Speech to Parliament: Removal of historic Randwick trees

The Baird Liberal government is engaging in one of the worst cases of environmental vandalism in our community in a very long time.

On 28 December, right in the middle of the Christmas holiday period, the Liberals cranked up the chainsaws and began removing the century-old fig trees that line Alison Road in Randwick and Anzac Parade in Moore Park, adjacent to the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Despite significant community objection, despite the opposition of Randwick City Council, despite opposition by former Liberal members of parliament from the state and despite a workable alternative the trees have been destroyed and are being removed. These iconic trees, which are part of Randwick's heritage and character and have been there for close to a century, are now being destroyed.

In 1914, when troops marched from Kensington Racecourse down to the docks at Circular Quay, to get on boats to go and serve in Gallipoli, they walked past these trees. In 1917, when Randwick Road was renamed as Anzac Parade in honour of the Anzacs, these trees were there.

In 1930, when Don Bradman made his first international hundred at the SCG, these trees provided shelter and shade to patrons as they walked in to see the great man score his first century.

In 1970, when John Sattler had his jaw broken in the grand final against Manly, these trees were there. And at the 2000 Olympics, when the marathon runners ran straight down that road, on international television people throughout the world saw these significant, historic trees. In Alison Road, when Phar Lap won the 1929 AJC Derby, if you look at the pictures, in the background are these significant fig trees.

These trees formed part of Centennial Park, bequeathed to the people a century ago by the likes of Henry Parkes to provide parklands, recreation and enjoyment and to provide shade and support for native wildlife. And they were destroyed by an incompetent Liberal government because of a $660 million cost blow-out in the light rail project and the mismanagement of the light rail plan.

Alison Road is a particular type of incompetence. You would not believe what they have done on Alison Road. The stop that the light rail provides for racecourse patrons was originally planned to be on the racecourse side, on the southern side of Alison Road, which actually makes a lot of sense. Patrons would be able get off the tram and walk straight into the races, and when the races are finished they would walk straight out and get straight on to the tram. But because the New South Wales Liberal government have messed up the size of the tram and the number of people that they could carry, and because they have messed the negotiations with the ATC about their administration building, they have moved the stop across the road. Guess where to? Centennial Park. They are going to take 30 historic trees out of Centennial Park and have patrons coming out of the races at the end of the day, after being on the drink all day, negotiate one of the busiest streets in Sydney to get across to get on a tram! It makes no sense at all. It is completely illogical and this change was not in the original environmental impact statement. It is a particular kind of incompetence from a Liberal government that would do this.

It does not have to be this way. We can have the light rail project and we can preserve these trees. If the government had moved the stop back over to the Randwick side, we could have preserved these trees. If the government had moved the alignment of the light rail line just one metre to the east, near the SCG, there would be no need to take out these trees. The trees on the SCG side of the road are in the electorate of Wentworth, the Prime Minister's electorate, and I have been fielding calls in my neighbouring electorate of Kingsford Smith from the Prime Minister's constituents asking if we can do anything to get the Prime Minister to get on board and stop the destruction of these trees. We are getting a lot of phone calls. Greg Hunt announced a new policy of this government some weeks ago to 'green our cities, to create urban canopies.

The Minister for the Environment announced a new policy to 'cool down the cities and provide tree canopies to green our cities'. Here we have the possibly the world's greatest example of urban tree canopies—and what are the Liberals doing? They are chopping them down! It is completely illogical. It is contrary to the policy that has just been announced by the Minister for the Environment and it is hypocritical. I call on the Prime Minister, and Premier Mike Baird, to stop the destruction of these trees. We can have the light rail project and we can preserve these historic Randwick trees.

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