SOF Submission on Laman Street 25.5.2012



Our submission contains four main points.

  1. The replacement trees should be Hill’s Figs to be planted in the same locations.

  2. To plant the full suite of Hill’s Figs prior to 2004. We understand this number to be at least 18.
  3. Utility infrastructure in the vicinity should be placed in vaults rather than vaulting the tree roots – as per current best practice.

  1. To collaborate with the community to design and establish a permanent memorial to recognise appropriately the former avenue of Hill’s Figs and the extended community campaign to save them.

It is regrettable that we find ourselves in the position of having to make this submission. This situation could have been avoided by using a more responsive and evidence-based and tree preservation approach to a significant part of Newcastle’s urban forest.

Replacement tree species.


The document on exhibition is vague; it does not provide detailed relevant detail on the proposed design. We would hope that the future plan would include these details.

We submit that the replacement trees should be Hill’s Figs.

The community have been told repeatedly that the only reason for the removal of the trees was that they were alleged to have created an unacceptable risk. It was said asserted that this was the basis for the use of section 88 of the Roads Act 1993 (NSW). Particular reference was made to defective roots, and we note that the proposal allows for uninhibited development of the roots of the new plantings.

The Supplementary Report Laman Street Design presented to Council on 3rd April 2012 contains no suggestion that Hill’s Figs are unsuitable on arboricultural grounds and throughout the debate there has been no indication that Hill’s Figs are inherently unsuitable.

The report to Council of 20th March 2012 refers to “the strong desire from the Design Workshop for the retention of a ‘Cathedral’ effect”. It is not clear that this can be properly achieved with any the alternative species listed therein.

The original Figs provided important fauna habitat. The eventual replication of such habitat should be considered when determining replacement species, and Hill’s Figs are the obvious answer.

Number of trees to be planted.

The growth of the trees should provide the same cathedral effect that characterised Laman Street until February 2012.We submit that all eighteen trees should be replaced and that trees should be planted in the same position as the trees that have been removed.

Council resolved in September 2008 to replace the trees removed after the Pasha Bulker storm and on 19th July 2012 that the fourteen Fig remaining trees be removed and replaced as soon as practical. To replace is defined as ‘to put something back in a previous place or position’ in the Oxford dictionary.

We acknowledge that the resolutions can be superseded by a later decision, but consider that to do so would be a significant breach of faith.

We note that the Laman Street Design report presented to Council on 3rd April 2012 says that the replacement trees have been specifically cultivated to reduce the well-known occasional problems surrounding Hill’s Figs such as branch inclusions – while wishing it to be noted that these were not present in the recently removed trees – and the vault systems for utilities and public utility relocations will ensure healthy root growth without the danger of roots being severed for public utility or other infrastructure work.

The reason given for the removal of the original trees was an alleged risk to the public. We are aware of nothing in the various reports to suggest that the replacement of all eighteen trees would present a greater risk than the proposed twelve and submit that there is no valid reason why all eighteen should not be replaced.

Placement of utility infrastructure in vaults.

We submit that the utility infrastructure rather than the replacement trees be placed in vaults.

We are advised that the containment of tree roots in vaults is not now regarded as best practice. We note also the intention to relocate a number of public utilities. Details on where the utilities are to be relocated are not disclosed in the Laman Street Design report.

The supplementary report to Council presented on 3rd March 2012 says that the use of a vault to protect public utilities is not required and has not been considered. We presume that this is based on the premise that the roots be contained in vaults.

We believe that where practical the utilities be relocated at sufficient distance from the new trees to allow for the unencumbered expansion of their roots, and that any services that remain within range of the roots be placed in protective vaults.

It is essential that there be no restriction to the depth that tree roots can grow downwards into sand. If such restriction exists the health of the trees could be compromised and their ability to form a cathedral arch could be hindered.

Given that it will take fifty years for replacement trees to reach maturity, continuity of management needs to be ensured. It cannot be predicted with certainty that this will be the case. Adequate space for the roots to grow is necessary; adequate water and mineral elements would need to be assured over time and with changes in technical staff over time the long-term survival of trees constrained in such a way would have to be questionable. Allowing trees the freedom to root in native soil would be best.

Permanent memorial

The Heritas Heritage Study commissioned by Newcastle City Council recognised the significance of the Laman Street Hill’s figs from heritage, social and aesthetic points of view.

The community campaign to preserve Laman Street extended over two years. One measure of its importance was the petition to save the trees, signed by over 13000 people. Another was the media focus on the issue. Over 200 articles, editorials and letters were published by the Herald during the campaign.

We submit that a permanent memorial be placed in the street to acknowledge and celebrate the part played by the community during the campaign to save the trees and to celebrate the esteem with which this space has been held by residents.

Involving the community in the design of this memorial would be essential.

Future management of the trees

The replacement trees be should managed in a way that recognises their significant status. A tree preservation approach should be adopted, using up to date best practice.

We submit that the street should be pedestrianised.


The current footprint occupied by the street should be maintained. Any encroachment on Civic Park would require addressing the Plan of Management of Civic Park.


Laman Street from Civic Park



One Response to “SOF Submission on Laman Street 25.5.2012”

  1. Terry McCauley Says:

    Well written, excellent submission.

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