Council votes to protect Woolgoolga town centre’s iconic poinciana trees

City of Coffs Harbour Councillor Tony Judge and Woopi News publisher Lisa Nichols (centre) with Woolgoolga residents and one of the now-protected poinciana trees.

CARRIED unanimously, Councillor Tony’s Judge’s motion to protect the iconic poinciana trees in Woolgoolga’s town centre sailed through City of Coffs Harbour’s council meeting on Thursday 9 May 2024.

Importantly, point four of the motion provides longevity to the decision to protect the trees and requires transparency regarding any future proposals to remove the trees.

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Point four resolves that ‘any future proposal to remove those trees, for reasons other than an imminent threat to public safety’, must be referred to Council prior to a decision.

The motion noted the strong community sentiment favouring retention of the poinciana trees in Nightingale Street, Woolgoolga, which were identified for replacement in the Woolgoolga Movement and Place Plan.

With last Thursday’s motion passed, Council’s Woolgoolga Movement and Place Plan will be amended accordingly.
Part of the reasoning behind the original plan to remove the trees was to create additional parking.

Councillors passed the plan in the final meeting of 2023, in the process of dealing with a 2,500-plus page agenda.
“The sheer size of the agenda was a factor in the decision,” Cr Tony Judge told News Of The Area.

“We had six days to get across a lot of detail and I know that I did not give sufficient attention to the implications for the street trees.

“I regret that I did not give the issue more attention, because I know how much the Woolgoolga community values those trees.

“Subsequent to the Council decision I received a flood of emails and I have lost count of the number of conversations I have had with community members about how much they value the poincianas in our town centre.

“Without exception those emails and conversations were a plea to keep the trees.

“When I followed up by asking ‘Poincianas or parking?’ there was also a unanimous response: Woolgoolga wants us to keep the poincianas.”

While conversations around the Poincianas spoke to the practical value of the trees in terms of summer shade, the community’s main concerns were more personal.

“Many spoke of the beauty of the trees in flower as Christmas approaches,” said Tony.

“They love the unique seed pods and the filtered light through the canopy.

“Some told me the trees bring to mind a departed friend or family member.

“Many more feel the trees are as much an iconic part of Woolgoolga as the figs are to people in Sawtell.”

Woopi News publisher Lisa Nichols was one who supported the motion.

“These beautiful trees are iconic to Woolgoolga,” Lisa said, “they bring more character to our village than any hedge or replacement bush could.

“We don’t want to look like every other town on the east coast, we want to keep our uniqueness, and these trees are part of this.

“The shade they bring cools the town centre down and allows the community time to stop and chat whilst out shopping.

“When you drive down the main street heading into Woolgoolga, you admire the lilly pillies and the Norfolk pines but wow, when you get to the section where the poincianas start it’s next level magnificent. “

Like many, Lisa likened taking the poincianas out of Woolgoolga to taking the jacarandas out of Grafton.

Cr Judge said the approved motion acknowledges practical issues that may arise in retaining the trees, providing for Council staff in the future to prune or remove a tree that presents an imminent risk to personal safety.

“It also provides an avenue for Councillors in future to consider the impact on infrastructure or services, including drainage and street furniture, but only through a specific decision by Councillors in a meeting.”

Ray Willing, the past President of Northern Beaches Residents Association (NBRA), told NOTA, “The NBRA is delighted to have this clarity and further endorsement of the community’s desire to preserve the town’s poinciana trees.

“The community support is boosted by our two local Councillors Tony Judge and Tegan Swan, Woopi News’ Lisa Nichols, Woolgoolga Chamber of Commerce, local shopkeepers such as Karen Coatsworth, Gail Turner and many locals including Kiri Ski, Lindsay Hill and Terry Nutland.

“The NBRA has endorsed a project to do a lot more beautification for Woolgoolga.

“This project, known as Woopi Welcome Avenue, is to be undertaken by the Woolgoolga and Northern Beaches Chamber of Commerce.”

Long-time Woolgoolga resident Karen Sedgwick told NOTA, “It’s a huge relief that our councillors have now decided to leave the beautiful poincianas standing in Nightingale Street.

“The removal of these trees should never have been considered for a moment and Woolgoolga residents are delighted with this unanimous decision.”

Local shopkeeper Karen Coatsworth from Eco Threads on Market Street told NOTA, “I am elated at the outcome of the council meeting.

“It was wonderful to see the number of community members, old and new, who came together to let their voices be heard, and it shows that together we can make a difference.

“Thank you to all.”


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