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Byron Shire
October 20, 2021

Look at Byron’s other problem roundabout

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The sad looking palms at the Ewingsdale roundabout are suffering after the driest January on record. Photo Jeff Dawson

While much has been said about the so-called ‘disco dong’at the new Bayshore Drive roundabout, the humble Bangalow palms at the entrance to Ewingsdale Road are dead and dying following the driest January on record.

Not the most propitious welcome for visitors to the Shire, or residents either for that matter.

But a spokesperson for Byron Shire Council says there are no plans to water the established palms, which were planted by RMS but are Council’s responsibility to maintain.

‘We’re hoping the rain we’ve had over the last couple of days will cheer them up a bit and might be followed up with more,’ the spokesperson said.

Gardening Australia presenter Jerry Coleby-Williams said the situation was an ‘all-too common sight right now all along eastern Australia following the latest unprecedented drought’.

‘Most roundabout plantings [have] shallow soil mixed with residue from excavation and construction work,’ he said.

‘Hard surfaces, like bitumen and concrete, reflect more than half the UV that falls on them. They also soak up the heat.

‘Over a decade ago the CSIRO warned that Australia’s heat island effect would double by mid-century. That heat increases evaporation, further stressing urban forests during drought.

‘Turf is a preferable surface to concrete, even in drought it significantly reduces the heat island effect. But when used to underplant an island of palms isolated in a road, turf can outcompete the palms, robbing them of light falls of rain and whatever nutrients are to be found.

‘Both palms and turfgrasses have surface feeding roots, so they’re in direct competition. But grasses are faster to respond to rainfall and harvest nutrients quicker,’ he said.

This is the case with the Ewingsdale roundabout planting, which may be part of the reason why the trees are looking so sad.

Despite its reluctance to instigate a watering regime, Jerry said Byron Shire Council ‘stands tall compared to many local governments in its endeavours to nurture rain sensitive landscaping,’ but adds, ‘this image illustrates how one of Australia’s most popular palms can suffer’.

And he has some advice to offer.

‘In this instance, a more sustainable solution would be to encourage road runoff water to percolate into the roundabout and for surplus stormwater water drained from within,’ he said.

‘To solve the root competition problem, replace the turf with something compact and durable, such as the dwarf Lomandra “Tanika”, a native. This retrofit helps council to reduce the volume of stormwater flows whilst slowing floodwater.

‘One excellent, functional combination uses sweet potato “Marguerite”, a cheery, lush survivor with tasty tubers, and other non-competitive, water-wise species in this roundabout maintained by Cairns City Council,’ Jerry said. (See image below.)

The Cairns roundabout that Byron Shire could perhaps learn from. Photo Jerry Coleby-Williams


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  1. Even with the rain over the last two days these palms are doomed unless council gives them a decent drink this week.

    I counted over thirty mature palms in this image – most over 6m tall. Replacement value of each palm at retail would be around $990 each.

    Replacement with palms less than half that size would be $350 per palm.

    I wonder what other council asset worth between $11k and $29k our allegedly Green council would simply throw away?

  2. Good advice from Jerry Coleby-Williams.
    The underplanting is much more attractive in the example in Cairns. Also I think the number of palms planted on the Byron roundabout is excessive. Too much of the same thing. It doesn’t look natural. Some contrasting greenery is needed.
    In passing the roundabout on Minjungbal Dve, Tweed Heads yesterday, those palms are in the same sorry state.

  3. Whatever they plant or do on roundabouts can they let the other side of the brain loose for a moment and make sure we can see around them. Lismore has some of the loveliest looking roundabouts I have seen, but the foliage on some blocks your vision and it is difficult to see a motorcyle or a bright young thing in a little Hyundia zipping around them.

    • Agreed, and also difficult to see the indicators of approaching traffic. Also, there is no way our Council has the resources to maintain the sort of landscaping seen in the Cairns roundabout. Most of our traffic islands look a sorry mess. Better to have concrete than the overgrown weeds of the beds in Johnson St.

  4. Palm trees are a waste of time & money.
    They grow to high to maintain.
    They provide no shade.
    Pods fall from a great height causing safety issues.
    They are prickly when picking off the ground.
    They are unsightly when old.
    Make a better choice when planting trees on a Roundabout.

    • All your points are valid but if they are coconut palms you can sell overpriced coconuts to tourists to help Council’s budget on the beach, and satisfy the wish of some residents’ to make visitors pay for the privilege of visiting the Bay.

  5. 3 weeks ago I called Council and spoke to a senior person about the grass dying at the Byron Rec Ground. Polite excuses were given why there was no watering at the ground. But there has been no action. There has been NO watering despite recycled water running right through the ground. There has been no problem watering the beach park at Main Beach but none at the Rec Ground where local people play sport. injuries have occurred as a result.


    What is the plan for future hot/dry events? Can Council manage this open space? It seems not.


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