A fig tree near Mullumbimby’s Dinosaur Preschool in Station Street has shaded locals for more than 50 years, according to local mum Jenny White, who has spearheaded a campaign to save it from council’s axe.
The tree has the misfortune to stand on land that Byron Shire Council plans to sell for housing, and staff have ascertained the council would receive more money for the blocks if the tree was removed.
A council spokesperson told Echonetdaily back in August, ‘Council is the owner and developer of the land and it forms part of the Financial Sustainability Plan that was adopted back in August 2014.
‘There are no immediate plans to remove the tree, but the tree removal does form part of the subdivision,’ the spokesperson said.
Removing the tree would pave the way to create ‘six urban lots’, council says and ‘when removed, the exotic tree will be replaced with compensatory planting in a nearby area.’
Since then, Jenny and a group of other supporters have circulated petitions and, yesterday, held a vigil outside council offices.
‘A change.org petition we started already has 1,500 signatures and we haven’t really publicised it yet,’ she told Echonetdaily this morning, adding the group is now circulating a pen-and-paper petition at the Mullumbimby Farmers Markets and at The Source food store.
She added that while the tree is not a locally native species, the ficus benjamina is actually an Australian native, unlike many of the camphor laurels in the streets of Mullumbimby.
Jenny believes that the petition and protest have achieved some traction, with council yesterday agreeing to look again at the proposal.
‘If they keep the tree there, council say they will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars because obviously they can’t build in the area where that tree is,’ she said.
But Jenny believes a smarter solution would be to earmark the area for a townhouse-style development, with a larger number of smaller lots, retaining the tree as a common focal point.
‘We’re not opposed to the land’s development but the council have just taken one option and run with it.
‘What we were suggesting to a couple of [councillors] yesterday was “how about you subdivide it into smaller lots and build eco-friendly units so that lower income people in the community, single parents or the elderly can actually afford the housing there”.
‘They [council] increase their profit from the sale, because it’s worth more, and then the tree is retained in that corner.’
Jenny said her group received a good hearing from the councillors, including mayor Simon Richardson, and is she optimistic that they will consider the proposal.
‘There are not all that many vacant blocks in Mullum and the tree would only enhance the development,’ she said.