SOF Inc’s Letter to Mr Tim Owen 13.10.2011


Dear Mr Owen:

We are sure you are aware that Newcastle Council’s General Manager, Phil Pearce, has apparently received legal advice indicating that he is unable to pursue the option of further investigating the safety of the Laman St trees due to a technical legal impediment  despite the fact that, following your intervention, the approach was supported by the signatures of a clear majority of Newcastle councillors.

Save Our Figs and the hundreds of ordinary Novocastrians involved in the community vigil at Laman St welcomed the circuit-breaker to the current situation when it was announced late yesterday afternoon, and this latest news is very distressing.

We have written to Mr Pearce urging him in the strongest terms to hold off from any tree removal operations to allow sufficient time for the parties involved to explore all possible avenues through this matter.

We believe that, working together with genuine goodwill, those involved will be able to find a way to allow further independent expert assessment of the safety of the Laman St trees, to avert the preemptive (and we believe unnecessary) destruction of this iconic part of our city, and to calm the current volatility and distress in the local community associated with the threatened imminent destruction of the trees.

We are also highly appreciative of the role you have played in the recent developments, that have helped facilitate a more positive approach to this issue.

We are now writing to request that you – and the state government – take urgent action to assist the council in its apparent legal dilemma, where it is apparently unable to fulfil the will of a majority of councillors.

We fully appreciate that up to this point the state government has been reluctant to intervene directly in this matter in a way that would over-ride the local council. However, the circumstances that now apply are such that intervention by the state government would actually assist the council and the community. We strongly urge you to do this.

We believe that a number of mechanisms are available to the state government that would assist in this matter, including a declaration (for a limited period) of the Roads and Traffic Authority as the relevant road authority under the NSW Roads Act. Our advice is that this could be accomplished very quickly, and could be for the specific purpose of conducting an independent expert assessment of the safety of the trees, after which the state government could declare the council the relevant road authority again. In the current circumstances, we would strongly support this approach as a way of facilitating this process and of defusing the current situation.

We are also aware of suggestions that an Interim Heritage Order could be declared across the site, with a view to investigating its potential listing as a State Heritage Precinct. We understand that such a declaration might not over-ride the council’s authority under s.88 of the Roads Act, but such a declaration would be helpful as a factor going to the practicality of implementing the council’s decision to remove the trees, and could provide a basis for the council’s General Manager not to proceed with their removal until that process had been undertaken.

We would support any other reasonable initiatives that you or the state government would be prepared to undertake that would offer a way through the current impasse, and that would facilitate an independent expert assessment of the safety of the Laman St trees. Home

Sherilyn stood in front of this crane until a police officer came and moved her. Taken on a phone - clarified via photoshopping programme by my IT expert






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