Fig trees at crossing to stay for now

The ongoing saga over the fate of two large old fig trees on either end of the Martin Street pedestrian crossing at Ballina Public School appears to be over with the trees set to remain for now.

Ballina Shire Councils general manager Paul Hickey yesterday (Wednesday) confirmed that a rescission motion lodged by Cr Alan Rich last month aimed at saving the trees was valid, allowing for them to stay and other safety improvements to be made at the crossing.

Cr Rich yesterday welcomed the decision, saying he was very pleased that now the trees and the children can both be safe.

Thats what we were fighting for. Councillor Keith Johnsons delaying amendment has now been rejected and safety work can finally start, he said.

Unlike councillors, mature trees cant be replaced once theyre removed.

An earlier decision by a majority of councillors to remove the trees to improve visibility and safety for children using the crossing sparked controversy and division among councillors, leading to a rescission motion which succeeded in overturning the decision.

Acting mayor David Wright used his casting vote when the vote was tied at 4-all to support Crs Rich, John Felsch, Margaret Howes and Sharon Cadwallader in their bid to save the trees while calling for a staff report canvassing options for safety improvements at the crossing.

When those options were presented at the last meeting, a new motion put up by Cr Keith Johnson and backed by Crs Peter Moore, Alan Brown and David Wright was passed again with the acting mayors casting vote which ordered the removal of the western tree combined with safety improvements involving the narrowing of the road at the crossing with a central island and relocating a hazard marker.

Cr Rich then lodged another rescission motion to reverse that decision but when that succeeded, Cr Johnson successfully moved a dissent motion, seeking advice on its legality.

Cr Rich said the September meeting of the new term of Council would again consider the future of the trees so either may yet come to pass.

It should become an election issue.If I was a fig tree in Ballina Id rest a little easier today but I wouldnt go so far as to bet my life on it.

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