Photographer : Alfarman
In early March, 2006 my housemates and I awoke to the sound of chainsaws and heavy machinery. To our surprise, we were informed by council workers that our quiet neighborhood was about to be developed into a four lane ring road. We were astonished as we had been living at this house for over two years, and the only thing that we had heard at all was in a letter from our local council informing us that there was to be road works. Part of the process of widening our street was that approximately twenty native trees (some over forty years old) were all being removed. We did not want this to happen.
We were outraged!!!!
My housemates and I sprung into action, parking our cars under the four of the oldest trees in the street. The council workers were really annoyed, as they couldn't get their cherry pickers and trucks around our cars to get at the trees. We had many discussions with the workers who tried all kinds of tactics to get us to budge. They called the police who couldn’t really do anything, as long as we maintained a peaceful protest. They threatened us with parking fines, and getting our cars towed- we told them they could tow as many cars as they liked, we’d just replace them with our mate’s cars. We decided to step it up a notch, called the local paper, rallied some people, and painted some giant clothes with the words: ‘SAVE OUR TREES, STOP THE CARNAGE’ and ‘RAISE YOUR VOICE, THINK OF THE LITTLE PEOPLE.’ We made another sign which we aimed at the passing traffic ‘HONK FOR TREES’. The workers had no choice but to finish for the day as they couldn’t get anything done with us there. That was our first
- we’d managed to buy ourselves some time while we thought of a plan. What we needed was information- what were our rights? How should we conduct this protest? What were the correct channels to getting your voice heard? We formulated a petition and did a door knock in our street. Most people were only too happy to sign up- and only one lady in the neighborhood said she’d received the information about what was going to happen to the street.
We decided to find the council’s plans for our street as soon as we could, but in the meantime- we made the decision to camp under the tree that was out the front of our house. Overnight we put signs around the last four standing trees in the street saying ‘SAVE ME’. That evening I rang up ABC radio and was interviewed, which went really well. The next day we found the plans, and it looked like there was nothing we could do. Still we needed more time to do everything within our power to save these trees. That day we were in the paper, on the 6 o’clock news, on ABC radio again and spoke to more representatives from the company that was constructing the new road.
They produced a copy of the letter all the residents in our street were supposed to have received: there was a handwritten date saying ‘September 2005’, no letterhead, no signature. It looked like someone had just bunged up a word document. We camped out for the next few nights again, and tried to negotiate with the representatives. Finally we agreed to move our cars if they let us keep our tree for three weeks- we needed this time to figure out
we could do.
We spoke to horticulturalists, the mayor, and even more media. Everyone from the community was incredibly supportive- people even brought us breakfast one morning, and there were constantly people driving past yelling out encouragement: ‘Don’t give up! and ‘Keep up the good work!’ Heaps of people stopped to talk to us and tell us to keep going, or ask if they could help. Everyone signed our petition. People were
. We did everything we could in the time we were given to change what we could, but in the end, the trees had to come down, and the road construction started. In the end, we just couldn’t win, but we gave a hell of a fight. The council certainly won’t be under informing any other neighborhood again, and they’ve promised to communicate better with the public about these kinds of plans. We’ve also been informed that the trees that will be planted back when the road is finished will be quite a significant number of semi-mature trees- which is another small victory. But the greatest thing that I take away from this experience is that we inspired so many. People got so passionate and excited to find out that young people could make a difference, if only a small one.
If I had of been aware of a website like ‘Act Now’ I could have found out so much more information about what we were able to do, and might have even had greater victories.