The Office of Australian War Graves
Townsville City Council
Queensland Dept. Environment and Science
On Friday 19 March 2021, two majestic and well loved fig trees (Ficus benjamina) were cut down and removed from Anzac Park, allegedly because they had "outgrown the area" and were "significantly impacting on the infrastructure in the Garden of Remembrance".
These large trees, which attracted birds and provided shade for the Garden of Remembrance, were loved by the people of Townsville.
There was no community consultation process or transparency around why the decision was made, what other solutions were explored, or even which department (or level of government) was responsible for the decision. These trees were public assets and as such, belong to the people, not a government department.
Currently, there is no requirement for the community to be consulted in such matters, despite the impact such a decision can have on a community. We believe that this needs to change.
These trees were significant to the community and enhanced a special, meaningful place. We cannot afford to lose more large, old trees unnecessarily. They attract and protect native wildlife, add to the natural amenity of our surroundings and provide shade, which is crucial in the tropics - particularly in a warming climate.
We cannot return these lost trees, but we request that the process for this kind of decision be changed to provide our community - and all communities - the opportunity to be consulted with regarding the fate of significant trees on public or commonwealth land. We also call for a Tree Register, to ensure the history of our trees is protected for the future.
According to TCC's media release, "Another tree will then be planted in the same area to offset the loss of the two weeping figs". We propose that this is insufficient, and ask that appropriate reparations be made - preferably with community involvement.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, we have recently (9 August) secured documentation relating to this decision, courtesy of the Office of Australian War Graves. You can view the full pdf document here.