Ballina’s Deputy Mayor, Keith Williams, has thanked locals campaigning to save a 200-year-old Fig Tree at Lennox Head.
He said community pressure had contributed to a rethink from the mayor that resulted in a last minute rescission motion to temporarily save the tree while further investigation is undertaken.
The motion signed by Mayor David Wright, Cr Williams and Cr Meehan calls an Extraordinary Meeting to consider further technical reports on the causes of cracking in an adjoining house.
‘A number of highly qualified arborists have written to Council urging further investigation of the tree roots and claiming that soil moisture issues under the house are a more likely source of the damage than the tree. This warrants further investigation, said Cr Williams.
‘This tree predates the arrival of European settlers in the area. Apart from items such as centuries old fish traps, these ancient trees are some of the most significant heritage items in the shire. They should be protected on that basis.’
‘I think all councillors are mindful of the fact that our insurer has accepted a claim for damage and denied future liability unless this tree is removed. But if that assessment is wrong, we should challenge it on behalf of our community’, said Cr Williams.
He told Echonetdaily it was ‘a difficult issue – we’ve been placed in a difficult position with our insurer. They don’t value heritage. This in my view this is a significant item of heritage – we don’t have old buildings, we have old trees.
While the date of the extraordinary meeting is still to be determined by the general manager, Cr Williams said he expects it to be ‘within next couple of weeks’.
‘At the meeting last Thursday we lost the vote 6-3 to remove the tree but the mayor’s vote will change things. Whether that changes other councillors votes – I hope so but there is no commitment at this point.
‘We will talk with the other councillors – there has already been some discussion last night.’
Sherrie Yeomans of Castle Drive Fig Protectors took to Facebook yesterday to celebrate the reprieve.
‘We would like to thank the arborists, the team of passionate locals, the mayor David Wright for hearing us, the indigenous elders, the councillors, the Lowrys for their patience in making sure all issues are investigated, the community for jumping on board.
But she added, ‘This is one step, there are still more to go. This stop work has occurred through new evidence coming to light, from the arborist and team of passionate locals’
A group of locals will be gathering at the tree for an impromptu celebration from 6-10am this morning (Monday).