My two bob’s worth 25.5.2012


General Manager

Submission on Council’s Draft Laman Street Design Report stage 1

It will forever appall me that Newcastle City Council got away with the destruction of the Laman St trees. I will forever doubt the veracity of the evidence put forward for it and the motives behind the vandalism of the space.

Based on my involvement with the community consultation process to date I have no expectation that anything that the community suggests ill be taken into account. Nevertheless, I give you my thoughts on the redevelopment of Laman street.

The replacement trees should be Hill’s figs.

  • They should be as large as possible. Putting in small trees will mean that it will be fifty years before the street looks beautiful again. It is not impossible to find mature fig trees. This is a valuable and valued space that has been destroyed utterly by council staff. It is not good enough to expect Newcastle people to wait decades before the cathedral arch is created from small trees. Just because trees have been grown for ten years doesn’t necessarily mean they will be the best for the project.
  • the trees should be 18 in number ie the same number that were present before the present tree team started destroying them.
  • the trees should be planted in the same positions they previously occupied
  • the trees’ roots should be assured of enough room to grow so that the trees will be healthy, sturdy, beautiful and long-lived
  • the trees should not be planted in vaults. This, like the trenching done over and over again in Laman Street, is outdated technology and cannot provide a healthy growing environment for large trees.
  • training should be ensured on a regular and ongoing basis among tree staff in how to prune and otherwise manage trees of this species . I note that Council failed to mulch fig trees in Newcastle at the right time this year and it has been the norm to do ugly and obvious pruning of trees rather than ensuring that trees maintained their beautiful shape.

No encouragement should be given to the idea of exotic deciduous trees as Phil Hewett described in a presentation to Council in 2010.

  • the excuse for such an appalling suggestion was that a source of supply of these trees was available. This shows how insensitive and unimaginative council can be.
  • the replacement trees should provide food and shelter for urban fauna. The destruction of the Laman Street fig trees destroyed 2% of the foraging habitat of the grey-headed flying fox. This needs to be replaced.
  • the reason for removing the fig trees was alleged but greatly overstated risk. Fig trees are much less likely to drop branches than liquidambars and indeed many other tree species.
  • the replacement trees must be native, in keeping with the history of the street. The tendency to plant magnolias and crepe myrtles and Callery pears must be countered

The infrastructure should be vaulted to protect it from tree roots and to protect the trees from future council officers who may not have not kept up to date with how to manage urban trees.

  • council staff need training in how to manage broken and blocked pipes and how to relocate electricity cables without tearing down $1million worth of trees against the wishes of the community. The Cooks River cable project is an example of bore-drilling underneath land to relocate infrastructure. This could have been done in Laman Street. The community will always be upset when trees are removed so this should be avoided in future by ensuring the engagement of talented staff who are independent learners.
  • pipes can be relined without trenching. While council never admitted that infrastructure damage or a development proposal for the Art Gallery were the reasons for removing the trees, there is a risk of this elsewhere in Newcastle and the risk to future fig trees exists in Laman Street. Training in technology – that is widely known to lay people and therefore reasonably expected to be within the armamentarium of the council engineer – should be mandatory.
  • unless the ability to care for the streetscape exists, Newcastle ratepayers will be spending millions of dollar in future on a fiasco like Council’s management of this issue.

The street should be pedestrianised.

  • it is risky to allow a space shared between cars and pedestrians. The Hunter St Mall is a good example of this. Cars travel so slowly that they aren’t heard till the last minute and pedestrians can’t feel safe on the space.
  • disabled access could be via the rear of all the buildings.

Care should be taken to ensure that cyclists and pedestrians are safe together by demarcating in some way an area that is reserved for pedestrians.

  • there seem to be lots of rubber ridges appearing on footpaths and roads. Whatever you think these are accomplishing, believe me, they’re a trip hazard and they’ll make cyclists more likely to have accidents. Stop it.

Please avoid the ugly pavers NCC usually uses. Please ensure that the ground covering is pervious to minimise stormwater run-off, an increased problem since you destroyed the mature trees.

It is insensitive and disrespectful to have turned Laman Street into a glorified car park. Go to the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum, the Gallery of NSW, the Natural History Museum in Milan. There is very little if not NO parking. They cope.

There should be no encroachment of Laman Street into Civic Park or the Memorial Grove.


This was taken by Ben Smee at the time if the apparently ‘practical’ implementation of the resolution to remove the trees.



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