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Byron Shire
August 6, 2021

Lennox Head fig tree destruction underway

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Police forcibly remove a tree protector at Castle Drive this morning (July 30). Photo Jeff Dawson

Update: The controversial removal of a fig tree on Castle Hill Drive, Lennox Head,  which locals say is more than 200 years old, is now proceeding after an attempt to file an injunction earlier today failed.

Local Aboriginal elder Lois Cook, who sought the injunction was advised by EDO that she could be liable for any further problems caused by the tree if she continued with the legal action.

Cheyne Willebrands, Ballina’s open spaces and resource recovery manager, addressed the crowd around the tree at about 2.30pm this afternoon and asked them to ‘respect the council resolution to undertake these works’, adding tree removal would now begin.

Asked why there was no one present to look after any wildlife that might be living in the tree, Mr Willebrands responded, ‘we’ve got procedures in place’.

Ms Cook said that ‘this is an Aboriginal heritage tree – once this tree’s removed we will be suing you for removing an Aboriginal heritage site.

‘Once we find artefacts – I’m sure there is a midden there – it will be clear council knowingly destroyed this site,’ she said.

Local resident John Sparkes told Echonetdaily, ‘police are now standing in a line all around the fence, stopping anyone going near.’

‘Earlier today, a 12-year-old girl who was walking to the tree was tackled to the ground by three policemen,’ he added.

 

Police move in on the site of the Castle Drive fig tree. Photo Jeff Dawson

Original report: Ballina Shire Council contractors have moved in this morning to remove a 200-year-old Moreton Bay fig tree in Lennox Head that has been at the centre of a controversy since local neighbours reported cracks in a wall and driveway last year.

Ballina Shire Council started to cut down the large tree down this morning, despite an interim heritage order request to the Office of Environment and Heritage.

Protesters photographed sitting in the tree this morning have been removed and a steel mesh barricade erected around the tree in preparation for its complete removal. Police are patrolling the perimeter.

Ballina MP Tamara Smith (Greens) says she is ‘disappointed more could not have been done to save the Moreton Bay fig’.

‘I am disappointed that Council would cut the tree down while there was still information to be considered by the Office of Environment and Heritage.

‘This tree was loved by the community, with an online petition to preserve it signed by more than 2,200 people,’ Ms Smith said.

Aboriginal spokesperson Lois Cook addresses media at Castle Drive in front of the fig tree Ballina Council is set to remove on Monday (July 30). Photo Facebook/ Castle Hill Drive Fig Protectors

Councillors not told

Ballina’s deputy mayor Keith Williams told Echonetdaily that councillors hadn’t been forewarned about the imminent demolition of the tree.

He said responsibility for authorising the removal was ’ultimately with the general manager’ Paul Hickey.

‘The first I heard about it was when I started getting text messages saying people were heading down there because staff and police were at the tree,’ he said.

Cr Williams added that he believed several protesters had been forcibly removed from the tree by police and indicated that some may have suffered injuries including broken bones.

Loophole

He said the letter from Office of Environment and Heritage last week appeared to indicate a ‘loophole’ that meant staff had a window of time before any interim heritage order was placed.

‘It said OEH was still considering whether to undertake further investigation and, if so, it would then impose an interim order,’ he said, ‘indicating no such order was currently in place’.

He also said that the neighbours whose cracked walls and driveway first called for compensation, had written to council saying they would ‘sue for pain and suffering’ if the fig was not removed.

A tree protector, later removed by police. Photo Jeff Dawson

 


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17 COMMENTS

  1. Why would you move into a house next to a tree if you want to later sue for ‘pain and suffering’ if the tree is not cut down. Shame shame shame. The tree was there first. Put in a root barrier. It can be done. Figs are tough and can take a bit of root pruning. Go and check out the Fig Tree Restaurant in Ewingsdale. Look how close that magnificent fig is to a building. We can live with trees. Humans cut down 15 Billion trees a year. It’s time to stop. Let’s start with this one. Please save the Lennox fig tree.

    • Well said Katy.
      Cutting this ancient tree down makes no sense and makes Lennox culturally and aesthetically poorer. So sad.

  2. If you want to keep the tree, but the poor guy’s house that’s cracking apart. Why do people always want to make decisions about other people’s property without wanting to put their own hand in the pocket. Our society runs by the rule of law, underpinned by property rights. If you want to keep it, you buy it! Then you’ll own it and you can do whatever you want with it!

    • There were rules in place before the houses were built about how close you could build to the figs. These rules where ignored at the time of construction.

      Having lived next to one of the other significant figs in Lennox where the house was built too close I understand completely the damage they cause.

      Such majestic trees should not not have been interfered with. Council should have enforced the rules in the first place. Given that it was their fault the houses were built too close they should be demolishing the houses and compensating the owners so they can buy or build elsewhere.

    • “The poor guy” as you call him bought the property knowing full well the tree was there. Nothing to do with property rights. The tree was on council land otherwise the landowner would be footing the bill instead of the ratepayers forking out again.

  3. The poor guy! He shouldn’t have bought the house if ‘he’ didn’t like the tree!! The tree is clearly a feature and is probably 180 years older than the house and surely they saw it when buying or building their place. I’d say any building inspection would also have mentioned it. So there’s no excuse. Tree haters will be the death of this planet and ourselves.

  4. I vote for the Tree. Community votes for the Tree. There are many more who watch as another Heritage tree is taken down. Will it end when all trees are gone?

  5. Absolutely disgusting use of police power by the council. All involved should hang their heads in shame.
    Using state sanctioned force to chop down a tree is an appalling development.

  6. House cracking apart or driveway, big difference. Which was there first and the house should never have been built so close to the Fig.
    In the meantime Fig zero value, everyone else worries about risk and $$$ values.

  7. Digging around the roots from the tree going to the house and driveway then cutting a one meter section out of the roots and putting tar on each end of the cuts remaining in the ground would have solved the problem from getting worse. Poison the ends of the roots going under the house and driveway and drop in a root barrier.
    Repairing the cracked wall and drive way would have probably been cheaper for council than removing the fig.
    Why must heritage always be destroyed in the country?

  8. We need some changes to the law. If trees are there when you buy a property, then you should have no right to act on subsequent issues arising. That way, the onus is a simple one: for the buyer to exercise a bit of due diligence ( and common-sense ). I’m sick and tired of people finding legal justifications for destroying nature!

  9. The crack was in a concrete driveway (since replaced) that was laid too thin (didn’t meet Aust Standards). Note the road in front of the fig isn’t cracked.
    The other crack was caused by an add-on privacy wall which was not on the original council approved house plan. This wall was built on fill which wasn’t compacted properly & pinned to the house, thus the crack in the office wall.
    Council Insurance paid for replacement driveway. How stupid are they.

  10. So some tacky modern house gets preferrence over an ancient tree? I am utterly shocked. Why cannot you compensate someone and move them to a nicer property and concil take ownership of that instead for the community. This is a very backward decision, humans keep wandering along and arrogantly destroying hundreds of years of natural history because they have a crack in their driveway. If that is not obviously petty, vacuous and beyond selfish I dont know what is.

  11. Not so worried about the destruction of an ecosysten that’s home to a whole community of non human species but worried about a few houses that were built too close in the first place – despicable! !!!!

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