Old Growth Trees – Mulgoa Rd Penrith

Blacktown & District Environment Group has joined with other Conservationists in Western Sydney who oppose the destruction of old growth Eucalyptus amplifolia trees adjacent to Mulgoa Rd, Jamisontown, Penrith.

Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) has initiated a plan to widen Mulgoa Rd and the Review of Environmental Factors commissioned for the project proposes destruction of the trees.

The trees can be seen immediately on the western side of Mulgoa Rd in the following aerial photo:

Mulgoa Rd Amplifolia (3)-Inked

Not all of the approximately 40 trees are old growth (some have regenerated from the older trees) but a little less than half are old growth with some almost certainly 200 to 400 years old. As such, the older trees are living emblems representing the landscape through which Aboriginal forebears and European settlers such as Sir John Jamison, William Cox, his son Edward Cox (who built historic “Fernhill”), James (Toby) Ryan MLC (who built historic “Emu Hall”) passed as they went about their lives. There were many other early people for whom space does not permit naming but it needs to be clearly said that as people moved between the locations which became Mulgoa and Windsor they would have passed by and perhaps took shelter under the older trees of which we speak.

If our society makes much of preserving built structures identifying with notable people or events of the past why is there insufficient regard given to preserving living organisms which formed part of the life, if only as landscape but quite possibly more, for notable people or events of the past?

In short we reply, “We should regard them!”

As trees age they lose limbs and create hollows which become habitat for a wide range of fauna. That has happened with the trees of 100 years or more age here alongside Mulgoa Rd. We don’t dare venture to quantify the fauna species inhabiting these hollows but a casual passer-by will see activity in and out of and on the edge of the hollows by Corellas, Red-rumped Parrots and Rainbow Lorikeets. Possum scratches are also visible on the trees. Other passers-by would see other species for it is well known to locals the extent of fauna activity with the large number of hollows these trees bear.

Also of high significance but inadequately addressed in the Review of Environmental Factors is the number of scars many of the trees bear. It would seem that a broad involvement of Aboriginal groups were not involved in assessment of the scars to determine whether there are any Aboriginal Scarred Trees. This is a shortcoming. More than one Aboriginal person should have been involved to determine whether any of the trees were used by early Aboriginals for resources in their living.

Take a look at the following aerial image of the location of these trees. The image was taken in 1943 and you will note that, apart from a stand of Eucalypts east of Mulgoa Rd, the stand of trees in the centre of the image were the few survivors from land clearing of the whole area:

Mulgoa Rd Amplifolia (2)-Inked

What that image tells us is that 75 years ago (and well before that) these trees were the subject of preservation wishes of past inhabitants of the area that became the City of Penrith. That which applied in the minds of people in the past has proven to be of benefit to ecology, landscape, cultural and natural heritage experienced past and present. Who is it then who has been born into the world in these present times who will overturn all the conservation endeavours of people in the past, people dating back in some instances, as much as 400 years?

It needs to be realised by RMS that there are only two principal routes from the south into Penrith CBD and beyond viz The Northern Rd and Mulgoa Rd (the only other route is Kingswood Rd but it is somewhat out-of-the-way). Traffic demand will only increase on these roads. Already, The Northern Road is under extensive widening and Mulgoa Rd is now under consideration. However, the future will produce greater demand and perhaps introduction of dedicated bus lanes or light rail will be placed on a future agenda. Such potential demands the provision of road reserve for further widening now and the only viable option to achieving that reserve is to acquire the residential properties on the eastern side of Mulgoa Rd.

What is proposed in the present Review of Environmental Factors to take out the old growth trees will still have adverse impacts on the residents living on the eastern side of Mulgoa Rd. The wider and more trafficked Mulgoa Rd will be closer to residents and a noise wall will be a visual and breeze barrier to residents.

This writer is well experienced with RMS road upgrades. He and his past neighbours have suffered the ill effects of the widening of the road outside their property from road to highway and the immense increase in traffic associated noise, air pollution and the ‘prisoner-like’ lifestyle as one attempts to limit exposure by staying indoors rather than making use of the full residential boundary. This writer eventually had to move out to quieter and cleaner surroundings. In doing so he found his property value was less than those properties not directly exposed to a major road in the area where he lived.

Further, a noise wall acts as a barrier to the movement of much desired breezes in the hotter months of the year yet it somehow fails to prevent the small carcinogenic vehicle emission particulates drifting into the residence despite windows and doors being closed. If not a long term health risk these particulates make the residence constantly dirty and requiring more regular cleaning than would otherwise be the case.

If I were a resident alongside Mulgoa Rd in the area of Jamisontown I would be pursuing resumption of my property by RMS, with adequate compensation to facilitate a move to a better location, and make a new start in life. Property value will not keep up with others in the area once the road upgrade commences so the better option is to take the early recourse of a move.

Sadly, Infrastructure – road, rail, plane or other is the ‘god of this age’ and is difficult to resist as it imposes itself on the lives of people, animals and the landscape. The Mulgoa Rd upgrade in Jamisontown has the potential to make life horrendous for humans and animals living alongside the road. Also, ecological function of the old growth trees and their place in the history of the City of Penrith is under threat. It need not be this way. A solution can be achieved if RMS and residents ‘bite the bullet’ now.