by Sue McCreadie
The first day of spring brought hope to Leamington Avenue in Newtown when new buds appeared on two of the 14 robinia trees that were poisoned earlier this year – an act that Sydney City Council had warned could see the offenders fined up to $1.1 million.
The Council now believes most trees will recover. Those that do not will be replaced in the next few weeks.
The Council planted the trees in March after holding community consultations last year. A number of residents opposed the plan at heated public meetings because of concerns about the impact on parking, traffic and sunlight.
Council workers discovered the trees had been poisoned the day after they were planted in March. A Council flyer distributed to residents said, “High levels of the herbicide glyphosate were detected in samples from the bark and leaves of all the trees.” Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the weed-killer Roundup.
The Council invited residents with any information to come forward.
Local resident Donna Scott said she was physically sickened when she heard what had happened. “Apart from anything else, it’s a very animal friendly street and we were concerned pets could be affected,” Ms Scott said.
Council workers regularly flushed the soil around the trees after detecting the poison and the soil is being closely monitored.
Penny Paul, a local resident and horticulturist, said that the poisoning was a brazen act. “It’s good news that there are some new buds but I am still concerned about whether all the trees will survive.”
Ms Paul said she was fully supportive of the Council’s tree planting policy. “I think the concerns that residents had about things like the garbage trucks getting through haven’t come to pass and most of them would now have come round.”
The trees were relatively mature and the planting reportedly cost over $10,000.
Following community consultations last year, the Council reduced the size of the planter beds to address resident concerns about parking and traffic, and conducted a shade study, which it said demonstrated there would be no loss of light.
The Council maintains that increasing canopy cover over paved surfaces is a good way to lower the amount of heat that radiates off roads and pavements and that it helps to reduce hydrocarbon emissions.
Leamington Avenue was chosen because it is one of the widest streets in Newtown. The Council is looking at a number of other streets that are wide enough to accommodate ‘in road’ planting with minimal impact on traffic and parking.
Leamington Avenue was last at the centre of controversy in 2010 when the State Government threatened to demolish 35 homes on the rail side of the street to make way for a rail tunnel. Residents mounted a successful campaign to quash the proposal.