Mourning a tree

This evening I feel sad and a bit unsettled over a beautiful tree that has had all its branches hacked off at McNeilly Park in Marrickville.  That probably sounds a bit strange, but this tree was probably my favourite tree in all of Marrickville.

In fact I tweeted a photo of the tree earlier this year:

Just look at its vigour and majectic structure.  It was the centrepiece of McNeilly Park.

On Monday this week a large branch fell off the tree.  Fallen-branchThere is a playground very nearby, so obviously there is a risk that a falling branch might hit someone playing underneath.

In response Marrickville Council staff made a decision to hack off every branch of the tree!  They have produced a leaflet saying that the dead tree will be left in place and turned into “habitat’.


“Marrickville Council is working toward improving local biodiversity across various sites within Local Government Area.”McNeilly Park is an important biodiversity area and Council is working to increase habitat (homes) for the different types of animals that are found in the park.

“This tree had to be removed due serious safety concerns, but instead of complete removal it has been pruned to imitate a valuable habitat tree that you would find in the bush, which are very lacking in the urban landscape. Further pruning work will include the creation of habitat boxes and hollows similar to the images below.

“This tree will be used as a demonstration to the Council’s arborists and other service providers on how to create nesting hollows for animals.”

I suppose this is making the best of a bad situation, but it is just a little bit Orwellian to hack off all the living bits of a tree and call it ‘habitat creation’.

Hacked treeSo while I feel sad and a sense of loss that the tree has been hacked down, a rational part of me understand why this has occurred.  Being a father of two small girls, I can’t imagine how bad I’d feel if they were hurt or killed by a branch from the tree.

As a policy maker, one of the hardest issues is assessing risk.  Most aspects of life involve some risk.  As a species we have evolved in nature, and we need to be at least partly surrounded by nature.  That’s why we have parks and plant trees.  But nature can be risky.  Things can be spikey or sharp.  Ground can be uneven.  Things can sting or bite.  Lightening can strike.  Branches can fall.  The real question is how far do we go to sanitise life?

I don’t think there is necessarily a correct answer.  But I’m very sad that this beautiful tree has been chopped down.

Councillor Max Phillips


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