As young kid I loved a gnarled old mulberry tree in the back garden of “Cricklewood” my grandparents’ home in Wingham.

There was also a big gum tree with a rope swing hanging from it but the mulberry tree was my favourite hangout. 

It was in the big back yard where the chooks roamed next to my grandfather’s beloved shed. A large jacaranda loomed over the back fence where a creek gurgled through overgrown “jungle.”  Loved pets were buried beneath the “jac” over the years. This wonderland of a yard was fenced off behind the “proper” garden around the house with the dunny discreetly covered by trailing flower vines. 

Poppy’s shed in a tree shaded back yard

 The “street” was a short, walking distance to town over the railway bridge with only half a dozen houses, and then the wonderland of bush. This is where Poppy took my toddler mother and her brothers, and later myself, for wondrous walks through the scrub of Faraway trees to the old timber mill and back along the railway tracks. 

In town The Brush was the magic land of fantastical trees, a tangled mysterious and sometimes scary place. Few ventured into the wilderness before its resuscitation and recognition of The Brush’s historic and endangered importance as one of the last remnants of sub-tropical lowland rainforest. After years of restoration and regeneration by Dr John Stockard and his group, it became and remains, a significant icon for tourists to the Manning. 

 Koalas, birds, wallabies, wombats, turtles, echidnas, snakes and platypus, all manner of our beloved Aussie creatures, thrived around Wingham.  

Having returned to live here some time back, it’s aching to see the loss of wildlife and the endless destruction (so much unnecessary) of mature trees.

I cringe when I see those overhead views of Sydney on the TV news – acres of touching grey roofs of leggo-like homes and nary a blade of grass or bush, let alone a surviving fully-grown tree, to be seen.

But now with fires, floods and off the chart temperatures plus the news from the scientists and specialists that this is the new norm with worse to come, something has to change!

All sensible people agree . . . while we need to have renewables and recyclables, protect water and oceans, stop mines and fossil fuels… the most immediate quickest and easiest thing to do is – Protect and leave mature trees in place! They reduce the temperature, give oxygen and store carbon and water  

So, there are now schemes to plant more trees, plant more trees! But we haven’t got 30 or 50 years plus to wait for them to grow. 

Every Council is considering greening plans. But which is brave enough to bite the bullet and decree that mature trees need to be protected? 

Which council will say to developers… no more scorched earth clearing where no blade of grass is left behind. 

Who can stop the logging of old trees in our forests?

Homes need a back yard with a tree, at the very least. Tree lined streets are more desirable to live in as well as reducing the temperature.

(In the 1970s in Texas USA, a developer bought a forest and designed curving streets and house blocks amongst the trees, planning each house so it had trees along the streets, in the front and behind the houses. It’s called the Woodlands and is now one of the most expensive suburbs to live in Houston.)

Why do we seem to be cutting down trees at every opportunity? Even though the Council has adopted a fine sounding Greening Strategy which talks about the importance of urban tree planting, no street tree planting is presently being carried out by the Council. They say they’ve planted 30,000 trees. Of what size and where I do not know.  A grand plan. Are they monitored? Cared for?

The trees Council kindly give away for planting do not reach my knee. 

The cry “trees are dangerous, their roots are going to damage buildings, branches will drop etc etc . . .” is most often codswallop. Ask a proper arborist.  Look at tree-lined streets in older parts of Sydney and Melbourne where the front doors are a few steps from the curb, where big beautiful trees arch across the road.

Also, there are many reports that the electricity people are quick to slam down a tree that could be in the way of a powerline.  Bringing out a cherry picker to trim the tops of the branches under the lines every year has worked successfully. No longer. Too expensive a job now around the MidCoast it seems. Some owners just cave in, others stand and argue with the electricity people to save the trees, please, just trim them. My neighbour produced photographs of koalas in the trees beneath the power line which had been trimmed for years. The man simply shrugged and said, “Ah if there’s a koala in it when we come, I’ll come back the next day when its gone. The tree has to be cut to the ground.” 

He had a chart of koala feed trees but didn’t realise (or care) that koalas rest for days at a time in non-feed trees. We have them in our banksias and jacarandas for days at a time, especially mothers with babies.  

And don’t get me started on developer’s offset land. Cutting down koala habitat and then setting aside a chunk of land somewhere else on its own to “offset” ie “replace” the demolished land, not only destroys the koala corridor (they are very specific where they travel from tree to tree) and if you check out offset land it’s more often than not uninhabitable for man, beast or bird. 

Often land untouched, assumed by locals to be local forest, has probably been earmarked decades ago to be used for development. There’s interesting reading in some of the old planning documents. 

And now we have many of these zombie DA’s being approved for massive residential areas, luxury units, hotels and business opportunities. Swamps continue to be drained for more buildings or recreational areas or simply for landfill for other construction. And then people wonder why the flooding is worse. 

Most residents have no idea what’s in the works until it’s too late. Most people don’t (or find it impossible) to wade through the hundreds of documents on Council’s website or find it too cringe-worthy watching council meetings online. 

Then one day a sign goes up and anguished cries from locals ‘What’s happening here?’ and letters to me arrive just head of the bulldozers. 

The word is out there that soaring temperatures around the world is the new norm. Climate change should now be factored into government and council policies. The push (or panic) to get green canopies and green space into suburbs in cities is on! Trees can reduce the temperature by 10 degrees. Cramming hundreds of thousands of people together with no shade is a looming disaster.

In rural and regional areas, we are just as affected if we keep cutting down mature trees. Along with the aesthetic attractiveness of trees, the home for creatures, birds and koalas, it’s well-known that grown trees provide better health and social outcomes. 

So, please, no more chopping down big trees, less crammed housing estates, no dark roofs on side by side identikit homes. 

MidCoast Council has a poor record of taking out mature, or most any tree, for vague or unnecessary reasons. Locals are still in shock at the removal of 60 plus mature trees along Wingham Road and along the approach to the Kolodong roundabout, as recent examples. 

Director of Liveable Communities (and doesn’t that title seem ironic) Paul De Szell said in a reply to a recent email about destruction of trees, that “he couldn’t remember the last time they took down a mature tree.”  Maybe that’s because council hires contractors. But gee, the destruction of all those beautiful old cypress trees in front of the Bight Cemetery doesn’t seem too long ago…. 

Climate Change is galloping towards the point of no return. If sparing a large tree is one small step for us, it will be part of a very big step for mankind!


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