To the great sorrow of a wide section of the local community the fig tree located on Castle Drive, Lennox Head was removed yesterday.
Around half a dozen people were there in the morning along with Gory who was chained in the tree.
‘We told the police “we are here to protect the tree and the rights of nature,”’ said activist and retired town planner John Sparks.
Protestors pleaded with the police and council to at least allow the work to be held off until the duck eggs located in the tree had time to hatch, which takes 28 days.
WIRES had explained to Ballina Council the unlikely chances of survival for the ducklings if the eggs are removed.
However, the council had been given a ‘License to Harm’ from the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).
Greens Member for Ballina Tamara Smith had received a letter from OEH dealing her request for extra time for the fig tree to allow the duck eggs to hatch. The letter from the OEH declined to recommend an Interim Heritage Order (IHO) for the fig tree.
The Heritage Division said in its letter that ‘without the support of the local Council to assess its heritage significance and consider listing as a local heritage item on its Local Environmental Plan, an IHO would be ineffective and is thus not appropriate in the circumstances.’
Tamara Smith said: ‘I have tried everything within my power over the last six months to save this 200 year old tree but the Office of Environment and Heritage has rejected our request for more time.’
When police and council arrived to remove the tree protestors asked if they could see the license to harm and council workers had to return to council offices to locate the order so that they could show it to the community members.
Police recuse squad
Police rescue were required on site with a cherry picker to remove Gory from the tree and cut his chains.
‘The police then took him to Ballina police station,’ said Mr Sparks.
Ballina police have confirmed with Echonetdaily that Gory was released with no charges.
‘When they took the eggs from the tree we asked if we could photograph them but they wouldn’t let us,’ said Mr Sparks.
‘They have taken the eggs up the back to put in a surrogate nest they had located but we are not allowed access. Just after they had removed the eggs the mother duck came flying back to the tree.’
Tamara Smith pointed out that ‘When nature has zero rights in our culture and environmentalists have no rights to stand up for nature under current Liberal-National government laws this is what will keep happening.’
Rights of nature
According to the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) under the current environmental laws the tree is not able to be the plaintiff (a person who brings a case against another in a court of law) in Australia.
‘We are looking to change the environmental law so that the rights of nature are recognised,’ said Mr Sparks.
Now the tree is gone ‘we are trying to thank the tree for being the catalyst’ that is, spurring on the castle fig tree protectors to look into ways to legislate for the protection of nature.