Central Courtyard: a green past and future


Macquarie University acknowledges the traditional custodians of the Macquarie University Land, the Wattamattagal clan of the Darug nation, whose cultures and customs have nurtured, and continue to nurture, this land, since the Dreaming. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and future.

 Since its founding in 1964, our University has been renowned for its beautiful tree-scape, including the Lemon-Scented Gums in the Central Courtyard.

Planted in 1968, the Queensland gums have gained a special place in the hearts of many. However, their species type, the location and their age have combined to create an environment today where they are under extreme stress and dying with a high risk of falling branches.

This presented the University with an unacceptable safety risk in the Central Courtyard and, based on the advice of experts and the inherent increased safety risks, the courtyard was closed on 20 October. Our next step will be to remove and replace the trees, which will begin in the near future.

“At the request of the University, Australian Tree Consultants evaluated the Lemon Scented Gums in the Central Courtyard.  Nine trees were identified as being at a critical risk level, and their removal was undertaken. The remaining trees are also in declining condition due to less than optimal original planting techniques, reducing their functional lifespan. Retention of the trees will increase the risk to courtyard users and prevents installation of a more viable and sustainable planting,” says Hugh Taylor, Managing Director of Australian Tree Consultants.

The trees – which would have had to be removed regardless of the Campus Development Plan works – will be replaced as part of the Central Courtyard upgrade. Where possible, the trees that are removed will be repurposed for furniture and other campus structures. In consultation with Walanga Muru, a ceremony will be planned to commemorate the trees that are being replaced.

Ceremonies will also be organised for the new mixed native and deciduous tree-scape that will be planted in the Central Courtyard. The design will maximise summer shading and winter sunlight, and the types of species are being chosen in collaboration with Walanga Muru and external Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consultant specialists in this area.

“We’re working on how we can best respect and honour the trees that are being replaced while working with the University to plan for the future green spaces on our campus,” says Dr Leanne Holt, Walanga Muru’s Director.

“The University is extremely proud of our beautiful green campus. We do not want to see trees removed from campus, but in this case it is necessary. However, the Campus Development Plan provides an opportunity to sensitively replace the removed trees. For the Central Courtyard, we are thinking carefully about the species chosen to replace the existing Lemon-Scented Gums and we will pick those that suit the Central Courtyard and are safer when mature. The trees on campus will continue to make Macquarie University a unique and special place to be,” says Leanne Denby, Director of Sustainability.

Macquarie is committed to replanting two trees for every one removed, taking into account the longevity of the trees chosen and the wildlife on campus who may use them. The University also plants 50 trees that are native to the local area every year and engages in programs of assisted natural regeneration and replanting.

We look forward to inviting staff, students and the community to ceremonies and replanting events as we go on this journey together and will share details as soon as plans are finalised. For questions, email campusdevelopment@mq.edu.au





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  1. Classic ABC Utopia program propaganda – especially love the bit where you plant 2 sapling to replace a mature gum tree that is home to many native fauna (including ringtail possums that support the threaten Powerful Owl population in the northern districts). I worked at Macquarie for many years, and the amount of trees the uni has felled for construction over that time has been disgraceful. 2 sapling don’t cut it for 60 year old trees that support ECC. Any University with due diligence would have employed an arborists to keep the trees healthy over the years. Then again any University can employ an arborist to write a report to state trees are unhealthy.
    If a car hit a person in the grounds of the university would you ban cars and make it pedestrians only? I don’t think so. Humans need to get over their fear of trees. The university should know better when it comes to the environment. Profit seems to be your number one objective. So what building is being constructed in the courtyard, and did Ryde council approve the removal of the trees?

    1. Thank you for your comment. We invite you to read more about our commitment to sustainability here: https://www.mq.edu.au/thisweek/2017/09/25/answering-your-questions-about-flora-and-fauna-on-campus/ Over the break, the trees in the Central Courtyard unfortunately did need to be removed, which did not require approval from the City of Ryde. We look forward to sharing more details soon on what is to come. The space will include an innovative new teaching and learning building – to be called 1 Central Courtyard – with food and beverage offerings, as well as student housing buildings. For any further questions, please feel free to email us at campusdevelopment@mq.edu.au.

  2. Thank you for your comments.

    No new Plane Trees have been planted as landscape trees on campus in the past decade and the University is intending to use other choices of deciduous trees in new public realm areas. For example, the University Avenue project, which was completed in 2015, used a shade tree called Chanticleer Pear and we intend to use a mix of alternative species elsewhere on campus.

