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.