This is the email I received from the General Manager about the figs that I’ve been waiting a year for in Broadmeadow – turns out some curbing and guttering was to take 18 months… (more…)
Archive for the ‘urban forest’ Category
The fall-out from Laman Street’s desertification is that all Newcastle’s large trees are in NCC’s firing line. (more…)
Bo ob Cook must be missing the last two years of frenzied emailing and media releasing and being counter-productive at attending Working Party meetings – because he’s sent me a late-night fig email. (more…)
Work has started on the bizarre ‘upgrade’ of Number 2 Sporstground in Newcastle and I hope I’ll be saying in a year how wonderful the ‘renovations’ are. (more…)
This car park at a Club in New Lambton is a credit to someone. (more…)
This post is just to show people a sad photo sent to me by a friend who worked to try to preserve trees in another part of Newcastle. (more…)
On Saturday I had planned to have a picnic in Civic Park so I could show the Laman Street figs to a friend who is a tree activist in Sydney. Things didn’t go to plan as there was a terrible accident on the Expressway and we had to postpone the meeting but I went up there at lunchtime anyway. It was 36 degrees according to the thermometer in my car. It occurred to me that making the street ugly would not be the only result of removing the Hill’s figs.
Trees cool a street by as much as 5 to 8 degrees. On Saturday the difference felt much more than that. Walking in the sun was unbearable but under the trees it was fairly pleasant. When the figs go the street will be awful for years, not just unpleasant visually but as hot as Hades in summer.
An arborist said to me recently that he thought Hill’s figs have an amazing ability to give shade in comparison to other trees. I was having a whine about brush boxes which don’t deserve their place as the favourite street tree choice of Newcastle and many other councils and he agreed that they aren’t a great shade tree.
Not that brush boxes can’t be amazing, of course. Left to grow as they should they are a beautiful shape and are amazingly tall, but they don’t have the canopy of a fig. I hope council has a new policy to avoid planting them where they will be butchered by Energy Australia.
I found a website where people can have a whine about their council and I looked up Newcastle just for the fun of it. I found sad comments from a couple of people: an arborist came optimistically to Newcastle thinking we could give him some urban landscaping ideas to take home, but he went away disappointed, and a resident in Sandgate wanted trees in their street so asked council for them, but council planted the trees on the side with overhead wires.
‘I was recently in Newcastle for an Arborist’s conference and the area down from the Newcastle City Hall was awful. Every second shop was vacant, there was graffiti everywhere. The only shops not vacant were either sex shops or brothels. What a dirty, scummy area.
Now my area of expertise is trees, and they weren’t much better. I would have thought a large city would have a nice tree program / plan. All the trees in the city were in poor condition. Please do something about the condition of these trees. Get some people in who can make a difference.
You have some areas that could do wonders with the right planting and maintenance programs. It is not that hard. In my state (VIC) we have better trees / programs in small country towns than you have here.
I have to admit that I planned to use this as a trip to find new ideas to take back to my Council but I think I should send the ideas my Council has to Newcastle.
Does anyone know who the tree people are at Council who might like to use this info. Im happy to send it to them free of charge. That CBD is an embarrassment. If they don’t have qualified people, then why not.’
- Anonymous Victorian arborist on Councilgripe website
This makes me feel defensive – after all, it’s OK for me to criticise my own council but when it comes to an outsider, and a Victorian one at that, well… It’s a shame someone from Newcastle where the arborists’ conference was held didn’t think to take people around and show them the place.
Saturday wasn’t all bad, though – Greg Ray’s column in the Herald partly made up for missing the picnic. He sums up what seems to be our council’s (and no doubt many others’) approach to risk management. It made fantastic reading.
I have found out about two really interesting pieces of research while I’ve been reading about the urban forest.
I was reading about aerial bundled cabling – a way Energy Australia can bundle overhead wires so that trees are safe from the aggressive pruning that is done as a matter of course. Before someone gets defensive I know it’s not Energy Australia’s fault and that the distance between trees and wires is mandated by legislation. Energy Australia’s website compares the cost of pruning – $15 to $150 per span per year -with Aerial bundled cabling – $4000 to $7000 per span plus ongoing trimming costs – and underground cabling – $56 000 -$104 000 per span. Hard figures to take in. And nothing to do with the research I was talking about.
In 1998 there was a Federal Government report into underground cabling (quoted in parliament in NSW by JW Turner, deputy leader of the National Party [whom I'm afraid I don't recall at all]) that estimated that if all power poles were removed this country would save in pruning costs and there would be a reduction in the number of motor vehicle accidents. He said:
Based on available data the report estimates that the net benefits arising from the reduction in motor vehicle accidents caused by collisions with poles would be about $105 million each year…These figures assume that:
- 90 per cent of the value of damage caused by pole accidents would be caused by power and/or telecommunications poles;
- 90 per cent of all power or telecommunications poles would either be removed or replaced with bendable poles;
- 80 per cent of accidents with poles could be avoided if the poles were removed; and
- 65 per cent of all existing power and telecommunications poles do not carry lights.’
The other piece of research was into the effect the new type of subdivision is having on tree canopy loss. The properties that are now popular are ones where the house is huge (unkindly called a ‘McMansion’) and there is very little space for a yard or garden; the streets are narrow and there is little footpath – in other words there is nowhere to plant trees.
‘A 2006 NASA study of the urban heat island in NY found vegetation to be the most effective tool to reduce surface temperatures in the city. Columbia University NY scientist Stuart Gaffin, co-author of the NASA study, says ever-increasing urban populations around the world means the heat-island effect will become more significant in the future – in other words, cities need a lot more shade.’
quoted by phil Hewett in ‘Nearby Nature’ part 2
Imagine how hot these subdivisions will be in summer.
