“Everybody has their own particular issue or reason for being here but for me it’s about how low we are in terms of integrity as a community,” says Pam DiLorenzo, one of a small group of protestors who will attempt to protect the ten English elms and one plane tree set to be destroyed to make way for the Lot Fourteen development.
“In 2019 to think there is no other way but to cut down 11 trees that have been here for 100 years, I just think we’re just at such a low ebb of civilisation.”
DiLorenzo speaks to InDaily underneath one of the trees, watching as a steady stream of Renewal SA workers stroll down North Terrace outside the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site.
Already some of the agapanthus lining the street have been dug up and the footpath is sprawled with paint markings foreshadowing the trees’ imminent destruction.
A notice has also appeared on the footpath warning that a nearby bus stop will be closed on Saturday due to “road works”.
According to an Adelaide City Council arborist, the trees set to be removed are expected to live to at least 2039 and hold a monetary value of $660,000.
They include nine regulated trees and one significant tree lining the northern side of North Terrace from Frome Road to the front of the Bice Building.
Renewal SA has lodged a careful campaign – branding the footpath redevelopment as a new “public realm” that will create an “open and seamless gateway into the (Lot Fourteen) neighbourhood”.
The State Government agency insists that redeveloping the footpath outside Lot Fourteen would be impossible without removing the trees, with the landscaper in charge telling Adelaide City Councillors last month that replacing the pavers could damage the trees’ lateral roots and potentially kill them.
Renewal SA has pledged to replace the current trees with 12, 6.5-metre high semi-mature trees along North Terrace, with more than double the amount of established plane trees to also be planted throughout Lot Fourteen.
But despite receiving support from the city council, Renewal SA continues to receive public backlash, including from a small group of protestors who say they will camp overnight and stand in front of bulldozers to protect the trees from demolition.
“I just find it outrageous,” says DiLorenzo.
“The trees have been here for 100 years and they’ve served the community for 100 years – that’s four generations of Australians.
“If they were left alone in peace and treated with respect they could live – nobody knows for sure – but 100 years.”
DiLorenzo says she is willing to stand in front of one of the trees to protect it from the axe in the hope a peaceful resolution can be reached.
“I don’t want to get hurt, that’s all,” she says.
“I’m assuming nobody is going to grab me or knock me to the ground.”
Fellow protestor Lucian Chaffey, who kept an overnight vigil by the trees on Wednesday night, says she’s willing to take a step further.
“I’ve already practiced climbing the tree,” she tells InDaily.
“I can climb pretty high, I’m a really good climber.”
Once up the tree, Chaffey says she will chain herself to one of the branches.
“I’m a little bit concerned about what’s going to happen when they try to get me out of the tree, but I’ve already practiced which tree I’m going to get up without a ladder.”
Chaffey says she’s protesting against what she claims has been a secretive process to approve the trees’ removal.
She is frustrated that Renewal SA has refused to publicly reveal when it will remove the trees, instead telling InDaily last month that the removal would occur “in a sequence necessary to complete the planned public realm works”.
“It’s so double-speak and just very cloak and dagger,” she says.
“They’re concealing information – even (city) councillors don’t even know when the removal is set to take place.
“But it’s looking like things are going on and I think Council and Renewal SA are well aware that there’s quite a strong response from the public, so they’re going to try and get it done as quickly as possible and hope that the people of Adelaide will just roll over and take it the way we have for so long.”
InDaily asked Renewal SA again this morning to confirm when the trees will be removed.
A spokesperson responded: “Works have commenced on the public realm within the Lot Fourteen’s site boundary.
“Renewal SA has obtained landlord approval for works outside the boundary.
“Renewal SA has met all requirements in relation to construction specifications and regulations, as well as safety standards for these works.”
In the meantime, Chaffey says she will continue to protect the trees, which she says provide essential shade along North Terrace and house a plethora of wildlife.
“Every tree has got multiple hollows with lorikeets and musk lorikeets nesting in them,” she says.
“There’s a friendly possum that we’ve named Abade who visits the workers for breakfast and lunch and who came out overnight and was sitting on my backpack and just hanging out with us sharing some cashew nuts.
“We’ve contacted many wildlife organisations and there seems to be no plan for the removal of the wildlife or where their relocation will be.
“RSPCA and Wilderness Society and all those type of orgs have said to us that quite often they just get a call as the trees is being cut down and they just pick up what’s still living on the ground.”
City councillor Robert Simms, who opposed the trees’ removal, was also outside Lot Fourteen this morning.
“I’m on my way to check out the site now, but I’ve heard that there’s some preparatory work that’s being done from some of the people who have been with the trees over the last few days,” he told InDaily.
“I’m really concerned that Renewal SA might be planning to remove the trees over the long weekend in a way to remove public scrutiny.
“I think that would be a pretty shameful thing to do so I hope they reconsider and don’t try and dodge public scrutiny in that way.”
Simms says he will ask city council administration when the trees will be removed during Tuesday night’s council meeting.
“I’ve had lots of members of the community contact me asking me when these trees are going to be removed,” he says.
“I think that reflects the importance of the trees to not just the people of Adelaide but the whole South Australian community.”
But Chaffey says Tuesday could be too late.
“We’ve got more actions planned for this coming week to mobilise public response, however, things are turning acute right now.
“It’s looking like something is going to happen very, very soon.”
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