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At least six protesters have chained themselves to century-old trees that are due to be chopped down to make way for Sydney's new light rail line on the edge of Centennial Park.
Some 30 contract workers arrived on Thursday night, ready to start felling 50 trees that line Anzac Parade and Alison Road to make way for the $2.1 billion project that would connect Randwick to Kensington.
But a group of residents and environmental activists beat the high-vis army to it, lashing themselves to trunks and hoisting others into the branches in a last-ditch attempt to save the trees.
Workers erect fences around the trees scheduled to be chopped down. Photo: Wolter Peeters
"I'm prepared to stay here all night, if I have to," said Louise Boronyak-Vasco as she stood chained to a tree on Alison Road.
The contractors charged with chopping down the trees began cordoning off sections of the nature strips just after 8pm, but were unable to clear the sections already occupied by the protesters.
Ms Boronyak-Vasco, 35, was backed by a crowd of 50-odd locals who shouted messages of support, while motorists honked as they zoomed by.
Local resident Will Perry suspends himself by rope from an old tree along Alison Rd, Randwick. Photo: Wolter Peeters
"Our primary motive is the protection of these trees and we will do anything in our power to make sure they are not going to cut them down tonight or any other night," she said.
Ms Boronyak-Vasco, a senior research consultant on change adaptation at the University of Technology Sydney, said the trees were a vital habitat for native species of possums, microbats, birds and insects.
"I figured if I can't save my local trees, what can I save?" she said.
Louise Boronyak-Vasco chains herself to an old tree due to be cut down to make way for the light rail. Photo: Wolter Peeters
Shortly before the new year, contractors felled about 13 trees at the intersection of Alison and Wansey roads, and 10 trees beside the Eastern Distributor at Moore Park.
ALTRAC, the consortium building the light rail line, has approval to remove or prune the trees between January 7 and 16. Most of the trees are native figs.
On Wednesday, Centennial Park Residents Association co-chair Peter Tzannes said the trees – some as old as 100 years – could easily be saved if the government allowed for an alternative route for the light rail line.
Kathlene Hennessy was prepared to stay chained all night to protect the tree on the edge of Centennial Park. Photo: Wolter Peeters
"There is a better way of doing this without the destruction of mature trees. These trees are so majestic," said Mr Tzannes, who has lived near the park since 1951.
"Centennial Park is one of our few real jewels in the city. It is going to be devastating ... and something has to be done to stop this cowboy approach."
Randwick City Council has led a campaign in recent weeks to save the trees, and erected about 80 signs around those that will likely face the chainsaws.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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