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8 October, 2021

Fig Off – Council to remove historic tree

THE Cairns Regional Council has revealed plans to destroy a heritage-listed tree at the Cairns City Library.

By Peter McCullagh

Known as T5, the tree is an integral part of the heritage landscape and aesthetic of the heritage listed Library.

It’s well known and valued as a part of Cairns’ history. The tree is also the main nursery tree for the endangered Spectacled Flying Fox in what is a nationally significant camp for the species.

In its application to the Federal Government, the Cairns Regional Council has claimed that the fig tree is dead, dangerous and beyond curative repair.

  "no soil or tissue sampling has been undertaken"  

These claims have not been supported with evidence, and the State Department has documented that; “The reports and/or analysis of the pathogen has not been provided to the Department and the arborist’s report identifies no soil or tissue sampling has been undertaken.”

A study of the tree completed in the last year contradicts claims by the Cairns Regional Council and found that the tree has another 50 years of life left, if provided with best practice management

“Overall, the leaf volume, leaf colour and seasonal growth extensions suggest that the tree was in good health and had good vigour”

“If the tree is given appropriate care and judicious management intervention, it should be possible to avert catastrophic stem and limb failure and to extend the useful life of T5 by another 40 - 50 years” reported Jan Allen, Arborist, TerrARK

The Cairns Regional Council, despite being found guilty of breaching state laws in roost management previously, is applying to self-assess the impacts of removing the tree. This would mean no formal assessment of the impacts of removing this important roost tree would be made.

Denis Walls, President of the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre is concerned about the large number of roost trees that have been removed in recent years.

“Over the last 10 years, permission has been granted for the removal of 32 roost trees from this nationally significant camp, and now the Cairns Regional Council are attempting to remove the main nursery tree, one of only five left.

“We must ensure that the remaining habitat is protected, and that this action is declared as a controlled action.”

To date Cairns Regional Council has spent unsuccessfully more than $1.5 million attempting to discourage and relocate this colony of endangered Spectacled Flying Foxes, with a further allocation of $400,000 in the current budget to continue with their program.

Cairns Regional Councillor Amy Eden, who campaigned on a ‘green’ platform committing to a ‘greener + cooler’ city was contacted prior to publication for comment.

Councillor Eden has not responded to requests for information, as well as clarification as to how the planned removal of this historic tree fits with her commitments prior to election.

Councillor Eden was a member of the Cairns Regional Council’s Flying Fox Advisory Committee disbanded in July this year.

The flying fox population has attracted significant attention from tourists, amazed at the number and easy accessibility of the colony.

Conservation groups are calling on the community to have their say, they can visit the CAFNEC website www.cafnec.org.au  to learn more and make a submission to declare the proposal a controlled action.


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