Newcastle 500: East End residents rally on the foreshore against tree removal plan | photos, poll

EAST End residents have rejected Newcastle City Council’s sales pitch for its Supercars tree removal program, arguing the race will leave long-term damage to the foreshore. 

At a rally attended by an estimated 100 people on Sunday, residents accused the council of understating the visual impact of vegetation removal on the foreshore.

They also questioned council’s commitment to “significantly increase” the number of trees after an initial tree removal program is complete.

The council announced last week it planned to cut down 30 “shade trees” and 150 shrubs along the foreshore. It promised to replace felled trees with 236 new plantings in the area, which Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said would more than make up for the vegetation to be removed.

However, Newcastle East Residents Group spokeswoman Karen Read said her group wanted to draw attention to “just how much of our public parkland will have to go”.

Ms Read said it would take decades for existing tree canopy to be restored.

“The council said the canopy would be replaced three-fold – but we’re looking at 40-year-old trees here,” she said.

“We’re going to be gone from this planet by the time those new trees mature.

“It will turn this place into a concrete jungle.”

Ms Read stressed East End residents were not “against” Supercars supporters and not opposed to the race per se.

“We believe that for a lot of people in Newcastle and the Hunter it will be a wonderful thing for them [but] we just don’t believe it’s the right place to have it,” she said.

“The race needs another permanent location.”

Sunday’s rally attracted not just critics of the race, but also a handful of supporters.

Wickham’s Les Watkins said he came along to “state facts”.

Les Watkins showing his support for the race. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Les Watkins showing his support for the race. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

“This race will be great for Newcastle,” he said.

Liam Howe, director of engineering project management contractor iEDM, said the only extra pavement being laid at the foreshore was to join the two existing car parks on Wharf Road and extend part of that single car park by two metres at the rear of what will be the pits.

“The two car parks on Wharf Road, they're being joined as one bigger car park, and that's really it,” he said.

“It's a narrow pit lane, basically exactly the same dimensions as the Gold Coast.

“An 11-metre-wide circuit on the Gold Coast, barriers, and then pit lane. The pit lane is a little bit wider on the Gold Coast than it is in Newcastle. Part of the car park at the back is being extended two metres.

“There'll be slip lanes, which will be pit exit and pit entry. We're integrating them into the park as footpaths.”

‘Iconic’ trees protected: Nelmes counters tall timber claims

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes says 'iconic' pines like this one are not facing the chop. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes says 'iconic' pines like this one are not facing the chop. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

LORD Mayor Nuatali Nelmes says the foreshore’s “iconic” Norfolk Island pines will be protected – despite East End residents claiming otherwise.

On Sunday, residents symbolically adorned the base of 30 trees opposite Foreshore Park with white crosses to signify their removal.

However, Cr Nelmes said those trees would not be cut down.

“Those iconic trees will not come down,” she said.

Cr Nelmes said the 30 “shade trees” slated for removal centred around the Nobbys Beach car park.

She stressed there would be a “net benefit” from the tree removal program, with shade coverage to increase from 500 to about 10000 square metres.

“Council made it very clear, as did I, there had to be a win-win,” she said. “They might take out a shrub, but a mature tree will be planted in its place.”

Greens councillor Therese Doyle doubted that. 

“They’re trying to make a silk purse of a sow's ear,” she told the Herald.

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