Managing trees in Newcastle – and see you at Council next Tuesday 29.9.2011

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Big winds today felled a Norfolk Island pine in Tudor Street in Hamilton – and chainsaws felled a lovely Port Jackson fig in Cooks Hill.

At what passes for peak hour in Newcastle (eat your heart out, Sydney) a pine tree fell down, blocking a lane of traffic. Guess how many people were killed or injured. None. Guess how many cars were damaged. None (according to the police service who were present when my photographer friend visited.) Guess how many head NCC municipal arborists were present to photograph the tree stump. Two.

There are three pines in a row in the median strip and they all have longstanding defects in the bark near the base of each tree. The middle tree has a memorial cross attached to it so I’d be interested to know what NCC are going to do with that when they remove the tree.

Do these bark defects represent instability that the famed Newcastle ‘tree asset management system’ (‘TAMS’) should have picked up before? I’m sure one of my crazed fans can enlighten me on that.

And in Cooks Hill, Council staff took three days to remove a Port Jackson fig which was, according to a Cooks Hill resident, hit by a truck a year ago. Apparently a branch damaged a car when that happened. For some reason Council decided to remove the tree this week. A woman who lives in the block where the tree is said no one from Council told her household that the tree was going.

Since Newcastle City Council has no policy for notifying the community of tree ‘management’ like this, I hope they had to spend lots of time fielding calls from residents. I believe councillors were notified days before the ‘work’ was started.

The Port Jackson fig that was felled this week because of branch damage a year ago

And residents in Ravenshaw Street Newcastle West should possibly be feeling nervous about their last two mature Hills figs. Three were sacrificed to a shopping centre almost  three years ago. Council insisted the developer keep the remaining two trees and protect them from damage in building work. It would be such a shame if these were now ‘lost’.

Council had workers digging one of those scary* exploratory trenches beside the trees –  allegedly so they could assess the trees’ roots in advance of widening the footpath. What do I know about widening footpaths but it sounded like QRAP to me.

The foot traffic in that block is so small, you could be forgiven for thinking footpath work is a monumental waste of money here – which in turn makes one suspicious that someone is hankering after a pear tree or a lilly pilly to replace beautiful Hill’s figs, to fit in with the other end of the street.

A large white cross has been painted on one of the trees, presumably by Council. If a teenager painted an indelible cross on a tree and was caught, s/he’d be prosecuted.

*Scary because it reminds me of the trenching done by Mr Marsden, Council’s external/consultant arborist in Laman Street. I’m yet to come across a helpful trench when it comes to trees in Newcastle.

And my last (for today) word on our tree asset management system is Hannell Street in Wickham – the picture of the dead-looking Norfolk Island pine is in a row of about fifty trees, more than half of which are dying. They’ve been dying for about two years now. The Botanic Gardens contributed some expertise to tell Council that the ground is infected with phytophthora. So this is allegedly being treated. I’m here to tell you the Treatment. Is. Not. Working.

$750 000 wasted under delegated authority to convince Newcastle people that the beautiful Laman Street trees need to go but we keep this row of sick, spindly trees, plain at the best of times, which line a major road into the city, and do nothing about it. Incredible. TAMS indeed.

And – most importantly – there’s yet another Council meeting to attend on Tuesday 4th October at 5:30pm. The rescission motion will be heard in relation to independent expert assessment of the safety QRAP reports about Laman Street. Every Council meeting is more important than the one before when it comes to this beautiful avenue of trees so come along and make your views heard.

And contact your councillors and tell them you want independent assessment before, not after, the trees are removed. 

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2 Responses to “Managing trees in Newcastle – and see you at Council next Tuesday 29.9.2011”

  1. Jo Zerafa Says:

    Shame on you Newcastle City Council, another example of how you fail in upholding your pledge in the Newcastle City Urban Forest Policy Section D: “The community should be a direct partner, participant and ‘owner’ in formulating and implementing urban forest measures because the urban forest is an integral part of the local community and provides local identity”.
    Total rubbish.

    http://www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/39832/Newcastle_Urban_Forest_Policy.pdf

  2. ArchitectGJA (Ed) Says:

    Well said, Jo.

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