Media release – report by Dr David Lonsdale 11.1.2012



Leading tree expert says reconsider Laman St tree risk

Author of textbook quoted by NCC says the root issues here are common all over the world – and rarely need tree removal

Yet another prominent international tree expert whose work has been central to Newcastle Council’s argument that the Laman Street trees are dangerous has called for further assessment of the trees.

Save Our Figs today released a new report by Dr David Lonsdale, a prominent UK-based authority on tree root structure and risk.

His published work in the area is internationally recognised, and provides the basis for Newcastle Council’s speculation about the risk posed by the Laman Street’s fig trees due to asymmetric root plates.

Dr Lonsdale’s report is based on an extensive review of the council’s documentation on the trees.

It examines the council’s evidence on the key issues of the use of visual tree assessment, alleged root-plate instability, wind-load, reduction pruning options, staged removal, safe useful life expectancy, quantified tree risk assessment, and current risk mitigation measures. Dr Lonsdale is quoted by NCC’s original consultant as well as by later arborists.

‘Dr Lonsdale’s report is measured, thorough and considered,’ said Dr Caitlin Raschke, Save Our Figs spokesperson, ‘and concludes that “aspects of the [Council’s] assessments deserve reconsideration“.

He specifies as areas that warrant review

  • the council’s assessment of the probability of failure of the various trees,
  • the assumed occupancy of the “target areas” around the trees,
  • and the amount of reduction pruning that might be required as aspects that warrant review.

In relation to the crucial issue of the root-plate structure of the trees, Dr Lonsdale’s report notes “the reality that restricted and asymmetric root systems are very frequent in street trees in towns and cities all over the world.

“Root restriction probably impairs stability to some extent in many instances but rarely enough to justify the removal of street trees, even when concerns have been heightened by the occurrence of tree failures in extreme weather,” the report states.

SOF spokesperson Dr Raschke said that Dr Lonsdale’s report was the latest in a mounting body of work by external experts who were independent of council who have argued against the council’s case for removing the trees. The community have more than twice the number of experts supporting our view than Council has.

“In the face of all this evidence and argument from some of the most world’s most eminent and qualified experts in their fields how can the council still maintain that the trees have to be removed because they’re likely to fall over?

“The council has to end this embarrassing farce now, stop the waste of even more public money trying to get rid of the trees, and start listening to its own community and the legion of external experts who are saying that they need to take another look at their evidence,” she said.

‘This time next week, the Laman Street could have been reduced to stumps – and for what?’

Lonsdale Newcastle NSW-figs-DL-lett-06-Jan-12



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