[author]Steve Spencer & Albert Elzinga[/author]
Despite strong winds all week, Chinderah’s historic giant fig tree has stood tall with its limbs intact.
That may not be the case for long, however, as similar weather last year saw of one its limbs collapse. Its owners have opted for a mass pruning to avoid a repeat of the incident, which, despite the tree’s apparent sturdiness, will still take place when the weather improves.
Workmen were poised to begin removing about 30 per cent of the white fig’s branches on Monday but were forced to postpone the operation because of 54km/h wind gusts.
A small number of protestors gathered at the tree early on Monday morning calling for a postponement of the proposed work.
An arboriculture consultant originally recommended giving 60 per cent of the branches the chop to help prevent more limbs from crashing down.
The 132-year-old fig, in the Chinderah Tavern’s car park, is not diseased but burdened by the weight of climbing cactus plants, which put extra strain on the limb, causing it to split and crash down.
President of the Chinderah District Residents Association, Felicia Cecil, says the fig, the oldest in the village, has historical significance for the community and urged the council to order an independent assessment into what can be done to save it.
She said the infestation of cactus and umbrella plants would have been completely removed ‘if they were fair-dinkum’.
‘If they had taken 60 per cent of it down it would almost certainly have died,’ said Mrs Cecil, who believes the tree would be sound if the climbing cactus infestation were completely removed.
‘Our association applied for the tree to be heritage listed by the Tweed Shire Council in the late 80s or early 90s. We know that it was listed but is no longer heritage listed. We don’t know why the listing was removed.’
Mrs Cecil said council should also push for the removal of bitumen, which surrounds the fig’s trunk.
‘Chinderah’s football team had its first meeting under the fig in the 1940s,’ said Mrs Cecil.
‘It would be a terrible loss to the community. So much of the history of Chinderah is attached to that tree.’
Tavern licensee Justin Fletcher refuted the claim that up to 60 per cent of the tree would be removed and said he and the tavern’s owners were committed to keeping the fig tree.
Mr Fletcher said cutting such a large percentage of the tree’s canopy was unnecessary and no hidden agenda to get rid of the tree existed.
He said he would be happy to look at any new data and would pass the information on to the tavern’s owners.
Tweed Greens Cr Katie Milne said she intended to seek an interim heritage order at the next council meeting to give an independent, arboricultural consultant enough time to produce a professional report.
Cr Milne said she was concerned to see the same consultant who advocated a total removal of the tree when it lost a limb some 18 months ago involved again and questioned the necessity of the suggested work.
In September last year Tweed councillors baulked at seeking a fresh heritage order to protect the fig, despite assurances from experts that it was in reasonable health and could last another 100 years.
Murwillumbah arborist Luke McVeigh said the risk was far from significant and statistics proved few were ever injured by falling tree limbs.
‘It’s still a lot more dangerous to cross the road’, Mr McVeigh said.
Image: Cr Katie Milne and arborists Brett Hamlin and Luke McVeigh discuss a report on the historic fig tree at the Chinderah Tavern on Monday. Photo Albert Elzinga