Not only is it a big obstacle to clear off the main drag of Yeppoon, but this cyclone-toppled Araucaria had been part of the landscape for over 80 years.
This case-study is a bit of a roller coaster ride. It’s set in the Shire of Livingstone, which stretches midway along the Queensland Coast from Rockhampton in the south to Wild Duck Island to the north – 12,000 square kilometres. The team that manages the Shire’s public open spaces is necessarily large – thirty members – and it’s broken down into the six sections co-ordinated by Matthew Kerr. “I’m proud of my team: they’re all about making a difference to the community.” This may seem like an obvious thing to say, but he’s watched them in action, not only day to day, handling the ordinary, but also on those extraordinary days which followed Friday, February 20th 2015.
On that Friday, Marcia, a severe category 5 cyclone, hit the Livingstone Shire area at peak force. Electricity was taken out, roofs blown off, walls torn down, beachfronts washed away, and trees pulled from the ground and dropped.
“Straight after, everyone came to work knowing that we’d have a roll to play, but we weren’t prepared for the extent of the damage. Working with the SES and the army, our immediate aim was to clear the roads so we started in Yeppoon, clearing up street by street, removing trees and helping people clear debris onto the foot path.”
The Livingstone teams worked hard to make parks safe as quickly as possible so that people could escape the heat of their airconditioner-less homes.
With no power for seven days, it wasn’t pleasant. Without the cooling shade of the trees, the heat and humidity were punishing. The Livingstone team worked hard to make the parks and beachfront safe so that people would have somewhere safe to go to escape the heat in their homes. “Everyone came together – we all helped each other.
After the cyclone the Public Open Space team began replanting – this shot taken during a break shows how important shade is in the Livingstone climate.
Perhaps spotting what’s important is easier after a natural disaster, but only a week later Matthew was in the office of the Shire CEO organising to replace trees across the shire. Since then, almost all the 500 trees set to go in have been planted – some as direct replantings but others set at strategic locations to make improvements on the existing landscape.
Tree planting in progress.
One of these new plantings lay alongside the Scenic Highway, a stretch of road that runs parallel to the beach with a walking track alongside. Fifty or more new trees were planted to shade pedestrians – Kanookas, (Tristaniopsis laurina) – each with two 50x50mm black stakes, tethered in place with two figure eight ties. It was a text-book planting, involving, as it happens, most of the team. It was also an unofficial trial, designed to determine whether tree size had an impact on establishment. “We planted a mix of 100, 45 and 20 litre sized trees. We planted them with TerraCottem – I’ve been using it for years both when I was at Rockhampton and before that at Armidale Dumaresq – and we’d all been watching them come along, commenting on how good they looked. The trunks were vibrant and the new leaf growth looked like lettuce.”
What came next was a complete shock, to everyone, not just to Matthew’s team who are clearly very committed to their progressive re-greening of the cyclone-altered landscape.
And then the vandal got to work.
“On Thursday October 6th, some time between 11.15pm and 7.10am the next day, someone systematically and effectively vandalised the trees. Focusing on each tree’s leader, they snapped and bent it over at the point just above the highest strapping. They must have been there for a while, because they managed to destroy thirty trees.”
The reaction to the vandalism was shock and disappointment – quickly followed by action.
Tree vandalism is always pointless, but this time it hit especially hard. Replanting is a healthy response post a traumatic event. Planting a tree at any time is a commitment to the future. To destroy a large planting like this was very upsetting and the community quickly communicated their outrage via Facebook and by putting posters up on the trees.
Matthew’s team rallied and set about sourcing new stock to replace those that would have to be pulled out. An independent contractor offered to carry out the replanting free of charge, but as it turns out, he faced more of a task than he expected. Explains Matthew, “When I met him on site, we quickly worked out that in the few months these trees had been in the ground, their roots had grown well outside the original root balls. As he said to me, we’ll need to dig each one out with an excavator.”
A tree that remained untouched – one of the team supervisors Dennis Barker shows how well these were establishing before the vandal struck.
At least everyone knows that the replacement trees, at $250 a pop, will get the same great start… unless the vandal comes back for more.