Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.
For the second time in less than a year, this seaside community is in an uproar over something to do with trees.
Newcastle, Australia, should be crowned the world capital of tree drama. Residents there in recent months have shown such intense love and complete disdain for trees that one has to wonder whether there's anything else important going on in Newcastle beyond its flora.
The latest dose of Newcastle tree-sanity results from a plan to plant 30,000 trees throughout the city. For local politicians, such projects are often an easy way claim credit for something undeniably popular. But in the Stockton section of Newcastle, this seemingly feel-good proposition has brought locals to their feet in protest and put the city council on an unexpectedly hot set of seats.
"There are no parts of Stockton, no people in Stockton that are going to benefit from these trees," resident Bob Dein told the Newcastle Herald.
It's hard to imagine a neighborhood where more trees would be a bad thing, but for residents of seaside Stockton, new trees mean a reduced view. Dein and about 50 other residents have signed a petition protesting the tree proposal, arguing that the plantings will negatively impact their views of the ocean and, as a result, their property values.
The group of residents has reportedly filed a lawsuit against the city to try to put a halt to the tree program. A council spokesperson has said the plans will move forward regardless, as the city wants to replace some of the many trees that had been destroyed after recent storms and pest infestations.
Urban trees have a variety of benefits to cities, including those economic, environmental, and aesthetic. All of that would seem to make trees an easy unifier among city residents and local politicians. And yet even this most agreeable amenity can turn Newcastle locals against their city and each other.
This is only the most recent bit of tree-related political tension in Newcastle. Back in September, controversy over plans to cut down well-loved but problem-prone fig trees got so bad that the city council actually called for its own firing just so members wouldn't have to deal with the drama.
After literally years of process and protest, the fig trees were finally cut down earlier this year. Newcastle's love of tree-related drama, though, continues.