The figs leave but a likeable pear arrives

THE FALLEN: These figs in Laman Street at Cooks Hill fell during the April super storm. More than 10,000 trees were lost in the storm.THE much-maligned fig is out of favour and the manchurian pear is in under a broad-leafed plan to put the green back into Newcastle’s streets.

Still fresh from counting and checking the condition of109,000 street and park trees, Newcastle council has formed a new ‘Street Tree Selection Manual’ which it says will help to build the city’s “urban forest” with trees that won’t have to be hacked away from power lines, won’t damage footpaths or fall during storms.

The manual will be used as a guide on what to plant and where, and it went on public exhibition on Mondayafter getting the thumbs up from elected councillors last week.

A newreport, however, says that more than 20 per centof trees throughout the city and suburbs are “in poor structural condition”. Almost a third are also planted near overhead power lines.

The city lost an estimated 10,000 trees during April’s wild storms but many of those will be replaced over the next few years as the council creates a “sustainable street tree canopy”. That canopy will be established primarily on public land to compensate for the loss of trees created by sprawling urban development.

While figs currently dominate many parts of the city’s streets and parks, they’re now well down the list of preferred species because of their capacity to damage paths, roads and stormwater drains. To the great relief of hayfever sufferers, also on the outerare the plane trees which currently line the likes of Hunter Street Mall. While they provide good shade in summer and light in winter, their leaves and pollen are renowned for clogging drains and dropping mountains of blossom fibres in the winter months.

On the list of preferred species, subject to location, are the likes of the manchurian pear, lilly pilly, silky oaksand an array of natives.

The council was essentially forced into an audit of its leafy “assets” by its insurers.When the council’s insurer expressed concern at the risk posed by unhealthy trees, it threatened to remove them from the council’s insurance policy.In 2007, a report commissioned by the council put the dollar value of the city’strees at more than $115 million, with a report by Adelaide University saying theyprovided a costbenefit of $11.02 million annually, mainly by providing shade and reducing the need for airconditioning.

New home owners will still get two young trees from the counciland a choice of two species which won’t grow into power lines or lift footpaths and gutters. Pear trees are favoured by the council near new public works, like those planted in King Street in the city.

The new guideis on public exhibition until January 11.

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