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Byron Shire
March 30, 2023

Bruns fig tree slated for the chop gets reprieve

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Dean Jefferys protesting the destruction of a native fig. Photo Jeff Dawson

A much-loved fig tree next to the Brunswick Heads boat harbour has been saved from destruction – for now – by the quick thinking of a local activist.

But the stay of execution may be short lived if locals are unable to convince the landowner, William Silverman, to change his mind.

Dean Jefferys was riding his bike beside the harbour last Friday, when he saw the tree being chopped down.

He immediately intervened and managed to stop the screaming chainsaws before climbing into the branches in a bid to ensure they didn’t start up again. 

‘The tree was planted 30 years ago, and was healthy with no rotten or dangerous limbs,’ Mr Jefferys said.

‘It’s only “crime” – receiving the death penalty – that I’m aware of, is that its roots were penetrating some of the sewerage pipes about 70 feet away, and a small rise in the car park where its roots have travelled.’

Mr Jefferys is now trying to convince the owner of the land, William Silverman, to preserve and protect the fig, which lost branches in the ordeal, yet is still standing strong.

Hundreds in the community are supporting the move, flocking to social media to express their shock and dismay at the potential loss of the fig.

‘This particular tree is a food source to many native birds and bats and it is also their natural habitat,’ Mr Jefferys said in an open letter to Mr Silverman.

‘People have a personal relationship with this tree and many seek the shade from this magnificent fig on a regular basis.’

‘I managed to get a copy of the [Council] permit, but not the reasons for why the permit was granted in the first place,’ Mr Jefferys said.

Council approved

‘They wanted me to pay $80 for the info, which I wasn’t happy about. That information should be freely available in my opinion’.

The Echo asked Council staff to explain the reasons for its decision to grant permission. They replied, ‘Council is very aware of the importance of trees to our community, and any permits for the removal of trees are strongly considered’.

‘In the instance of the fig tree at Brunswick Heads, approval was given for the property owner to remove the fig tree because its roots were causing extensive and recurring damage to plumbing services, as well as structural damage to the surrounding car park.

‘The owner of the property is required to plant two Eumundi quandongs to compensate for the removal of the tree’.

Mr Silverman’s representatives, who manage his abandoned fish and chip shop, were contacted over the matter, but there was no reply by deadline.

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  1. Dean might have been an ambulance chaser in another life! Now, with somewhat dubious intent, he chases after tree loppers, apparently 🤔

    But seriously, just how many trees does Dean think are being dropped and mulched by tree loppers every day, all around the shire? Dean sure has his work cut out of him if he intends to chase after every one of those targeted for removal to save it from its demise, on a daily basis! At the very least he will have calf muscles to die for from all the climbing he will be doing!

    This species is huge when fully grown, this is a sapling, a juvenile tree, fully grown it would spread out over the existing buildings forever playing havoc with plumbing, drainage, road and parking infrastructure. Taking it out and planting something that doesn’t do so much damage makes every bit of sense

    Afterwards Dean should grab for himself some local tube stock and a hole digger and get busy planting other trees, ones endemic to the area in spots where there are no trees at present.

    Make sure you plant those species in places that will afford them the best chance at survival Dean so allowing them to chance to prosper. Don’t plant them under the eaves of houses or beneath power lines or in places similar to to where this particular tree was mistakenly planted.

  2. I always thought the harbour land was not owned privately, but by state-controlled Crown Lands (Department of Lands) who leased it to Mr Silverman? Need a fact check on this please Editor…

  3. Thank you Dean Jeffreys,
    I always wondered where you went,
    I remember you as an inspiring activist, a true leader of community and its heart warming to see you still doing the work to defend nature.
    Thanks to the Echo for writing this storey about Dean, the Community and the wild life that need the Fig Tree.
    Caro from Bello

  4. Shame on the backward council for giving permission to remove it. We’ll have no trees left in suburban areas if council acts this way with every tree root interfering with pipes.
    Sydney streets are lined with 200 year old fig trees! They’re not being chopped down! Call the tree doctors like thinking folk do!!


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