Sunday, 25 August 2013

Dates for the Diary

BioBlitz for beginners

The votes may all have been counted but on Saturday September 14th from 9am till night time the local flora and fauna of the Coal Point peninsula will be the focus of the polls.

September is Biodiversity month and it will be celebrated at Progress Hall with walks & talks, surveys, displays and an opportunity to find out what resources are available to help you learn about and care for the web of life that surrounds your home.

The variety of life from giant gums, amazing animals, frilly fungi to soil microorganisms and everything in between is biodiversity. 

The inaugural BioBlitz event will have experts on hand to help you identify that weird plant or the curious night time noise. 

There will be opportunities to learn some survey and identification skills too. What does a habitat hollow look like, how does a GPS work, how are plants surveyed and how do you know what birds are in the area are some of the questions that will be answered.
The day of discovery aims to share local knowledge and resources.

9:00-4pm Progress Hall open for displays and discussion. Do you want a hand with weed control, native plants or nest boxes? Book in for an expert to advise on what treasures you have in your yard. Find out who are the local wildlife carers and experts and what Council can do to help. 

10-11 am -Birds in the bush. Walk & talk around Stansfield Reserve with bird observer Tom Clarke. 

11.30-12.30- Know your natives. A look at the plant survey plots around Stansfield Reserves and what’s in them with botanist John Moen. 

12.30-1:00- Wildlife carer Catherine Rowe explains her role and that of the Native Animal Trust Fund. 

1-2:30 Habitat hollows. What cracks and crevices do our local wildlife have to live in. A survey of the West Ridge reserves with nocturnal mammal expert Chris McLean

1.30-2.30 - Birds and the bush. Walk & talk around West Ridge Reserves with bird expert Tom Clarke and botanist John Moen.

6:00 pm What goes thump in the night? Spotlight tour of West Ridge Reserves with Chris McLean. Meet at the top of Whitelock Street. Limited numbers RSVP essential.
All activities, except for the spotlight tour, start at Progress Hall, 197 Skye Point Rd, Coal Point 

Food and drinks available at the hall. 

To assist in coordination of the day please RSVP to or ring Trees In Newcastle during office hours on 4969 1500.

Who Gives a Fig?

The TASNG made a complete submission to LMCC on the draft Toronto Streetscape Master plan. This submission was endorsed by the Progress Association and an abridged version highlighting the comments about the Fig Trees has been included in this Chronicle. The full submission can be read on the Coal Point blogspot.

If you would like your feeling known about the future of the fig trees the local councilors are best option as the people’s representatives. Discussion about the Toronto Streetscape Plan are due at September council meetings.

The West Ward Councillors are 

Street Trees:
We have some specific comments on the proposal to remove the large fig trees in the Boulevard.

We acknowledge the complex considerations that Council needs to weigh up. We understand that the plan to remove the figs is primarily based on the following reasons, in addition to more minor problems mentioned (e.g.bird droppings, taking up car park spaces):
  1. costs of on-going maintenance to above- and below-ground infrastructure;
  2. complaints by certain businesses2 about on-going costs of fixing blocked storm and sewer systems and the condition of specific paved areas; and
  3. fear of litigation.

We suspect that Council may already be inclined to accept that removing the nine fig trees from the Boulevard is the most cost-effective way of dealing with the modernisation of the Boulevard. That is, cost may be the overriding consideration, even though a formal cost/benefit analysis has not yet been conducted, as far as we know. We hope that Council is open to considering alternative suggestions.

The greatest concern is obviously with the southside of the Boulevard. However, the Plan also calls for removal of trees on the northside of the Boulevard to improve strategic views to the Lake and the mountains. Whilst the views would no doubt be improved, we question the wisdom of much reduced tree cover on the northside, when shade is required on both sides of the Boulevard in summer.

Why are we concerned? Our concerns relate to the following:
  1. Removal of all of the fig trees will result in a significant loss of biodiversity (including the abundant bird life, especially in the evenings), shade during summer months due to the extensive canopies, significant carbon sequestration opportunities presented by these large trees and other environmental benefits, visual amenity and cultural values.
  2. Considerable variation in opinion exists as to what would be appropriate replacement tree species/varieties.
  3. There has been inadequate assessment of the extent and degree of impact of fig tree roots on underground services such as storm water and sewer pipes, and how much the age and type (mainly earthenware) of these pipes has contributed to some observed issues.
  4. The plan states '...there is no practical solution to the problems caused by the trees' extensive root system and canopies'. Although we were provided with some indications that remedial and protective works would not be easy, no conclusive evidence has been presented that they are not always impractical.
  5. The plan refers to '...a staged replacement of all the Boulevard's existing fig trees....' When questioned at the MPCC Forum, Council officers were not able to indicate the length of time implied by 'staged', although an 18 month period was mentioned. Such a short period does not auger well for how the Boulevard will look in the short to medium term, even if advanced trees are planted.
  6. There is apparently no plan to completely replace the ageing, existing storm water and sewer system along the southern side of the Boulevard, but only minimal remedial works in the immediate vicinity of the currently located fig trees... Has Council considered the likely impacts of the new trees on the ageing, underground infrastructure, or will root systems of each tree be contained and, if so, how will this affect above-ground tree size?
  7.  … the advice from a consultant arborist is that the trees are healthy, they do not pose a public health risk and they can be adequately maintained for at least the next 15-40 years… The arborist has indicated that the degree of interference of roots in the storm water and sewer system is essentially unknown.
  8. There doesn't appear to be an option provided for how the streetscape of the southern side of the Boulevard might be engineered if the figs were to be retained. For example, how much of the required fixing of specific paved areas near some of the trees is relatively low cost and  straightforward, and would allay fears of litigation?

