Laman Street fig planting approved

NEWCASTLE councillors have approved $1.8million plans to redesign Laman Street and replant figs, after another heated debate on the civic saga last night.

Discussions in the council chamber were marred by all the hallmarks of the two-year fig fiasco: personal insults, bickering, a narrow vote and loud interjections from the public gallery.

The decision to spend $1.8million to replace the fallen trees will take the official bill for Laman Street past $3million.

Councillors rejected two attempts to defer the matter until after the September election, a plan by Labor councillors to spend the money on other community facilities, and a plan by Green Michael Osborne to form a new working party to redesign the street.

The council voted six to five to approve designs that include two rows of Hill’s fig trees, planted in underground root vaults and spaced to allow canopies to grow.

Cr Nuatali Nelmes pushed unsuccessfully to allocate the $1.8 million to footpaths, gym equipment in parks, establishing a Men’s Shed, design work for the No.1 Sportsground redevelopment, reducing the cost of entry at swim centres and new cycleway construction.

Cr Nelmes was involved in a bitter exchange with Cr Mike King towards the end of the debate.

Cr Nelmes said the council wasn’t fit to make a decision on Laman Street.

‘‘It’s going to be good for the city when I’m lord mayor and we won’t have s--t like what happened over in Laman Street,’’ she said.

Cr King fired back.

‘‘I accept that there are members of the council that aren’t fit to make a decision on this, the only thing we can’t agree on is who they are.’’

Both comments were immediately withdrawn.

Cr King said the motion would ensure new figs were planted to replace the removed trees.

Cr Osborne said he did not want to leave Laman Street in its present state, and suggested a working party to come up with a new design.

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