A Blue Mountains iconic tree at risk

Friends of AtlasKatoomba residents Maureen and Peter Toy with Glenn Humphreys (right) marvel at Katoomba’s largest native tree
[Photo © Friends of Atlas, 20140907, click image to enlarge]

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Residents of the Blue Mountains, Maureen and Peter Toy, were shocked to learn last month about an arbitrary claim for this magnificent tree (pictured) to be killed for what they consider can be no rational reason.

According to advice that the Toys received from local conservation consultancy The Habitat Advocate, this large Blue Mountains Ash (Eucalyptus oreades) is a native tree only found in the Upper Blue Mountains.  This particular specimen probably dates to 19th Century colonial settlement in Australia.

Maureen says “It is a beautiful and rare specimen and Blue Mountains folk are fortunate that we have such a significant tree still growing right by Megalong Street in now an increasingly industrialised part of Katoomba.”

Over the many decades, this great tree has withstood fierce windstorms, bushfires, road-widening right up to its trunk and industrial development all around it.  With a canopy about 40 metres high and a trunk girth of over 5 metres, the tree has become a recognised icon and reference point in the area.  It is home to a flock of sulphur-crested cockatoos.

Sulphur-crested CockatooSulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita)
These character parrots may be of ‘Least Concern’ to IUCN, but to the clan of cockies habitating Atlas, this is their home.
[Source: Zoos Victoria, ^http://www.zoo.org.au/healesville/animals/sulphur-crested-cockatoo]

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Maureen affectionately calls the tree, ‘Atlas’, after the Greek God, for its towering size and for being so enduring.  There is no other quite like it perhaps throughout the world renown Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

Peter can’t understand why the tree is not on Council’s Significant Tree Register or why anyone would want to harm it.  The tree is on community verge land and for the past few years there has been an industrial development constructed behind it.  Peter and Maureen are vehemently opposed to any further harm being inflicted upon the tree and they have lodged a protest with council.

Several others in the local community have sided with the Toys and together have formed a local group ‘Friends of Atlas’ determined to protect the tree.  Peter is looking to start a petition to garner local community recognition and support to protect the tree. He says “it is early days but he is ready for a sustained fight.”

A spokesperson from Blue Mountains (city?) Council has confirmed that the tree is situated on ‘Community Land‘ on the verdant verge strip between the street and the new industrial development at number 59 Megalong Street.  The tree and its canopy and root system is not on private land, but on Community Land.  Council has a duty as the community-delegated custodian of all community lands throughout the Blue Mountains Local Government Area.  Council does not ‘own’ the tree per se, rather Council acts as the responsible custodian of this significant tree.

Council has stipulated in its development consent conditions for the adjoining industrial development application since 2010 that the tree must not be harmed by the current development activity.

But Peter disagrees.  He says “guttering has been dug right into the tree roots system and just a month ago the developer had a bobcat grade the topsoil and roots around the tree for an entire day!.”

Council’s spokesperson says that council has not received any request for the tree to be destroyed.

A battle to save the tree is set to ensue.

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Further Reading:

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[1]  Campaign Facebook Page:  ^https://www.facebook.com/friendsofatlas

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[2]  Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area,  ^http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/917

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[3]  Blue Mountains (city?) Council’s promotional tourism hypocrisy (or ‘greenwashing‘): ”

<<The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area only exists today because of a 70-year campaign by conservationists to achieve a chain of reserves across the region.  This culminated in the year 2000 with the acceptance of 10,000 square kilometres of wild bushland onto the World Heritage list – the ‘best of the best’.>>

Source: Blue Mountains (city?) Council, ^http://www.greaterbluemountainsdrive.com.au/

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…70 years hence, this is the same reason why conservationists ‘Friends of Atlas’ have started a campaign.  Atlas is the “best of the best”.

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