Mark Hartley, the arborist commissioned by the community to do a peer review of the reports on risk and tree health in Laman Street, won their highest award, the Award of Merit. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘arboriculture’
Three times in the last week or so I’ve seen a pair of swans back at the wetland that I thought had been killed by the latest coal loader. (more…)
This is the sight of a building that is neither new enough nor old enough to appreciate. The photo was taken in 1957. The building seriously needs the adornment of mature trees, as we have now, hiding it from view.It’s the Cultural Centre as none of us need to see it. At the charette held to ‘redesign’ Laman Street – oh, and Civic Park - the Sydney consultants were talking about replacing the Hill’s figs that currently hide this building with trees that are only two-thirds the height of the building. Yay. (more…)
In an earlier post I mentioned a company in the US called National Tree Preservation whose great logo is ‘Saving the urban forest one tree at a time’. They use a process to improve the roots of damaged veteran trees. (If anyone knows of someone who does that here please contact me at email@example.com )
It gladdened my heart this evening on our local news channel (more…)
Newcastle City Council says to residents: Tell us your vision for Laman Street – if you managed to get around the website
**Council website has problems – this reduces community feedback
and the deadline to nominate for the workshop or put ideas to council is way too early.
Media release 24 2 2010
The first part of the community ’consultation’ has been by way of residents telling council their ‘vision’ for the street.
Many people had trouble doing this online. The problem was that that the site registered a user as having already given their opinion by just opening the page. If you’re a bit indecisive and wanted to think about what to say you were up the creek.
Another difficulty was the map supplied – this put many people off as they assumed they had to fill it in when all many of them wanted to say was ‘Leave the figs alone, the street is perfect.’
A third problem was that the site said people could email their vision but the form couldn’t be filled in online.
How much time did council give people to put their vision in? Just three weeks. With still a month to go before the workshops people are asking what’s the rush to stop the feedback?
The other part of the community consultation is the ‘charette’ being held in March. Never heard of a charette? It’s supposed to be a way of getting council and stakeholders together and to go through the issues to get to a rapid conclusion.
If you google the phrase ‘charette or charade’ you get 5740 hits, most of them sad stories about communities whose vision was stifled by bureaucrats. Some writers say charettes are a way of making it look as though you’ve consulted the community when all you’re doing is stifling debate and looking as though you are fulfilling a development requirement to concult.
The fig tree charette has places for only 70 people in a city of 155 000 and region of 400 000.
It’s going to take 2 days. ‘The charette handbook’ says the process should take more than three!
A charette is supposed to be preceded by large information sessions but these won’t be available. Council say they will follow the charette which obviously means they can’t influence the outcome of the workshop.
The process takes part on a Friday and Saturday – by definition it excludes many working residents.
The charette was supposed to be a meeting about the Laman Street figs and alternatives to clear-felling the trees but Lord Mayor John Tate and supporters have hi-jacked the meeting to champion John Tate’s ridiculous vision about a carpark under Civic Park which no doubt will mean the Laman Street trees and lots more will have to go.
Council is stacking the charrette: one third is comprised at least partly of council and government employees. You can imagine how free to speak out an employee of council is going to feel.
Some people are asking whether Council is also asking for people’s vision on the website to vet people who apply to attend -to stack the odds in council’s favour to ensure a council- based result whilst giving council the appearance of public participation.
The so-called independence of ‘independent experts’ advertised at the charette is obviously questionable as they are sourced adn paid by council. It’s hard to imagine that won’t strive to ensure to deliver a client- ie council- based result to justify their fees and commissions. They should not and can not be called independent in any way. It’s time we called them ‘council-appointed consultants’.
The only ‘independent expert’ needed in Laman Street is an arborist to tell council how to look after these trees for as long as possible.
Charette or charade indeed.
The residents presented a petition to council in about April this year asking to remove the row of Camphor Laurels to which they attribute property damage.
The whole document is worth reading but the sections that were really interesting to me were:
’18 The concerns from residents are that the street trees are causing:
- • Sewerage and storm water blockages.
- • Lifting and cracking of footpaths, driveways and various masonry structures.
- • Tree roots to enter private property causing ongoing issues.
’19 Council has received two insurance claims in Arnold Street to date relating to property damage incurred from the street trees. Council’s insurers have assessed the claims with one claim settled for damage to a storm water pipe.
