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Koko Apartments Fig Tree Removal

As some of you will be aware, a while back, one of the two large fig trees outside Koko Apartments along Riverside Drive fell down somewhat unexpectedly. It seems this was due to a combination of factors including root rot/various parasitic fungi, and the close proximity of the apartments (which limits the amount of space for the tree roots to expand).

BCC started investigating the health and structural integrity of the remaining fig tree, and after a lot of detailed investigation and trialling different temporary measures, has decided the tree has to be removed because there’s a high risk it will fall over soon.

This is not a decision I have any direct control over (I’ve essentially been told that it doesn’t matter what I think – the safety concerns are too high so the tree has to go). But I’ve asked for the detailed arborist reports to be published. You can view them at these links:

Independent report by Treescience

Independent report by The Tree Doctor

One solution council explored was to prune back the tree to reduce the weight of the canopy and the strain on the roots. But this isn’t really a long-term solution, and leaves you with a mangled-looking tree that doesn’t offer as much shade and isn’t getting enough nutrients anyway.

I’m told the tree is over 100 years old (can anyone confirm that?). I guess nothing lives forever. But there are a couple of important lessons here…

  1. Trees – particularly these kinds of fig trees – are not standalone organisms. They have evolved to grow as part of complex forest ecosystems where different understorey plants nourish the soil and help guard against pathogens. Most trees in urban environments are not going to be as healthy as trees growing in dense forests, so they are more prone to premature rotting of the trunk/roots and more vulnerable to certain funguses and parasites. We need to plan for this with proper succession planting strategies, and do everything we can to maximise tree health.
  2. Trees need space. A large tree often needs even more space for its roots than it does for its canopy. Too often, we see developers and landscape architects squeeze buildings, concrete footpaths or other infrastructure too close to trees. So all of us who value trees within the urban landscape need to fight for increased building setbacks, and larger ‘deep planting’ areas. A developer might claim a particular project isn’t going to negatively impact a tree, but they’re not looking ten years down the track to when the tree is much bigger and needs more space.

I’m extremely sad about this removal, and about the fact that we are losing so many old, established trees around the inner-city due to a range of factors.

If the tree removal does go ahead – as council seems to be insisting it will – I’m keen to hear from residents as to how you’d like this garden bed and the surrounding area to be designed. We can ask council to plant a new (much smaller) fig tree slightly further away from the building, but if you have other suggested improvements, I’m happy to advocate for them.

The LNP has a very poor track record when it comes to preserving and protecting trees, but in this particular case I don’t think there’s anything sinister going on. It’s not like the tree is being removed to make room for a development, and most Koko Apartment residents would prefer if the tree could be retained. I know the council arborists were very keen to see it preserved, and if even they are saying the tree has to go, I’m inclined to trust their judgement.

But it really is a reminder that we can’t take trees for granted. We have to make space for them and allocate resources towards keeping them healthy.

Have a read of the independent reports linked above. If you have any questions, you can call 3403 8888 and ask to speak to the arborists from Brisbane Central Region.

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