(5/6/2018) Council seeks community input on future of two Kings Square figs
Public input is being invited on the future of two Kings Square fig trees whose health has been described by arborists as ‘very poor’, but whose iconic status has Fremantle Council facing a difficult decision.
A rapid decline in health and increased public safety risks means council will need to decide whether to retain and manage them until the end of their life, or remove and replace them with two healthy mature trees.
The most recent independent report by consulting arborists C&R Ryder Consulting (April 2018) found that the larger of the two fig trees had further deteriorated in the past 12 months.
In its assessment of one of the trees known as the ‘Christmas Fig,’ the report states:
“It is recommended that the tree is removed as it is not fulfilling its functions of providing shade, amenity and aesthetics. It is likely to continue to decline with the potential for large limb failure in the future.”
“Removal of the tree and replacement with advanced specimens would provide the landscape with a better outcome for the coming decades.”
Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said the final decision on whether to keep or remove the trees was one the council was not taking lightly.
“While the expert technical advice we’ve received suggests the trees are in a state of irreversible decline, we are very mindful of the place they have in the community’s heart and history which is why we are inviting public comment,” Mayor Pettitt said.
“It’s going to be a very tough and emotional decision, but we need to weigh up whether keeping these trees is in the best long-term interests of the community.
“The two figs, in particular the one we all know as the ‘Christmas Fig’, have been a big part of the Freo landscape for more than a century but like any living thing, will eventually succumb to old age and other environmental factors.
“One of the considerations in keeping the trees is whether the ongoing maintenance required to make them safe, including heavy pruning of the limbs and potentially fencing off the bases of the tees, will adversely impact the visual appeal and shade they provide.
“Based on independent advice, the report to council proposes replacing the Christmas Fig with a mature Moreton Bay fig and the other fig with a mature London Plane tree, but we’re interested in what our community thinks so have deferred a final decision.
Feedback from the Heritage Council as well as community feedback is being sought before a final report is prepared for council.
The community is invited to make formal comments on the City of Fremantle’s community engagement portal at mysay.fremantle.wa.gov.au/figtrees
A public information session about the fig trees will be held at the Fremantle Town Hall on Thursday 21 June at 6.00 pm. All welcome.
Music in this video by Bensound.
Due to their advancing age and visible signs of decline, the City of Fremantle has been monitoring the health of fig trees in Kings Square and other parts of Fremantle since 2008. In May 2017 the tree was given an injection of a naturally occurring enzyme and following this the City lifted the pavers around the tree, topped up the surrounding area with mulch and increased the irrigation in an attempt to rejuvenate the tree.
Earlier this month, the City removed two other Moreton Bay figs in Kings Square after being identified by independent consultants as requiring removal due to poor health. This removal was factored into the Kings Square Public Realm Design which was put out for community consultation and approved by council earlier this year.
Three other Moreton Bay figs at the northern end of Kings Square have been assessed as being healthy and are not being considered for removal.
More trees, not less
The City understands the importance of trees in its main city square when it adopted the Kings Square Public Realm Design in February 2018. The plan seeks to retain as many existing trees as possible, relocate mature trees as far as practical and add more trees into Kings Square. The end result is a net increase of 23 trees when the project is finished.
In May this year, four of seven mature London Plane trees were relocated within Kings Square, following 12 months of preparation and planning.
Music in this video by Bensound.