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Locals Pin Hopes On ‘Wishing Tree’ Survival

By Em Allen on January 2, 2014 in

Picture: Melissa Kitson

Picture: Melissa Kitson

Locals on Avoca Street, Bondi, are fighting to save a beloved Moreton Bay Fig from being cut down. Over the years, the fig, known better as the ‘Wishing Tree’, has become an icon of the street and neighbourhood with a generation of children pinning their hopes to its branches.

Along with butterflies, fairly lights and lanterns, the tree is decorated with hundreds of laminated wishes from members of the local community – some big: “I want my family to be a family again”; and some small: “I wish for ice cream and sunshine”.

News that Waverley Council plans to remove the Wishing Tree has greatly alarmed locals who want the tree to remain as the unofficial canvas for the neighbourhood’s wishes.

“It may be just a normal tree to anyone, but to those of who live here, it’s much more than just a tree; it’s a symbol of our community,” explained Avoca Street resident Carl O’Sullivan.

“All the kids from the neighbourhood pin their wishes and hopes for the future and it’s really nice for the street to see how they engage with the tree,” he continued.

Fellow resident Avi Melniker agreed. She believes the Wishing Tree is a crucial element to the heritage-listed street’s whimsical character and is rallying support to stop its removal.

“Avoca Street takes you back to a time and place where community really means something and wishing on a tree means everything,” she said.

“I’ve watched kids tell all their secrets to this tree,” added local wish laminator Donna, who rents the house directly in front of the Wishing Tree.

She, along with many residents, are petitioning the council and seeking advice from local tree doctors to see how the tree can be saved. But Waverley Council maintains the tree is sick and must be removed to mitigate the health and safety risk to the community.

“A Council arborist found the tree had been in poor health for an extensive period of time. Council will only remove the tree if it’s deemed the tree will not survive. Council is committed to the safety of its residents, which is why it proposed to remove the tree,” a Waverley Council spokesperson said.

Local legend has it that the Wishing Tree has been around for over thirty years, but while the colourfully decorated branches and hopeful hand-painted sign reading ‘All U Need Is Love’ give the appearance of good health, love may not be enough to save this treasured landmark.

“In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to cut down the tree,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

“The Eastern Suburbs have historically been very successful at protecting the natural flora. I hope this will be the case again.”

With the removal of the tree scheduled for early next year, the Avoca Street community are pinning their hopes on a positive resolution.

As Mrs Melniker aptly concluded, “I think it’s safe to say we know what this year’s Christmas wish will be for residents of Avoca Street.”