    With respect to the existing Plane Trees, the University has received occasional comments about pollen on campus, but this has not been regularly raised as an issue, historically. However, the safety of staff, students and visitors is our number one priority, so we will continue to keep a monitor on the situation.

    The trees in the Central Courtyard are being removed as their species type, the location and their age have contributed to creating an unsafe environment.

  3. I would like to know what’s being done about the truly dangerous plane trees that line the campus walkways? They are a serious health risk to people that suffer from allergies, hay fever and asthma. I know of numerous people that avoid the campus when they are producing pollen. If we are really worried about safety, then please do something about this problem.
    I really hope that the deciduous trees being planted are not plane trees. Otherwise we won’t all be killed by falling branches, we can all choke to death.
    I would also like to know how the paving of the courtyard has damaged the trees and not the original planting.
    Macquarie is losing its soul 🙁

  4. BTW when you say “mixed native and deciduous” do you mean a mix of non-deciduous native and non-native deciduous? Or will there be non-native non-deciduous as well?

    And will they be arranged in an ancient military formation like the trees they are replacing, and if not, how will that fanciful little piece of our history be commemorated and preserved? Because it’s an interesting story, at the very least:

    “There have been two major, formal plantings on campus. One hundred and twenty trees were planted in the central courtyard of the university in July 1968. The formation is said to represent a phalanx, a unit of a legion of the Roman army. Armed soldiers lined up, side by side, with their shields suspended on their left arms, so that viewed from the outside, it looks like a solid wall. Behind each line is another line supporting the first, so a general can plant the phalanx to be many men deep as well as wide to suit the terrain of a battle site (Karl Van Dyke, Museum of Ancient Cultures, Macquarie University).” (Macquarie University – a brief history of its landscaping. Alison Downing, Biological Sciences. 24 August 2009)

    Alison Downing also notes in this paper:
    “Even now, in 2009, the legacy of the (mostly) Italian market gardeners can still be seen. There are olive trees on Culloden Road, close to the offices of OFM. Sadly, the oldest olive on campus was recently cut down when the site for the new library was cleared. ”

    Alison Downing’s work can be found at: https://www.mq.edu.au/arboretum/A_Macquarie_University_campus_history.pdf

    1. Hi Cathy, thank you for your comment and questions. Final planting arrangements have not been finalised; however, the intention is for the Central Courtyard to be populated by a selection of native tree species, planted at a lower density than the existing gums and in a manner that reflects the current formation. Smaller, non-native species will also line the surrounding pedestrian thoroughfares, providing plenty of shade throughout the entire area in the summer.

      The final planting strategy and a number of options for deciduous, native trees, are being tested before a final decision is taken on the future treescape. We’ll be sure to share more information as the project continues.

  5. I suspect it wasn’t the “original planting techniques” but the invasive and unsympathetic paving that made it hard for the trees to grow properly.

    So much for my ambition to die in the Courtyard from a falling lemon-scented gum tree branch.

    Glad to hear they’re being replaced at least, and that shade in summer/sun in winter is part of the plan.

    Now, about that olive tree…

    1. There aren’t that many options for deciduous native trees, and most are native to tropical/subtropical areas. But it would be lovely to have some of the following.

      Illawarra Flame Tree – Brachychiton Acerifolius
      (Not completely deciduous – flowers replace leaves so it’s never really bare, but it’s beautiful and suitable for the climate – and there are at least two songs that mention it)

      Australian Red Cedar – Toona Ciliata
      Now rare but very beautiful and historically an important species – your grandmother’s bannisters and sideboard may well have been made out of red cedar. But can you be trusted with such a big and grand tree?

      White Cedar – Melia azedarach var.australasica
      This one is lovely too – there is one in my street at home and birds love the fruit although it’s poisonous to humans so we’d have to be careful about who we feed them to if we planted this one.

      Silky Oak – Grevillea robusta
      Again, only sort-of deciduous (leaves leave before flowers bloom) but a gorgeous tree, the largest grevillea. And if you do ever need to cut them down again, the timber is striking, with a really pretty grain pattern. Makes lovely breadboards and bowls. Just sayin’…

      Thanks to various interwebs sites and my garden notebook of the last 30 years for the above.

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