We would, respectfully, suggest the following scenarios, in order of priority consideration by Council:
  1.  Retain all the fig trees, including the weeping fig on the northern sideIn the words of the songwriter...'you don't know what you've got till it's gone...'.
  2. Carry out strategic trimming of the canopies to reduce their physical above ground size with the potential to reduce root growth and likely impact.
  3. Conduct a non-invasive assessment of the rooting patterns with respect to storm water and sewer pipes and the location and state of those pipes. Engage with Hunter Water as required.
  4. Suggest how the streetscape work would be modified from the current plan if the figs were to be retained, with emphasis on both footpath amenity, underground services and other considerations.
  5. Consult with other Councils (e.g. in Sydney, Wauchope) as to how they have dealt with older fig trees in streets and public places.
  6. Remove only those figs which are deemed to be an unacceptable hazard.For each fig tree considered for removal, a clear assessment needs to be made available of why this is deemed necessary, based on physical, cultural, environmental and financial considerations. If only some of the fig trees are creating one or more problems (public/private) and cannot be fixed, then why consider removing them all?
    1. If this is to be undertaken, then it should be on a staged basis over years rather than months, so that a replacement tree (s) has (have) time to grow before the next fig is removed. If this were to occur, we would like Council to consider some alternative replacement species, which are Australian natives, rather than an exotic.
  7. Remove all of the fig trees
    1. We understand that Magnolia grandiflora 'Exmouth' is favoured by Council, but we would respectfully suggestion that wider consultation is required on such an important issue. Some further suggestions for consideration include Elaeocarpus reticulatus (Blueberry Ash) or eumundi, Cupaniopsis anacardioides (Tuckeroo), Banksia integrafolia (Coastal Banksia) and Melaleuca quinquinervia (Broad-leaf Paperbark).
For all options we would like to see a cost benefit analysis. Should this not be a mandatory consideration in any decision made by Council?

AGM of TASNG 11/9/13 @ 5pm @ Progress Hall

Annual General Meeting of Toronto Area Sustainable Neighbourhood Committee:
11th September 5pm at Progress Hall.

All welcome to be a part of an exciting group coordinating amazing local projects! 

For more information contact John Gill- Secretary, ph 4959 1507

Toronto Fire Station’s Model Fire Retardant Native Garden

Living in a bushland suburb doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your garden for safety. That’s the message behind the demonstration garden being constructed at Toronto Fire Station.

Stage One of this project is a planting day on Sunday, 22nd September from 9:30 to 11:00. Come along with the family and help plant out the garden, talk to the fire fighters about protecting property, and enjoy morning tea together. 

Earthbagging workshop

Landcare Update- Robyn Gill

Hampton St Link, Carey Bay Wetlands and Burnage Reserve have had a good late winter spruce up and should be ready for spring, which seems to be here already. The Rails, Finches, Plovers and many other birds are making the most of the landcaring efforts and are often very close and busy feeding when we're working. 
Carey Bay Wetlands benefitted from National Tree Day with 550 new plants installed in record time by 24 locals. They are settling in to make the most of the great conditions. 

Gurranba Reserve is the focus reserve for September and nature is providing a surprising array of welcome additions being helped along by some weed removal, which is especially satisfying.
One addition we hope not to discover are the `barker nests’ that have sprung up since the change of the leash free area from Birriban. 

The relocation of the leash free area freed the children’s playground from incursion by dogs of varying forms. Unfortunately now the local wildlife in the bushland remnants play hide & seek with the dogs straying from the large mown areas as they leave reminders of their presence. 

Please owners ..spare us this stinky problem by keeping your dogs in the mown areas and picking up after them  as required by council.

Dodgey dumpers

With considerable investment of time and energy going into landcaring the local reserves the recent addition of concrete washout from agitator truck was a very unwelcome addition at Burnage Reserve recently.

If you’re having private work done around your home please ensure your workforce respects the public spaces within the community.

Left over concrete from agitator trucks, and the cleanings at the end, should go back to be dumped at the concrete plant. It is the concrete supplier’s legal responsibility to do this.

Development on your doorstep...Would you want to know?

Planning Minister Brad Hazzard’s proposed new planning laws seeks to promote developer interests, with little concern for the wider public interest. It sidelines environmental considerations, and gives higher priority to economic matters. Community input to development decisions is significantly weakened, and avenues for ‘judicial review’ in the Land and Environment Court are reduced. 

The Better Planning Network is sponsoring an online petition requesting the NSW Government to withdraw its Planning Bills, and is seeking 50,000 signatures. 
The Better Planning Network has lots of information about the proposed changes to the planning laws and how you  can have your voices heard.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Doggies Do Good

4th July thanks to all the local walkers and pet owners. The July bird survey was very successful. New birds were recorded and not a person or a dog sighted.
The Bird Survey report can be read here.