Council Fact Sheet
This week Council posted a document called ‘Castle Drive Fig Tree Facts‘ on its website.
The document addresses a number of issues that have been raised over the past few weeks as the fate of the tree has hung in the balance, including investigations on the following:
- Installation of a root barrier system (including re-routing of underground services)
- Leave tree and roots and undertake ongoing maintenance as problems arise
- Relocate the tree
- Purchase the impacted properties.
Council claims that none of these solutions is acceptable, and admits that financial issues are the main criteria for decision-making on the issue, including ongoing concern about insurance claims and estimated costs of installing root barriers and re-routing underground services, which it has estimated at $150,000.
However, the local Castle Drive Fig Protector Group (CDFP), who claims to have a membership that includes experts in several fields including arborists, builders and engineers, says that many of the facts are not facts.
In particular they say, the estimate of $150,000 is not based upon any proper or documented quotation process. They claim that such works could be undertaken for much less. They also claim the value of the tree to be much more.
Comments from CDFP On Root Barrier
‘This tree is a Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla), that is 24metres high by 35metres wide with a trunk diameter of 4.5m which makes this a very old and highly significant specimen. The tree also has a number of other values e.g. ecological, cultural heritage and environmental etc.
Only one house (i.e. number 7 Castle Drive) seems to have incurred notable damage.
The industry standard method of mitigation for problems associated with invasive tree roots is to either selectively prune the offending roots or install a root barrier.
A root barrier could/can be installed to contain the roots of this tree, it merely requires to be adequately investigated, designed and engineered to suit this situation. Fig roots can be highly invasive but there is obviously a limit to what they can breach.
Root barriers using the commonly available, thin flexible membranes can be breached by Figs (i.e. the roots can grow over the top). The report by the Tree Doctor shown on Council’s website clearly states the main steps and materials that can be used to overcome this issue but Council has set aside this advice.
At the very least, the Fig should remain until it can be used to propagate some seedlings in order to preserve its unique DNA.’
Licence To Harm
Following the discovery of a family of wood ducks in the tree last week, WIRES NR stepped in to protect the ducks and as a result Council halted removal of the tree.
However, WIRES has since been informed that under the new NSW Biodiversity Laws, Ballina Council has now been granted a ‘Licence to Harm’, which gives them permission to remove the eggs and continue work removing the rest of the tree. According to WIRES this Licence to Harm allows three options:
1. Take eggs and get a wildlife care group to attempt to raise them
2. Relocate eggs into a surrogate nest where the parent ducks or other ducks MAY take over raising them
Why Not Wait?
The CDFP claims that there is also another option that is not being considered by Council, and which would be much better for the ducks’ welfare and for the community: that is to wait for the ducks to hatch and then continue works. However, the CDFP suggests that ‘Council doesn’t want to take the risk of waiting for the duck eggs to hatch, because it knows that if the works are not continued quickly, it may be thwarted in its resolution to fell the tree.’
CDFP also claims that Council and its appointed contractors failed to properly check for endangered wildlife living in the tree. Although the Fact Sheet claims ‘Despite previous examinations before the commencement of works, a nest had been uncovered deep within the tree,’ a spokesperson for CDFP says that ‘anyone with any knowledge about arboreal habitat would have known there had to be animals and birds living in the tree. Informal observation would have found ducks moving in and around the tree, and this was observed by many who have spent time there.’
Local residents the Medcraft family, claim that works on the Fig tree were undertaken without warning.
Council’s Fact Sheet claims that letters to residents were distributed in December 2017, April 2018 and May 2018 notifying them about the removal of the tree.
But the Medcrafts claim they were not told about the removal of the tree and that it has affected them ‘severely’ and caused ‘immense emotional strain on the family’.
They also claim that Council has shown ‘utter disregard for the wants of the majority of residents living in the close vicinity. It appears as though Council have sided with one couple and fallen to their knees to facilitate their every want and need.’
‘This was once a beautiful quiet little street that we loved dearly but it has been turned it to a war zone. We now dread coming home and have to pass the site and see what a horrendous mistake has been carried out.’
‘All those concerned have purchased their properties knowing full well of the tree’s existence and proximity to their residences. We have purchased our property because we fell in love with the tree and all the wildlife it holds. Who do we seek compensation from when it is gone? I struggle everyday to find the words to explain to our 4 and 2 yr old sons, why they are cutting down our tree,’ they say.