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Byron Shire
May 12, 2021

Lennox fig facts

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John Sparks, Lennox Head

Ballina Shire Council has issued a fact sheet on the Castle Drive fig tree at Lennox Head that is nothing more than selective propaganda with many untruths to justify their original decision to remove the tree.

There is only one property – No. 7 Castle Drive – where cracks have occurred in the driveway and the screen walls attached to the main house structure. There is no cracking to the main house structure, which is built on piers, and the cracks were caused by movement of these external screen walls away from the main house. These cracks were more cosmetic and the building was never structurally unsafe. Poor construction was a contributing factor to the building movement.

The pictures of roots under the driveway clearly show them not penetrating the house structure. The driveway has been replaced with a thicker, reinforced concrete slab paid for by Council. A payout was also made to No. 9 to fix the uneven paving in their garden.

The house and the tree can co-exist. The arborists recommended concrete or steel root barriers, which are cheap and effective. The owners refused to allow a root barrier one or two metres inside their street boundary. This can be verified by the four engineers’ reports and the four arborists’ reports given to Council.

The legal case used by Ballina Council to justify their decision Michos v Botany Bay City Council made it mandatory to install a root barrier and PVC drainage pipes and did not require removal of the tree. Ballina Council public risk policy is not affected – only their advice that their issuer would not cover future damage to this house.

Council used advice on Aboriginal Cultural Heritage from outside Aboriginal community representatives and council staff to justify their limited submission to the Office of Environment and Heritage.

Council has been selective in their advice to residents and secretly arrived early on the morning of July 30 to remove the tree with police involvement.

Council refused to allow a WIRES carer to look for wildlife prior to any work and monitor the loss of animals and birds when work was proceeding. After a wood duck nest and seven duck eggs were found Council refused to accept WIRES’ advice and wait for 28 days for the ducklings to hatch.

Council also advised that they would relocate the beehive in the tree buttress roots, but instead employed a pest exterminator company to euthanase the bees.

Planting of ‘mature native species’ is a naïve statement and this can never replace the history and life given freely by this tree for 200 years. The cost of this tree removal, community disruption, equipment, staff, police, security personnel and council resources will far exceed the cost of fixing a few cracks in a driveway and screen walls apart from the damaging social impact and destruction of the neighbourhood environment.

Our advice from all professional sources has always been that the house and tree can co-exist – they are not mutually exclusive.

 


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1 COMMENT

  1. John,
    Why is the Fact Sheet presented now, AFTER the event instead of before the event?
    A good Council, to keep the community informed, in a community-minded way, would present the Fact Sheet before the event, before the chop.
    After the event, it was presented because the community now sees Council in a poor light and thinks of Council in a negative way, would that be right?
    In other words they thought of the legality and formality and not the connectedness the tree had to the community and the vital Public Relations aspect in that Council now might be on the nose from what they have done.
    Council is not important and never was, it is the community that is important and the glue that keeps the community together and Council seems to have forgotten that fact and no Fact Sheet is needed on that fact.
    Ballina Council is making poor decisions on how humans and nature fit together as the Shark Net fiasco went on, and on and on and there was a slight downturn when tourism went into a slump and the economy went downwards from the news of the Shark Nets filtered out throughout Australia.
    And now we have the chopping down of the Fig Tree. Did the give a fig about it? What is their next bad decision regarding the environment?
    What is next on the list in bad decisions for Ballina Council? To produce a Fact Sheet after the chopping down of the tree means they know they have made a bad decision concerning the community of Lennox Head.
    What is the reason for producing a Fact Sheet when the Fig Tree is no longer there?
    When the Fig Tree isa no longer there and a Fact Sheet is presented the know the Fig Tree still grows in the community’s mind. A huge tree like that has an enormous affect on the community.
    There once was a Morton Bay Fig Tree on a hillside at Picton, south of Sydney, and the photo of that fig tree was the logo for a big Department Store in Sydney, Anthony Horderns. This was back in the 1960s and their motto was “While I Live, I Grow”. A vandal drilled holes into the tree and poured poison into the holes. That vandalistic act caused more than a psychological tremor in the whole company of Anthony Horderns, The people of Sydney were shocked that anyone would do that. Sales began to go down and shoppers stayed away and sales went into a slump and about two years later after the tree that represented the motto died, so did Anthony Horderns. The company went broke, went into receivership and it was sold …. all because of a Morton Bay Fig Tree.

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