20 Following a recent claim for property damage, Council’s insurers commissioned a Professional Engineer to assess the cause of damage. The Engineer’s opinion concluded that the damage to the property was attributable to the differential surface movements of the Class H (Highly reactive) soil profile and not the presence of the tree roots.’
So correct me if I’m wrong, but Council is not actually liable for very much. This is a learning experience for me and I plan to look into tree roots and pipes more – please feel free to educate me in your comments; I do know that tree roots can only invade an already damaged pipe. Obviously they then make that damage worse.
And don’t you just love reactive soil? It should go into the same category as Acts of God.
I respect the right of residents to have a say in the management of their street but have they been well advised? Everything I read about street trees and property values suggests that mature trees have a major effect on house values; a US estimate is that mature street trees raise the sale price of a house by $15-$25000.(See ’22 Benefits of street trees’ in Links.)
’22 Council’s City Arborist has advised that the Camphor laurel trees in Arnold Street are fit for purpose with a useful life of up to 25 years. The recently completed street tree survey of the City’s tree assets indicates that there are 408 Camphor laurel trees on Council streets and parks. Camphor is not listed as a noxious species under the Noxious Weeds Act. It is listed as ‘Undesirable Species’ in CouncilTechnical.’
25 years? Useful life of 25 years? And Council agreed to remove them?
This taught me several things: the power of a small petition is apparently greater than that of two big ones. I should have counted the houses in Arnold Street but if there are fifty I would be surprised. 2500 people signed the petition about the Laman Street trees and what so far has been achieved is a temporary reprieve.
It also seems that Council prefers to remove trees than to preserve them: there is no suggestion that the Camphor Laurels were unsafe or diseased and maintenance on the trees was estimated at $50 per tree per year but they were happy to spend or consider spending tens of thousands of dollars .
I also learned the classification of Camphor Laurels. I had felt as though I had to hide the fact that I think they’re beautiful trees until I read this. I know they’re a problem on the north coast and in bushland in general, but in Newcastle they smell fantastic in spring, they have wonderful foliage and they are a lovely shape.
‘If new trees are to be planted it is recommended they be 45 litre size at the time of installation and it would take approximately 20 years to provide the equivalent environmental benefits.’
I hope this doesn’t set a precedent for other streets.
The last point in the Council paper is to me the most interesting:
23 As part of considering this request, it is well known that some mature trees are having an impact on the built environment and that the issues being raised by the residents of Arnold Street are similar, although to a lesser extent, to other locations in the City, for example Swan, Council and Laman Streets, Cooks Hill.
What’s this? Laman Street trees are a problem for the built environment? Aren’t they threatened with removal because they’re dangerous? Language is so important as is a permanent record like council documents.
I have a friend who lives in Swan Street and she attended a meeting with the Council’s arborist at the time Council were explaining that the Tyrrell street trees were being removed because they were dangerous, (yeah, right) and she was told that Swan street’s trees were getting older and more risky; they didn’t talk, to my knowledge, about damage to infrastructure.
Obviously, the chances of anything happening about community consultation about Laman Street in the next few weeks is the proverbial Buckley’s and none. I suppose it’s a worldwide phenomenon that everything grinds to a halt over Christmas and the first week (plus) of New Year.
I’ll have to stop worrying that we will run out of time but May 1 is going to be here before you can say arboriculture.
I am interested in forming a Laman Street Action Group. If anyone would like to be involved please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I don’t anticipate lots of meetings (because none of us have time) or bureaucracy, just enough to make a difference.
Some people may just want to follow this site or be part of it (I wonder whether website traffic counts, but it can’t hurt) or tell friends about what’s happening, email their councillors or think of a catchy name for the action group. I’m sure there are some great acronyms out there.
I was talking to an arborist a few weeks ago and while he was very helpful, he stopped short of giving me ideas for appropriate street trees, given that cities seem to worry about figs. The work of their consultancy, after all, is about selling that expertise.
Apart from how beautiful certain trees look there’s the argument about whether you should plant exotics. Personally I think there are lots of gorgeous non-Australian trees, like this plane tree, but there would be lots of people who disagree with me. Not that it’s relevant to Laman Street. I know, however, there are people in and outside Council who worry about how invasive the roots of Hill’s figs can be so watch out.
I found a story on the Tree Logic website about planting Hill’s figs in a new hotel and the engineering was impressive. If the roots can be managed in this space they can surely be managed in Cooks Hill. The link is
I also found a website for a nursery on the north coast that grows row after row of Hill’s figs – so someone still has faith in them.
And nothing to do with anything except they’re in our streets: