Flashbacks 22.11.2011


I decided the time is ripe to remind ourselves of some of the low points of the Laman Street fig saga. Flashback time.

You know the kind of thing: those moments that fill you with admiration for our civic leaders and those decisions that deserve credit from someone somewhere: anyone – anywhere – please? – even if we’re making the wrong decision, at least it’s a decision – because after all, we’re ‘over it’.

In December 2009 ground-penetrating radar was used in Laman Street. My theory is that Council did this to prove what they allegedly firmly believed which was that the trees had deficient root systems. What’s that rule in legal circles – don’t ask a question unless you know what the answer is going to be? I wonder if it was the disappointment of learning that the root systems were OK that led to the report going into a dusty bottom drawer.

Well, a month after the radar was being dragged up and down the street I called NCC’s arborist and he told me the report hadn’t been received. Bizarre, given that the date on the report (when it was released via GIPA just this year, the cute new name for Freedom of information) was a month beforehand. I wonder if there’s an explanation for this that doesn’t involve calling me names? You can tell I haven’t recovered from this, can’t you? My jaw is still firmly on the ground at being misled.


Walk this way.

Another arboricultural high point was the suggestion that the Hill’s figs in Laman Street were to be replaced with liquidambars. You know how we want not to create a problem for our grandchildren? (This is one of the catch-cries of the rip-out-the-trees brigade: we’re selfish for wanting to keep the present trees, supposedly because they’re going to die one day so we may as well kill them now. That will save our descendents from having to deal with the problem. Bad luck that we’re creating a desert. Or something.)

And you know how NCC has a vision for a hundred years from now? Well, the Tree Team suggested liquidambars as replacements for the fig trees because they could ‘source these now‘. Great. Creative big-picture stuff. Not.


I thought at the time, ‘Liquidambars are beautiful trees. Their attraction is their autumn colour change. While I can enjoy going to places where there are lots of deciduous exotics,  it seems a bizarre choice of replacement tree for one of our most beautiful streets and in the year of biodiversity (the current trees are a food source for birds and animals, many endangered or vulnerable, and many important pollinators). Council say this option will provide ‘a new chapter in the evolution of this Civic and Cultural space’ and will ‘celebrate the change of seasons’ and give us a better view. Not a view of beautiful figs, though.’


And whenever you wonder about these trees as traffic hazards – because the Roads Act is being used to fell these trees – think back to some of the justifications by councillors for their voting to rip them out:

‘At least two councillors have now said that they voted to remove the Laman Street trees not on the grounds of safety after all. One said,  “My opinion is that the issue of risk and risk management was what brought the matter before the council, but it was the issue of transition of the space that drove my decision.” The other said, “This is just the beginning of what this city can do if we accept change, let go of the past and work towards a greater future.
… For me, at the end of the day this is not about conflicting arborist’s reports, it’s about council making tough decisions for the common good.”


And to remind us that NCC isn’t the only organisation that does consultation badly is a quote from Winston Churchill:
Well, one can always consult a man and ask him: ‘Would you like your head cut off tomorrow?’ and after he has said: ‘I would rather not,’ cut it off. ‘Consultation is a vague and elastic term.’    Home


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2 Responses to “Flashbacks 22.11.2011”

  1. Aaron Chad Hargrave Says:

    Great flash back, thanks Caity 🙂

  2. Pat Garnet Says:

    There is certainly a lot more activism, hassling, protagmatism and notifying of the general public that we are not living in a democracy and we need their help to take a stand against some unruly, rude Newcastle City Councillors.

    They are supposed to represent us. Maybe we can call a get together with the few who who are prepared to do whatever it takes to expose the mismanagement of Newcastle Council.

    Cheers Pat

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