Explorers tree removed at Katoomba following safety fears

Gone: The site of the explorers tree in Katoomba.
Gone: The site of the explorers tree in Katoomba.

Fears that the explorers tree in Katoomba could come crashing down in forecast weekend rain on the highway prompted its urgent removal on Saturday afternoon.

Council and Transport for NSW have been corresponding over the issue for many months, without any positive result.

But when council engineers inspected the tree last Thursday, they alerted TfNSW that collapse was imminent. TfNSW arrived on Friday and immmediately scheduled removal for 5pm on Saturday. The highway was closed and the stump, fence and the degraded platform taken away.

The mayor, Mark Greenhill, said he was enormously relieved that the tree had been removed.

"The risk of it collapsing had been keeping me awake at night.

"If it came down, it would have brought the platform with it. That amount of material could have pushed cars into the railway corridor.

The tree last week.

The tree last week.

"That's why I brought an urgency motion to the February 9 council meeting to get action."

Council had been stymied because, while it was responsible for the tree, it was located in the highway corridor, which required TfNSW permission to work on it.

The remnants of the tree - much of which had concrete poured into it over the years in a failed effort to protect it - have been taken to a TfNSW depot in Lawson.

TfNSW has said the tree will be included in its cultural interpretation strategy for the highway upgrade but at least one councillor has said no further money should be spent on it.

Cr Kerry Brown said: "I am delighted it has gone. I am not so delighted to hear TfNSW and council are hoping to relocate the remnants of the remnants.

"Not one cent of public money should be spent on preserving or displaying a shard of the dead wood, concrete or rubble."

The tree site on Monday morning.

The tree site on Monday morning.

An interpretative display was built near the tree at Pulpit Hill in 2018, explaining the devastating impact of colonialism on the Gundungurra people and their Dharug and Wiradjuri neighbours.

It also outlines the long-running debate about the authenticity of the tree.