Philth 10.9.2012


Go away and don’t come back

Karma’s a bitch and it’s going to get the treeloppers from Newcastle City Council.

While we’re waiting for karma to swoop in, we can entertain ourselves by watching the new Lord Mayor, McBoughtYou, terrorise Council officers move his office.

And some more fun is to read the QRAP that passes for ‘Lessons learned from Laman Street’ by a representative of Newcastle City Council given at Treenet last week.

It won’t tax your intellect.

It confirms my expectation that no lessons were learned from Laman Street by NCC and all the community can hope is that the ageing outdated staff disappear into obscurity to be replaced by people who are capable of learning.

Here are some clangers from the talk – which reads like slabs from the anonymous Council review … Remember, it will be three minutes of your life you’ll never get back so maybe give it a miss. I hear the issue was discussed for the whole two days of Treenet, including in the pub. Fail Phil.


With the benefit of hindsight, the decision to transfer [from the non-elected to the elected Council] the decision‐making …was not appropriate as it implied that alternatives could be considered when the evidence showed only one option was appropriate. This resulted in unnecessary and at times inaccurate debate in the Council chamber, public forums and the media.
‘...Combining the Laman Street fig tree replacement strategy with the consultation process for the broader Civic Cultural Precinct design process was intended to provide opportunity for the community to have direct input into the new design. [QRAP – it was a deliberate distraction.] However some community members perceived that the future of the figs was still to be determined when in fact the decision had been made. [Wonder if the councillors knew that.]

‘…A recommendation to hold a community information session ahead of the design workshop was rejected because of concerns about increasing antagonism in the community and fears that those opposed to the decision would seize control of the session for their own purposes. [This is my personal favourite. This is QRAP. They didn’t have an information session ahead of time because they didn’t know how to organise a charrette. Something about brothels comes to mind at this point.]
‘...Not holding the information session may have impacted on the community’s ability to participate in the workshop in a meaningful way, as they may have not fully understood the complex issues, the decision‐making processes, or their role in the process.’

[It was actually pretty meaningful: just a shame that NCC staff were asked questions – to which the catch-cry was always ‘Are you QTRA qualified?’ – that their misinformation was pointed out eg a photo of a storm-induced whole tree failure in another street labelled as Laman Street, that time spent on the trees was minimal.

I still remember Andrew Morton, a well-known arborist, telling the room that the ground-penetrating radar report showed ‘reflections of minerals in the bitumen’. I know who couldn’t understand the complex issues. And as an example of the spin, the minutes from the internal Laman Street control group say that one of the council officers was to ‘give the heads up about some of the charrette attendees.]

‘…A key finding [of a survey] was that respondents to the various surveys indicated that they expected a ‘just do it approach’ from Council, where significant issues are decided on and actioned swiftly without the use of excessive funds or resources. [A minimal number of respondents had this view.]

‘…From early 2010 there was an active campaign opposing Council’s position and criticising Council’s information and officers. [Poor babies.] This, combined with the media’s sustained coverage of the opposition’s position resulted in the Council’s key message of public safety being lost or diluted. [Because it was QRAP.]

‘…It is understood that the Newcastle Herald does not fact check letters before publishing them and this resulted in erroneous information being presented to the public. [Screech of derision.]

‘...The contradiction arose because the Council resolution to create the Working Party was raised as a Motion without notice so Council Officers were unable to provide advice on the Motion before it was resolved.
‘…Had the officers been able to provide advice the contradiction could have been removed facilitating a more productive outcome for the Working Party.
‘…The minutes of the Working Party mimicked debate in the Council chamber and in the public arena as membership of the Working Party consisted of members holding both points of view [oh no!], resulting in a debate focussed on contradicting the evidence supplied by Council Officers [not difficult], discrediting the independent risk assessments, and rejecting any additional data ].
‘…The Laman Street cultural precinct is [a] ‘public landscape along a street’ that is being ‘redesigned for maximum functionality’. [WTF?]

‘…[The author worries about] the public perception of commercial arboriculture. Throughout the life of the Laman Street issue a community group opposing the removal of the trees engaged a number of commercial arborists to give their opinions about Council’s risk assessments and reporting. Despite Council’s extensive and readily accessible technical reporting detailing the investigations, , the evidence and the findings, commercial arborists contributed the following statements relating to the Laman Street trees :
•    “…. there is no evidence that the trees have moved in the slightest or are in any way  structurally compromised.”
•    “All of the Laman Street figs are structurally sound”

•    “No evidence the trees are dangerous and the level of risk is akin to falling out of bed” •    ‘‘A blind person can see the trees are structurally sound and in good condition at the moment”

•    “The level of risk is marginal for several of the trees but many of the trees currently present virtually no risk as they would fall into an adjoining tree if they were to fail”

•    “The current root morphology is more than adequate to support the trees to date and there is no evidence that the trees have moved in the slightest or are in any way structurally compromised.”

•    “There has been an assertion that these trees (sic) fig trees pose an abnormal level of risk yet to date all evidence suggests otherwise.”

•    “To date there is no quantifiable evidence that suggests that these trees have a greater risk of failing.”

‘These and many more such statements contained in tree reports and media statements provided by community groups and prompted a Council officer to ask, “What do you call a group of arborists?” “A controversy!” [chortle chortle]

‘…These comments [from a councillor who said arboriculture ain’t science] should ring alarm bells for all arborists and arboriculture organisations as they suggest the industry has a credibility problem. [Some members of the profession certainly have a credibility problem.]
…The complexity of information, the statutory framework, the political and social circumstances and the dynamic nature of the Laman Street trees gave decision‐makers (elected and administrative) a monumental task. In the end it boiled down to judging the credibility of arborists and the veracity their information. [That was why the whole thing was shut down before an independent assessment could be carried out.]’

Words fail me.  Kind of.



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One Response to “Philth 10.9.2012”

  1. Terry McCauley Says:

    “Despite Council’s extensive and readily accessible technical reporting detailing the investigations” – WTF!

    The very data that they clung too but did not want the community to see! Readily accessible?!!!!!

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