Passionate members of the Clarence Valley community gathered together on Saturday at Maclean’s McLachlan Park for a family picnic day and hopefully encourage the Clarence Valley Council (CVC) to revoke its decision to remove four historical Camphor Laurel trees.
Saturday’s event which was set down as a Picnic in the Park with a BBQ supplied by the Maclean Lions Club, still went ahead despite the rain.
The crowd taht attended showed a strong fighting spirit and passion to preserve the town’s heritage trees, which have formed part of the Maclean streetscape for over 100 years.
It was evident that the rain far from dampened the spirits of several speakers who addressed the gathering, who spoke from their heart voicing their concern not only for the trees but also regarding the lack of community consultation.
Maclean resident and strong campaigner to save the trees, Ian McLennan said that he had previously gathered 1500 signatures from community members wanting to save the trees, which had been presented to council.
“We expect our elected representatives to take onboard public opinion, which in my survey, showed 80 per-cent wish to retain the trees, 10 per-cent wish them removed and 10 per-cent did not have an opinion,” said Mr McLennan.
“How many did the councillors survey?
“It shouldn’t be the duty of community groups to survey public opinion.”
Maclean resident Bill Day who has previously served in local government for 10 years, was scathing of the Clarence Valley Council.
“Maclean is a fantastic town with genuine, humble and decent people who rarely get upset or protest about anything,” said Mr Day.
“But the whole valley has been negatively impacted by this dysfunctional council and this town has been particularly hard hit. People are here today about the trees and about the rate increase. It’s not just about the removal of the trees, it’s about how the people were treated during the decision making process.”
“The resolution was passed to remove the trees, without any debate, while there was a packed gallery intensely interested in the reasons behind the decision.” Said Mr Day.
“This is a community park and no one person has the right to dictate what happens – they have to talk to the people, not treat them with contempt like they did in the decision making process. They need to have a transparent and genuine consultative process. As for the rate increase, there’s not enough space in the paper to contain my comments – it’s outrageous, and then again the consultation process has been absolutely disgraceful. The problem with a democracy is that you sometimes get the government that you deserve; particularly if you sit back and do nothing.”
One of the last speakers of the day was Rev Lenore Parker from the Yaegl community, whose message rang out loud and clear.
“We’ve seen these trees – they have grown with us,” she said.
“When you’re cutting down a tree you are cutting down the roots of the people who have walked before us. They are our cultural and spiritual heritage. This is what we are losing; we are losing our sense of identity.
She said, too many people are raping this land and sometimes we have to speak out.
“Sometimes things are too valuable to let go of. Who are the voices for the trees?”
“Who are the voices for all creation? It’s up to us. It’s the passion you have in your heart, that causes us to be political,” she said.