Newcastle figs set to fall after insurer threat

DAMAGE: A fig tree fell on a Swan Street home during the April 2015 storms.
DAMAGE: A fig tree fell on a Swan Street home during the April 2015 storms.

NEWCASTLE City Council will cut down fig trees on Swan Street in Cooks Hill after its insurer threatened to revoke public liability coverage “across the city” if the trees weren’t removed.

The council will begin cutting down 11 of the street’s 24 figs on Wednesday, nine months after the Newcastle Heraldfirst reported that the iconic trees were on the chopping block

There have been 110 damage claims related to the figs on Swan Street between 2000 and 2017, including an incident in 2009 when part of a tree struck a member of the public.

Interim general manager Jeremy Bath said the city’s hand had been forced by its insurer, which had requested the council “provide steps to mitigate future damage caused by the fig tree roots” after a tree fell through a home on Swan Street during the April 2015 storms

He said the council had considered trimming the roots, but had decided that course of action would likely destablilise the trees and exacerbate the issue. 

“The insurer has simply made it clear that they would not continue to provide coverage without the issue being dealt with,” Mr Bath said.

The removal of figs have traditionally been a flash-point in the city’s politics. In 2012 police and protesters clashed following months of outcry at the council’s decision to cut down the iconic Laman Street figs.

But Mr Bath said that residents had overwhelmingly been “understanding” of the council’s position. 

“there’s not going to be any street parties on Swan Street celebrating their demise but overwhelmingly people seem to understand that we’re acting in their best interests,” he said.

“We’re looking to protect homes, vehicles, but also peoples lives. There’s been no anger or bitterness, but some sadness which is entirely understandable.”