Friday, 9 September 2011

Save Us From Ourselves

This is a great example of when common sense is replaced by moronic politics and bureaucracy. For those unaware of this situation, look at the photo above and try and guess what has prompted the need for this 'safety' fence. Uneven ground? A car accident? A bomb threat? No! It's the trees lining the street.

Over the last couple of years (yes, years) there has been ongoing debate in Newcastle, New South Wales, about the removal of these fig trees due to their apparent unsafe nature (trees drop leaves, you know). Council's public insurance won't cover potential injuries or deaths resulting in tree failure and, therefore, they have decided that the trees need to go.

The local people want them to stay. They provide natural scenery, shade and a beautiful green archway along a significantly cultural street in Newcastle. And according to historic photos (see below), the figs have grown with the development of the area. They are essentially part of the heritage of the precinct.

Laman Street figs circa 1930s

Laman Street figs circa 1950s

Laman Street figs circa 1970s

Laman Street figs today

The figs have been identified as potentially dangerous in high winds (like any large tree, I suppose) and I understand the need to warn people of these dangers. Why not put signs up? "Dangerous in high winds. Enter at your own risk". There! Now it's up to the people to decide. 

Council - don't patronise the public by fencing off the area like we're toddlers. Stop saving us from ourselves. 

These figs are some of the last remaining stands of mature greenery in the Newcastle CBD. Figs have extensive root systems which allow them to stand for hundreds of years, even in urban spaces. Despite the many storms and high winds over the last few years, the trees have managed to stand without harming anyone. However, by council's logic, maybe they should go around and tear down every old tree within a dripline of a suburban building? 

I'm not trying to push some hippy agenda here. By all means, tear down trees that pose a threat, but I don't believe these ones do. We should be hanging onto any natural environment we can in our urban areas. The figs have developed such a beautiful and iconic corridor in the Newcastle CBD. It will be tremendously sad to see them go.

More photos:

Council will meet next week for a final vote on the fate of the figs. Will common sense prevail? Or will financial concerns and politics get in the way? 

I'm not holding my breath . . . .


  1. Where does it end Kate?

    Should we chop down every tree within a 5km radius of houses because of a "potenital risk"?

    Do we fence of beaches in case people get wet, catch a cold and need a few days bed rest?

    Maybe the time has come to ban ovens in peoples homes so no one burns their finger and get a nasty blister!

    Seriously, common sense and logic seems lost to the eternal pessimists in power these days.

  2. It comes down to the fact that we live in a society where individuals show no personal responsibility. If anyone gets injured anywhere, it's always someone else's fault. Council don't want to get sued if the trees cause injuries (which they haven't so far). So these trees fall victim to skewed attitudes and bureaucracy.

  3. Wow. I don't even know what to say about this one. What the heck is wrong with people? Has the whole world lost their minds? I agree that no one takes personal responsibility for their actions anymore and everyone thinks someone else is responsible for any little thing that ails them. I hope that the people in the Newcastle community rise up and explain to the council how stupid they're being and the figs get to stay.

  4. I know Amy. It's ridiculous. Council went to vote on the issue (for the eleventh time!) the other night and the decision has been stalled again. The worst of it is, a lot of people are now so sick of the ongoing saga, they're calling to cut them down just to be done with it.

  5. I'm at a loss for words. Mark this date on the calendar because it doesn't happen often.