Expert denied fig dig

AN internationally respected arborist who developed a tree-risk assessment method used by Newcastle City Council has been denied access to the Laman Street figs.

UK-based Mike Ellison had hoped to travel to Australia to inspect the barricaded trees for himself on December 29.

In his request, forwarded to the council by lord mayor John Tate on behalf of Save Our Figs, Mr Ellison asked to photograph the trees and tap parts of them with a nylon sounding hammer.

He also sought permission to scrape loose soil away from surface roots, probe the ground with a six millimetre steel bar and use a mircodrill to test for decay.

Mr Ellison, who developed the widely used Quantified Tree Risk Assessment system, estimated the inspection would take four hours.

In refusing the request on December 22, Liveable City director Frank Cordingley said the proposed inspection would be the equivalent of an independent assessment, which the council had voted against.

‘‘This is apparently seeking sanction for an independent assessment, which council has already considered and denied,’’ he wrote in a memo to councillors.

Mr Cordingley argued the proposed inspection would not address the circumstances in Laman Street.

‘‘Nothing further can be learned about the already well-established facts of root and crown asymmetry by scraping soil away from surface roots using a trowel,’’ he said.

‘‘Mr Ellison is at liberty to view the trees from outside the exclusion zone, use binoculars, take pictures etc, but will not be allowed inside the worksite.’’

Save Our Figs spokeswoman Caity Raschke said the access refusal reflected the council’s desperation to have them removed.

‘‘The number of people who believe those trees are a safety hazard is very small,’’ Dr Raschke said.

‘‘Numerous international experts believe they are safe.

‘‘The council doesn’t want an independent assessment but we believe it is essential.’’

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