Police speak to protesters at Castle Drive, Lennox Head where council were attempting to cut down a fig tree.
Police speak to protesters at Castle Drive, Lennox Head where council were attempting to cut down a fig tree. Marc Stapelberg

11th hour bid fails to save historic fig tree

UPDATE 2.57pm: THE fig tree of Castle Drive will be no more.

A council spokesman arrived at the scene at 2.30pm and announced works of the tree were resuming immediately.

At least 12 policeman plus security are lining the fence, and council representatives, contractors and several members of the community are looking on.

Much of the tree has already been removed.

The protestors are devastated after all this time the tree is coming down, and believe this was not the only resolution.
Lennox Head resident John Sparks said he had fought every battle against council over the past eight months.

"Nobody knew about it until 6 this morning.

"We are absolutely shattered by the underhand way the council has done this."

See more photos here.

 

UPDATE 12.05pm: A 12-YEAR-OLD said she is feeling "shaken but okay" after being forcibly stopped from climbing the tree.

Gwen Haydon said: "I ran under the fence and a police officers and security guard came from both sides and squashed me." 

Julie Haydon, mother, said her and her daughter were at the scene because they cared about the environment.

"We care about the loss of heritage trees that have not only value to nature and the earth but also to our indigenous brothers and sisters," Ms Haydon said.

"My daughter feels she should be able to speak up and feel sad about a 400-year-old tree.

"I will be taking action."

Castle Hill Drive resident Yuko Medcraft said she felt terrible.

"We started hearing the noise this morning and came straight away as soon as we knew the fence was up.

"We were sanding right by the tree with our two kids but we were told to move because it was a work site and they called the police."

Ms Medcraft said she felt "sick" at the works.

"From the day that we knew the tree would maybe get cut down we were so hoping not to let that happen.

"We were feeling so disgusted.

"I am from Japan and in my country when an old tree is being cut down it's a really big deal and many ceremonies need to happen, along with agreement from the residents. There are a lot of processes.

"Five years ago we bought the house because this tree was so significant and we were determined to buy the house on this street."

 

UPDATE 11.42am: THE atmosphere in Castle Drive, Lennox Head has been described as volatile as protesters attempt to thwart council removing a fig tree.

Fences were stormed after a young child breached the security fence and ran to the tree.

A council spokesperson on site said no works will continue to cut down the fig tree at Lennox Head.

"We don't want people to get hurt".

Police removed people from the area and fences were re-installed.

Protesters were waiting to hear from the Office of Environment and Heritage, hoping to get an injunction to halt works.

 

UPDATE 11.32am: A BALLINA shire resident said it was "devious" council decided to chop down the tree "first thing Monday morning".

"I hope the residents in the shire remember what happens today when it comes to voting day.

"Council, where is that significant tree registrar we've been asking for? We had a petition and presented it to council.

"This has been going on for decades it's time to listen to your community and protect our significant trees."

 

UPDATE 11.15am: A COUNCIL spokesperson on site said no works will continue to cut down the fig tree at Lennox Head.

"We don't want people to get hurt".

This comes after several residents shook the construction fence down and crossed the fence line, after another young child ran under towards the tree.

The child, and residents were removed and the fence put back up.
 

UPDATE 11.00am: BALLINA MP Tamara Smith said the loss of the 200 year old fig tree was a loss for Lennox Head.

Ms Smith said she was disappointed more could not have been done to save the Moreton Bay fig tree at Castle Drive, Lennox Head, which some estimate to be 200 years old.

Ballina Shire Council started to cut down the large tree down this morning, despite an interim heritage order request to the Office of Environment and Heritage.

"I am disappointed that council would cut the tree down while there was still information to be considered by the Office of Environment and Heritage.

"This tree was loved by the community, with an online petition to preserve it signed by more than 2200 people," Ms Smith said.

 

UPDATE 10.30am: RESIDENT Kyla Gaft, who's mum is in the tree, has been doing her best at the scene to halt the works for longer.

A second person has climbed the fig tree at Lennox Head to stop it being cut down.
A second person has climbed the fig tree at Lennox Head to stop it being cut down. JASMINE BURKE

"I've spoken to Land and Environment court and have what I believe is called an urgent interloctorucy interim injunction on the basis of unconscionable conduct.

"So they can't touch the tree until 2pm today."

Ms Gaft is waiting for official confirmation of the interim injunction, after which she hopes there will be a meeting between all parties.

 

UPDATE 10.21am: NGANGBUL custodian Lois Cook said  the council's behaviour has been appalling .

"After this damage has been done I'll be making an official complaint to OEH (Office of Environment and Heritage) about fining the Ballina Shire Council."

She said the tree was of cultural significance and had been calling for an archeological dig.

A second person has climbed the fig tree at Lennox Head to stop it being cut down.
A second person has climbed the fig tree at Lennox Head to stop it being cut down. Marc Stapelberg

 

UPDATE 10.00am: A WOMAN, 55, is now in the tree after a young boy, 14 was removed after sneaking under the fence.

Works have once again paused.

 

UPDATE 9.48am: THE 14-year-old boy who climbed the fig tree at Lennox Head has been removed from the tree by police.

Community members are praising the boy's efforts.

About 20 people from around the shire have gathered at the site.

Contractors are now resuming the cutting of the tree.

 

UPDATE 9.36am: WORKS to the tree have been put on hold momentarily after a young boy snuck under the fence and climbed the tree.

Community members are outraged by the council chopping down the castle drive tree and are encouraging the young boy "Jack" to stay put in the tree and to "hold on".

Police are in the tree with the boy.

He has been on a branch for about 10 minutes.

Tree services are moving away.

More to come.


 

UPDATE 8.50am: BALLINA Shire Deputy Mayor Keith Williams says he is "absolutely gutted" by news the Castle Drive fig tree is being chopped down.

Community members protest as a fig tree is cut down at Castle Drive, Lennox Head.
Community members protest as a fig tree is cut down at Castle Drive, Lennox Head. Marc Stapelberg

"This is something that has survived 200 years of European settlement and we couldn't find a solution that worked for both the landowners and the tree?

"It is very disappointing.

"There was some confusion about the letter from OEH.

"But I had no idea that the tree was to be chopped down so soon."

Original story: POLICE are on scene at Lennox Head, where a giant fig tree is being chopped down despite a community fight to save it.

The tree, which is believed to be about 200 years old, has been causing problems at a nearby home and Ballina Shire Council's insurers would no longer cover the damage.

Councillors decided there was no choice but to chop the tree down.

A group called the Castle Drive Fig Tree Protectors has been desperately trying to save the tree for many months.

As recently as last week, the group believed the future of the tree was secure.

But now six workers, with three trucks, are at the site and in the process of chopping the tree down.

Four police officers are also on the scene, along with council representatives.

A number of concerned residents are watching on in shock, but the area is fenced off and no-one can get close to the tree.

More to come.


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