Death of a 100 Year Old Gum Tree - Burnside Village Tree
Death of a 100 Year Old Gum Tree - Burnside Village Tree

Death of a 100 Year Old Gum Tree - Burnside Village Tree

The Burnside Village in Adelaide, South Australia is home to a gum tree saga that is what happens when you try to build a shopping mall on top of a 100 year old river red gum tree. It doesn’t go well.


I'm in Burnside Village, a high-end suburban shopping mall in Adelaide, South Australia. And this is the enormous foyer area that holds the cafe. And the reason for this, and what used to be here, is a hundred-year-old river red gum. It's here no longer, and in its place is this, a plastic Christmas tree, trying to get shoppers in the Christmas spirit. And this is a story about what happens when consumerism meets the natural environment.

[TV Ad] It's a pleasure.

[Julian] This is the Burnside Village of the 80s and the 90s.

[Announcer] Burnside Village Shopping Center.

[TV Ad] It's a pleasure.

But to get from the world of saxophones and shoulder pads to the sparkling shopping mall of today, there was a major redevelopment needed. And this was called stage three. It happened in 2010, to the tune of 100 million dollars.

Now, one problem with this redevelopment was this century-old tree. And it wasn't allowed to be removed. The solution? To build the mall around the tree, and make it a grand centerpiece at the entrance. And despite all the extra building complexity, they managed to do it. They built around the tree by installing an 11-meter tree protection zone, and added full-spectrum glass to allow all the UV light through.

The upgrade was complete in 2011, and it launched with a big gala opening, and the who's who of Adelaide gathered for champagne and bands, a fashion show and even admired the tree. And while this looked like a party, it might have well been a funeral for the gum tree. Because while it was spruiked in the marketing materials for the shopping mall, it really wasn't doing well, and this was obvious to everyday shoppers.

So what went wrong? Well, it turns out a lot of things. The wrong type of glass was installed, impacting the light that the tree could get, there were air condition vents pointed right at it, and the lack of breeze meant the trees couldn't shed dead leaves, and there was a dust buildup on it. So experts were flown in, misting sprays were installed, supplemental injections were given, but things weren't looking good.

[TV] The Burnside Shopping Center says it's turned over a new leaf in its handling of its dying red gum. Management insist the giant tree, though trapped indoors, still shows promising signs of life.

Have a look, there it is, the dreaded tree.

[News Anchor] The 95-year-old red gum has racked up a hefty health bill in almost a year under cover. In excess of 5 million dollars spent on accommodating and treating it, soil testing, injections, vitamins, and visits from experts across the country, all to no avail. Instead, clinging to fresh sprouts of greenery as signs of life.

It's a challenge, to see what we can do to help it, to save it. You put a koala up it.

[Julian] But this was wishful thinking, at best. The tree got worse, and this whole thing became a mess. Even the reporting on it was a disaster.

[TV] The tree, hang on, we might, we'll put it back to you there Paul, I've just got a little bit of a situation here.

[Cameraman] Oh let's, do you want me to have a chat with the security guard? Do you wanna pass over your earpiece, and I'll have a quick chat with him?

Yeah, unless you've actually got permission from the center, you can't--

We'll just be two seconds.

Yeah, unfortunately, you can't--

[Woman] Just gimme his name.

Hang on, what if we're--

[Cameraman] Keep walking and talking, yeah, walk and talk, Joe.

Oh, so, we'll get back to the tree story though. There's a hundred, we are now on the public footpath, that's all right.

There's a guy trying to walk into the shopping center now, behind Joe, did you see that?

I saw that.

He'll be tackled to the ground, basically.

Oh God, it's started. It's Monday madness.

[Julian] The tree got worse, and being located right above the cafe, a decision had to be made. Some people got in the fun, offering free firewood on a classified site, and then, the inevitable.

Inside the Burnside Village has been officially pronounced dead, a delicate operation about to get underway to chop down the hundred-year-old river red gum.

[Reporter] To tree or not to tree, that was the question. The answer, now clear.

The tree will be removed over two nights, starting tonight, and continuing on Saturday night.

So you might ask, who would have thought that this could possibly happen?

The thing's dying, they should never have done that.

You just can't put a roof over the top of a tree that is in full sunshine all the time.

It wants to be free, that tree.

What a stupid way to build a building around it.

Surrounded by shops, surrounded by commercialism, that's no good. Poor tree, it probably got sad and died.

I guess they knew it was going to die, and they wanted that shopping center, so they built it anyway.

And that was the utterly predictable end to this whole saga. I'm Julian O'Shea, if you enjoyed watching this, please do subscribe, that's it for me.