The lack of space may not be the only factor in fewer trees being planted. I read an opinion put forward by Don Burke of Burke’s Backyard fame – he felt that Tree Preservation Orders made residents disinclined to plant trees in the fear that they would be unable to remove them if they regretted the tree down the track.
Indeed, every second person I spoke to about Laman Street’s figs complained about how unfair it is that it’s OK for council to rip out trees when it suits them but residents can’t remove trees from their own property.
And on a final scary note I read about damage done, this time by the RTA, to a row of fig trees in Pleystowe in Queensland. What is even worse about this story is that the trees were planted as a memorial to men who were casualties of war. It reminds me of poor South West Rocks. There’s a street there called Memorial Avenue lined with Norfolk Island Pines, from memory. These were planted to represent the men from the town who died in World War I. In the 1970s the Electricity Commission ripped out some of the trees to do some work on infrastructure. I hope all the relatives of the fallen men had died and didn’t witness something so appalling. It’s even worse than the damage done to do electricity work in Tyrrell Street. Oh sorry – the Tyrrell Street trees were removed because they were unsafe. I keep forgetting.
She compared the 1957 shot of the park as a Cultural Centre and the 1961 shot before completion of the fountain with the same sites today.
I was so happy when later on Wednesday I was making a work phone call and the person I was calling asked me about the pictures. It made me think the whole town had seen them.
If people are able to visualise what losing a tree will be like it may make them think twice before agreeing with its removal.
In the same paper there was a story about the banning of the Greek Orthodox Church’s January ceremony that has been held at the Bogey Hole for many years. I thought all my Christmases had come at once (I love a good cliché) when I was told that night that the church went ahead with it anyway.
I have to say I was surprised at what I presumed was fantastic civil disobedience, but the next day’s Herald enlightened me.
The Crown Lands Person-in-charge phoned Father Skordilis at the last minute and gave the OK to go ahead with the ceremony. The article gave the impression that public pressure and disquiet were what changed the minds of the bureaucrats.
Three cheers for our town:)
And while I’m singing the praises of this place I have to give a plug for the roadside planting between the city and Wallsend. Have you looked sideways on that trip recently? It’s fantastic.
There are huge melaleucas near the old Water Board building, a great row of camphor laurels in Newcastle West (I know we’re supposed to hate them and that in the bush they’re a menace but they’re fantastic in the right spot). Then you pass stunning figs in Burwood Park as well as things that look like shimmering aspen. Some of the brush boxes are pretty intact and a great shape.
In Hamilton there are fantastic, tall debarked gums and a row of silky oaks in Hamilton, then the stand of figs near the entertainment centre and a few Agonis and lots of eucalypts near Forgacs, all those natives in Waratah, more figs at North Lambton and – my biggest surprise – some newish Bunyah pines at the roundabout at Jesmond then robinias, Cape Chestnuts and grevilleas as you go up the hill to Wallsend.
If you want to correct my tree identification please feel free: there’s heaps I don’t know.
‘So the scientific word is out – nearby trees and urban forest are important for community health benefits. You don’t have to wait for the next long weekend or holiday to take a healthy break from the grind – find a tree-lined avenue that passes by a treed park, other natural area or treed gardens and experience the calming benefits of nearby nature. You don’t have to walk at a furious pace either; in fact it is better for your mental well-being if you dawdle, which is the slow, mindful pace of walking meditation, and is the proper pace for feeling free to look around.
‘This is the pace when the trance of looking and noticing can overtake your errand, your small sense of self-importance; and this is the pace in which the inventory of loved things has a chance to grow. If you are blessed with regular contact with young children you may have noticed, perhaps to your irritation, that this is the pace of young children because they are engrossed in a world that adults have long forgotten. Dawdling is the pilgrim’s wisdom.
‘Unfortunately, many of us don’t have beautiful tree-lined avenues and tree-studded parks close by that we can dawdle amongst. But given the research findings on the health benefits of trees, it’s worth thinking about how to make our children’s immediate locality more healthy and walkable, prehaps by planting and protecting trees or by lobbying civic leaders for more trees and greater tree space, In the meantime, happy dawdling!’
The italics and emphasis are mine.
This is from Philip Hewett, the chief arborist for Newcastle City Council.It’s from a two-part article called Nearby Nature available on the website of the Local Government Tree Resources Association http://www.lgtra.com/urban-forest/1-news/3-nearby-nature-part-1-of-2.html
It’s lovely. It puts into words the way many of us feel about large trees in general and Laman Street in particular. To be completely open, he does talk in the article about how our veteran trees require replacement – I would still like to see the evidence for this and think there’s a real absence of creative thinking about how else to manage old trees rather than just fell them.
Mindfulness, if you haven’t come across it, is an approach to heaps of stuff that is really useful – have fun looking it up.
You would think the residents who are against ripping out the Laman Street figs had a mole planted in Council from reading Mr Hewett’s words.
When you walk along the street you’re aware of the wind in the leaves, the amazing tree roots, the shade provided by the trees and the sun shining through them, the leaves on the ground, the graffitied trunks, the huge branches reaching for sunlight, and, if it’s the right time of day, the birds or fruit bats who depend on them. Sadly now you can’t avoid thinking about the threat to the future of the street.
One thing I’ve often felt is pride in Newcastle and something I never feel is a risk to my safety.
Take a walk along it and think about how we can convince Council that this street is too important to Newcastle to lose. We need ways to protect our urban forest heritage, not destroy it.
Mr Hewett says happy dawdling – I say happy activism – or happy emailing your ideas for activism to others!