Wednesday, 18 August 2010

City figs to get the chop

From The Herald...


Chainsaws won out over community protest last night with civic leaders giving the go-ahead for Laman Street’s green cathedral to be cut down.

After more than a year’s consideration, most Newcastle City councillors agreed to have 14 Hills figs on the Cooks Hill boulevard removed as soon as possible.

They will be replaced next year with new Hills fig specimens, measuring about 3 metres high.

A packed public gallery held signs pleading for the council to save the trees and booed, hissed and heckled councillors who supported the figs’ removal.

Lord mayor John Tate and councillors Scott Sharpe, Bob Cook, Brad Luke, Graham Boyd, Aaron Buman and Mike King voted for all the trees to be removed and replaced.

Councillors Nuatali Nelmes, Sharon Claydon, Tim Crakanthorp, Michael Osborne and Mike Jackson voted against the proposal.

Cr Shane Connell was absent.

Council officers had advised that the trees should go because their deteriorating condition posed a public safety risk.

If the trees stayed, a gate, to be locked at 5pm, would be put up around parts of Laman Street, they said.

Councillors agreed that was not an option they could abide.

‘‘It’s absolutely intolerable and unacceptable ... the idea of caging up a civic space,’’ Cr Claydon said. ‘‘It just makes me want to weep.’’

Cr Crakanthorp suggested a staged removal, with four figs kept and others replanted.

‘‘These trees are held very dear to the community,’’ he said.

Cr Cook said this would produce an exceptionally poor result.

‘‘It will look wrong, it will be wrong,’’ he said.

He said removing the trees now and replacing them would provide a quality result.

‘‘It should be used as a symbol for what this council intends to achieve, the best for future generations,’’ Cr Cook said.

‘‘Let’s not do a quick, temporary patch-up job at our iconic location.

‘‘Let’s set a new standard that future generations will be proud of.’’

Cr Tate said it was about long-term benefit for the most prominent part of the city, near Civic Park, the library and art gallery.

Cr Nelmes disagreed.

‘‘I think we will look back on this as a council and realise we’ve made a mistake,’’ she said.

Detailed designs for Laman Street are expected to be presented to councillors by December.

No comments: