Kids’ stand fails to stop chop

SIX school children could do nothing to stop the metal teeth of a chainsaw ripping through the limbs of a 115-year-old fig tree at Alstonville Public School yesterday.

The children were part of a group of about 15 people protesting the Department of Education's order to fell the tree.

The protesters walked towards the fig to take final photos, prompting the second visit to the school by police. The group had gone by the time police arrived.

SEEKING A KINDER GARDEN: Local children protest against cutting down a fig tree. Protesters went to the tree to take photos, and the police were called (below).
SEEKING A KINDER GARDEN: Local children protest against cutting down a fig tree. Protesters went to the tree to take photos, and the police were called (below). Patrick Gorbunovs

Earlier, the police had come to a vehicle partially blocking the tree loppers' access.

But the battle to save the 28m tall tree - which included a petition instigated by student Jude McCormack and a "save the tree" sign tied to the trunk - was over.

A slight reprieve came from WorkCover NSW inspectors who issued a stop-work notice to the tree-loppers until a safety fence was erected around the perimeter of the work site. But felling is expected to continue today.

Parent Tamsin Jackson was "disgusted" that the decision was made to cut down the tree based on one arborist's assessment that the fig was dying and couldn't be saved, which triggered safety concerns.

She complained about the lack of consultation with the school community.

"They did a risk assessment, not a tree assessment," she said.

"If safety was such a concern, why did they put the kids under the tree for school photographs this year?

"How are the kids going to feel when they come back to an empty playground?"

Terry Prendergast, a horticulturalist from Alstonville whose three children attended the school, was heartbroken.

He disputed the education department-commissioned arborist's assessment.

The department has promised to replace the fig with a mature, fast-growing tree.



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