Protester holes up in doomed Moruya fig

A protester perched in a doomed fig tree was the centre of attention yesterday as Eurobodalla Shire Council crews continued the removal of two Moreton Bay figs in Moruya’s Russ Martin Park.

Tuross Head’s Ruth Halverson sat in the tree with a sign reading “Save these fig trees”. She conversed with some of the crew members and spoke on a mobile phone to the Enviromental Defenders Office to pursue legal ways of having work stopped.

She began her vigil on Monday night.

“I only found out the trees were being removed on Monday, and I quickly got a petition going and got 40 signatures in a short space of time, and then began this protest,” she said.

“There is no need to kill these trees, there are other options. These trees are extremely old and they have a lot of history. I want to speak for these trees, because they can’t speak for themselves.”

Ms Halverson said she had no intention of coming down. The police arrived on the scene, but did not arrest her.

A council spokesperson said a police rescue team had been dispatched to Moruya from Bega to assist and, as there had been negotiations with the woman throughout the day, council expected she would agree to leave the tree when the team arrived. However a South East Forests Rescue spokesman claimed Ms Halverson was determined to remain in the tree until its protection was granted. 

Council says that the trees, determined by a consultant arborist as being unable to benefit from treatment for Fig Psyllid disease and fungi, Phellinus, are being removed to protect public safety. 

“It is a sad day for us but it is something that has got to be done,” council’s Infrastructure Service director Warren Sharpe said.

A crowd of about 50 people gathered around the fenced off site to witness the work being carried out.

Many were from the Moruya indigenous community and were in despair about the destruction of the trees.

“I’m not happy,” said Moruya’s Denine Brierley, whose family has played in the trees for decades.

“Something bad is going to happen because of this; there will be bad karma.”

Ron Stewart believes that the trees were healthy and that they have sentimental value for many Moruya residents.

“We played in these trees as kids and they are a symbol of this town,” he said.

However not all onlookers agreed.

“Most of us know they had to go,” said one Moruya resident, who asked not to be named.

Council will be planting new fig trees in Russ Martin Park tomorrow during a special replanting ceremony with Moruya school children from 2pm. 

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