BY KENJI SATO
Planted before Federation, a canopy of trees was chopped down to make way for light rail.
But it didn’t have to be that way, according to Randwick residents and local politicians, who are reeling following the destruction of some of Sydney’s oldest fig trees.
Light rail construction continued along Anzac Parade and Alison Road last week, where hundreds of trees, some of which are up to 130 year old, were cut down.
Randwick Council opposed their removal and had urged the government to consider an alternative south-east light rail route, which would have saved the trees.
Randwick Greens Councillor Murray Matson said that he was saddened by the government’s “refusal” to work with local council.
“The Alison Road removals have left me sadly lacking confidence in the state government on the issue of tree preservation,” Mr Matson told City Hub.
“I’m trying to look towards the future, but I would still say that the government needs to review its protocols for how it deals with local government on the issue of tree removals across Sydney.”
“There surely is much more scope to preserve our urban forest than what has been displayed to date.”
NSW Opposition leader Luke Foley had previously announced his opposition to the felling.
“This decision is wrong and the trees that still can be saved should be. It’s all well and good to build infrastructure and chase progress, but progress without preservation leads to destruction,” Mr Foley told reporters in late January.
“Every possible effort should be made to protect these iconic and magnificent trees that have been a part of the community for more than one hundred years.”
NSW Premier Mike Baird has assured residents that new trees would be planted in place of the ones cut down, with two trees planted for every small tree removed, four trees for every medium tree removed, and eight trees for every large tree removed.
But local activist and Total Environment Centre member John Bellamy told City Hub that the fig trees were “irreplaceable”.
“They’re invaluable. They’re of priceless local, national, and international significance,” he said.
Mr Bellamy told City Hub that many of the heritage listed trees were planted in the 1870’s by Charles Moore, founding father of Moore Park, and that the trees were dedicated to the ANZAC soldiers in 1917, when Randwick Road was renamed Anzac Parade.
“For us all to be chopping down these historical trees is an international disgrace of the highest magnitude,” he said.
“We are gridlocking the city for three years and chopping down 800 trees for a light rail that is going to be worse than the existing bus system. It’s a complete and utter farce.”
Mr Bellamy said that despite previous disappointments, he and the Total Environment Centre would continue the fight to save the trees through doorknocking, letterboxes, and rallies.
“We’ve all created this crazy machine that is creating, and will continue to create hell on earth. But people are starting to wake up. Many Australians, myself included, have been pretty complacent. But the thing that changed my life forever was seeing 150 year old Moreton Bay fig trees chainsawed down in front of me. And I’m sure that’s been true for others.”
The Total Environment Centre will be holding a “Hands Off Our Trees” rally in Anzac Parade on Valentine’s Day on February 14.
In an email to constituents on Tuesday afternoon, Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said it would take a concerted community campaign to get the government to reconsider its approach.
His initial submission supported using the existing busway instead of parkland for the light rail route.
“We need a change in thinking that values our trees and open green space or ‘urban sanctuaries’ and I encourage concerned citizens to link up with the Total Environment Centre’s work in this area.”