Laman St chainsaws could cut federal funding flow, say Greens

11 October 2011

Newcastle Greens today warned that sending in the chainsaws on the Laman Street figs could wreck the city’s chances of federal funding for any future redevelopment of the Civic Precinct.

“The council will almost certainly be seeking federal funding for the redevelopment of Laman St and the Civic precinct, and federal funding is usually only given to projects that can demonstrate widespread community support,” Newcastle Greens spokesperson Councillor Michael Osborne said.

“No federal government is likely to want to be associated with a project that has involved wanton destruction of the city’s heritage in the face of such widespread and concerted community objection.

“The extent to which Laman Street’s majestic avenue of giant Hill’s figs is valued by the local community has been made abundantly clear from the current community-based campaign to save the trees, and is confirmed by council’s own social impact study.

“The council’s heritage study also confirmed the heritage status of the cathedral arch avenue, which stands in one of the city’s major heritage locations, alongside other heritage items such as the Baptist Tabernacle, the War Memorial Cultural Centre, the Civic Park Fountain and the Memorial Grove.

“At the moment, Laman St symbolises and celebrates the things we most value about our city: its rich heritage, and the determined and creative community spirit that is currently galvanising community action at each end of the street, where local residents (including many children) have festooned the security fences with wonderful artworks celebrating the trees and urging the council to keep them.

“If the trees are removed in the current circumstances, the federal government is unlikely to want to be associated with a Laman Street whose dominant feature will be a row of stumps standing testimony to council intransigence in the face of clear community outrage,” Clr Osborne said.

Councillor Osborne called on the Federal Member for Newcastle, Sharon Grierson, to urgently clarify her views on whether removing the trees might advantage or disadvantage possible future federal funding for the various ideas being pursued

“The recent Federal funding for the redevelopment of the Art Gallery was essential to that project, and clearly the council will be seeking similar assistance for implementing whatever plan is finally approved for the future development of Laman St and other parts of the Civic precinct.

“Whatever the individual views of councillors about the trees, it’s time for cool heads to prevail and to take this last opportunity to pause to consider how impractical it is to implement the decision to remove the trees in the current circumstances,” he said.

“I’d be happy to support any move by the state government, or by the Council’s General Manager, Phil Pearce, or by any fellow councillors, that would provide some breathing space for further talks before the chainsaws move in again tomorrow,” Clr Osborne said.

For more information or comment, contact Councillor Michael Osborne on 0439 442 984.

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