Former Randwick Greens Mayor on why Crepe Myrtles were cut down by Council outside Randwick Community Centre – October 12th 2017

Response by Randwick Greens Councillor Murray Matson to “Majestic Myrtles Down To Stumps” (Southern Courier, Oct 10 2017 page 5)

There is a species of Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia archeriana) that is native to Australia but the ones removed by Randwick City Council were actually of the Indian eastern Asian species Lagerstroemia indica.

The removal of two rows of non-native Crepe Myrtles outside the Randwick Community Centre has provoked concern from some residents. But Greens Councillor Murray Matson says that there were not thriving.

These Crepe Myrtles were not thriving as can be seen in the photo below from a 2016 Council report. The image shows that they formed two regimented rows in the village green outside the Randwick Community Centre.

They were thus there as an unsuccessful design element rather than as a contribution the natural environment of the adjacent Randwick Environment Park. This design value became redundant when the Council decided to change the entrance way to the Environment Centre.

“However, the Crepe Myrtles are not significant in anyway, and as they are seen to visually and physically block access to the Community Centre, the submitted plans & SEE seek their removal so as to accommodate the new entrance sign as well as hard and soft landscape works.” (DA D21/16 Compliance report – 21-29 Munda Street, Randwick, page 90)

I have been advised by Council staff that the Myrtles will be replaced “with more than 200 trees, shrubs, ground covers and grasses that are more suitable for the area” and which will “provide more habitats and an increased food supply for native birds, lizards, butterflies and insects”. I seem my job as a Greens Councillor to ensure that this ecologically valuable intent is indeed achieved.

Randwick Council’s removal of Crepe Myrtles (see red arrow) fits in with its management care of the adjacent Randwick Environment Park and its ephemeral wetlands.

I have a personal invested interest in the ecology of this area as I played a role in achieving the granting to us of the Randwick Environment Park from the Commonwealth when I was Randwick’s Green Mayor in 2010. I can assure readers that this concern for the Park is shared by the environmental staff of Randwick City Council.

The photo below (see red arrow) shows the removed Myrtles outside the community centre and the adjacent Randwick Environment Park containing its ephemeral wet lands.

It is clear that there is great potential to now use the removal of the Myrtles to augment the natural value of the Environment Park.



1 comment

  1. Thanks, Murray, for your response to the removal of the small crepe myrtle plants that formed a barrier between the community centre building and the village green commons at Randwick Community Centre. With their wiry branches at head-and-eye height they were a public injury risk, as I found out.

    The comparison with the Angophoras in the photo, planted at the same time, clearly demonstrates the difference in growth rate and form using a species adapted to the site. So do the recently-planted olive trees nearby, all doing well despite the strong winds the site is subject to.

    Your photo clearly shows that the crepe myrtles were not the “Majesic” trees the hyperbolic headline in the Southern Courier claimed (incidentally, to get the photo in the Courier, their photographer would have had to break into the fenced construction site — does the Courier condone this behaviour by staff?).

    As a Randwick ratepayer and frequent visitor to the community centre site, the complainant quoted in the Southern Courier article does not speak for me and probably not for many others, as her comment about speaking for the “whole Community” misleadingly claims.

    It is hard to fathom why anyone would want to retain a couple rows of poor quality and exotic (not the “natives” claimed in the Southern Courier) crepe myrtles when the landscaping to accompany the construction of the new community centre entrance will install a biodiverse garden of flowering plants and trees that will grow to shade the area, at the same time that it creates a much-needed main entrance to the community centre. In adopting the design principle of valuing and using diversity, the redevelopment of the community centre entrance area takes an ecosystems approach rather than the biolgically-simple monoculture of small crepe myrtles with no understory vegetation, and thus less value to wildlife.

    Implementing the design principle of ‘integrate rather than segregate’ a multipurpose community facility like the Randwick Community Centre with its community learning place, active and passive recreation, remnant bushland, ephemeral wetland, seating, diverse landscape design, childrens’ program and schools program is the type of development the city needs to cope with increasing population density and public demands for different uses of public open space. Unlike a mere row or two of crepe myrtles, the community centre, including the new works, will provide a yield of wildlife habitat and amenity for people. It is an oasis of nature in the city that also serves the needs of humans, as should all good urban design.

    As a multipurpose design, the redevelopment will improve the public amenity of the parklands, direct people to the main entrance to the community centre — I have seen people confused as to where the entrance is — provide much-needed seating where people can meet and increase the biodiversity and value to wildlife of the site.

    It is good that you see the value in the development, Murray. To support retention of a simple landscape of a single species such as the now-removed crepe myrtles would have been to go against the Greens principles of building a better environment and social opportunity.

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