the site of electricity cable replacement and million dollar funding while  electioneering for the next Council election is going on.

Presumably a few of these short-term ‘thinkers’ won’t be standing again.

One of the most bizarre moments of the night was when a Councillor who until recently had a record of voting to retain the trees told a story about a case in Sydney where a young woman was injured by a branch falling from a fig tree in Hyde Park.

A very sad story, but the logical conclusion of it is not to take out sturdy trees. I’m speechless at such an excuse to fall in with the line peddled by Council management.

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7 Responses to “More breaking news 20.7.2011”

  1. ArchitectGJA (Ed) Says:

    One word for the councillors who voted to destroy this treasure: shame.

  2. ArchitectGJA (Ed) Says:

    I received an email from Cr Cook, prior to the vote, asking why I cared about and made time for this Laman Street issue. Here is an excerpt from my response to Cr Cook:

    “Removing and replanting the Laman Trees, while creating something new, destroys not only the trees, the fauna, and sets back the mature tree count and associated benefits to the City, but it also destroys the history and the familiarity that has been experienced in a very positive way by generations.

    If this type of erosion of “place” in cities is allowed to continue, based on precedents, the sad and final result is a soulless place, a Stepford Wife, if you will: beautiful but hollow. This is why I commented earlier that your proposal is short sighted and wrong. My views on Laman Street include not only the trees, but the frame of mind of a City which should be looking to a future which incorporates the past, not one which destroys the past.

    So, to me this is important, important enough to create the time to speak up and try to encourage those in charge to not rush into something irreversible.”

    Sadly, the rush to irreversible has begun. Sadly the loss of a City’s soul is under way. If this frame of mind is not corrected, the Newcastle which is unique and beautiful with deep roots in the past will become a city where heritage trees are replaced, if at all, by a template design from a strip-mall parking lot. Where a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise is acceptable to cover an Aboriginal archaeological site, where anything, regardless of its being unique, antique or heritage, can be swept aside for the short sighted grab for something shiny, something new, something that will generate a profit at the expense of future generations.

    Newcastle deserves better than this, I hope others of a like mind will also express as much to those in the decision making arena.

  3. Sherilyn Psaltis Says:

    This serene and beautiful place of inspiration for so many generations has become a pawn for power struggles between the Councillors. Seven of these have chosen to ignore expert and credentialled opinions that demonstrate the glaring faults in the “evidence” upon which they rely. They do not believe there is a strong groundswell of public attachment to this PLACE, choosing to dismiss the opposition as the ravings of fringe activists. They have powerful facilitators in infrastructure staff who are determined to be “right” and to execute a narrow vision.History matters not a jot to these people. Nor do they feel connected to a sizeable number of the people they claim to represent, otherwise they would have found ways to merge safety, rejuvenation and preservation. Ultimately they are just not clever enough. My Ward Councillors, Luke and Sharpe and the other 5 will be bitterly remembered for their refusal to set aside stubborn self interest and one track tthinking and acknowledge the opinions of many they represent.Where are the intelligent, visionary leaders?

  4. Angela Says:

    What of ambience & character? Not worth a Fig? These councillors would pay $$$ to fly o/seas to a Lovely resort!!! YHA says folk rave about “our” City of Newcastle ,NSW and it is a favoured destination. Imagine it without its many great trees esp, Laman Street.
    Those seven councillors are pragmatic nit-wits

  5. Nicole Says:

    I’m doing a school geography project on the redevelopment of the Civic Precinct of Newcastle, and interested in some local community members’ opinions. Would any of you be interested in answering a couple of questions for me?

  6. Sherilyn Psaltis Says:

    Hello Nicole, if it’s not too late I’d be willing to answer your questions from the perspective of a community member. Put them on the blog and I’ll respond.

  7. Nicole Says:

    That’d be great Sherilyn, thanks! I think Caitlin already emailed you the questions? My email is nicole.velaires@education.nsw.gov.au if you just wanted to send your answers there?

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