Fig trees cut down in Cooks Hill

The chainsaws began buzzing in Cooks Hill on Wednesday morning as work to remove several large fig trees began in Council Street.

The tree removal, expected to continue until the end of this week, is part of Newcastle City Council’s upgrades to the road, which intersects with Darby Street.

A council statement on Wednesday morning said the trees had strangled underground drains, buckled footpaths and blocked stormwater from being released into the harbour.

The statement also noted that 17 new trees, including Crepe Myrtle, Callery Pear and Black Gum, would replace the figs.

As part of street upgrade program, council plans to replace drains and improve footpaths, roadway and kerbs and gutters.

Council CEO Jeremy Bath said he appreciated the “sense of place” that Cooks Hill residents had in relation to the fig trees and the canopy they created over the street.

Council Street residents on Tuesday, the day before the tree removal began.

Council Street residents on Tuesday, the day before the tree removal began.

"Unfortunately we have to remove the figs to deliver the rehabilitation of ageing water, drainage, utility, road and footpath infrastructure," Mr Bath said.

"Also, fig trees make much better park trees than they do street trees.

“Their shallow but wide root systems choke drains, raise footpaths and cause foreseeable and unacceptable risk to people and property, which we need to mitigate.

"We will replace the figs with street trees that are much better suited to the Council Street environment, and the final outcome will be a completely new streetscape with better amenity for all."

A fig root growing through the road. Picture: Newcastle City Council

A fig root growing through the road. Picture: Newcastle City Council

Council Street resident Phil McKnight told the Newcastle Herald this week that many residents understood the trees had caused problems, but many had hoped at least a few of them would be spared.

He said on Wednesday he had watched the trees being cut down, close-up from his home.

“It is a very loud, aggressive and confronting experience to watch these grand old pieces of history destroyed,” Mr McKnight said.

“Whilst it is sad to see them taken down, I find it particularly galling that Newcastle City Council can destroy one of the last pieces of green canopy in the inner city and intend to replace these trees with poor substitutes.

“Council representatives have stated that one benefit of removing the trees will be to create more parking spaces in a suburb which has already become a parking lot.

“All this without the consent of local residents.”

Coincidentally, the work began in Council Street one day after the sixth anniversary of the felling of the Laman Street figs which, at the time, sparked outrage in some parts of the community and angry protests.

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