Council actions leave lasting scar
THIS is the story of the vanishing red bean tree.
While this tale is no children's fable, the series of events that unfolded would certainly not look out of place in the pages of Brothers Grimm.
It's the story of system failure and ignorance so breathtaking you hope the moral of this story will not only be a lesson for today, but for generations to come.
Yes, we're just talking about a tree. But it was no ordinary one.
It had significant historical importance to the original custodians of this land and to the greater Clarence Valley.
It was a specimen that stood on the original floodplain well before Richard Craig arrived in 1842 to put our European footprint down.
It was estimated to have survived for two centuries before chainsaws were hacked into its stoic branches and maimed to the point of no return.
Until 2013 it stood untouched as generations of 'progress' sprung up around it, horseless carriages and English architecture encroaching on its presence until an unexpected bludgeoning brought the rare specimen to its knees.
A previous arboriculture inspection "deemed the tree was in poor condition and posed risk to safety and property".
After this encounter, all that remained of the rare record of Aboriginal settlement was the tree's defining scar-bearing trunk. Little consolation for the Bundjalung people and the resident who stepped in to bring the initial brutality to a halt.
But it was far too late, the wounded base in which the 'original' Clarence residents once harvested a bowl or shield now an homage to a monumental stuff-up.
Despite this, it is still ironically eking out a mutated existence on Grafton's heritage walk of trees, the colourful pamphlet taking tourists to the corner of Breimba and Dovedale to bear witness to a less than satisfactory remnant of its past as the specimen struggled to ever get a foothold back in life.
Clarence Valley Council was fined a relatively paltry $1500 for the blunder, and protocols and extensive staff training implemented to demonstrate the gravity of the situation.
Then, less than three years later, the stump vanished, along with the significantly important story it told.
This desecration of a two-century-old scar tree must boggle as much as it must pain the Bundjalung people.
The council's management have distanced themselves from the second and final frontline offence that delivered the fatal blow to the rare tree.
They cited in council papers that the actions in 2016 were outside the approval process in place and conducted by a sole staffer who had breached the organisation's code of conduct.
Still in the hands of the Office of Environment and Heritage, the council has, on advice, pleaded guilty to the crime of harming or desecrating Aboriginal objects and face the prospect of another fine, the maximum penalty in this case sitting at $1.1million.
With more council protocols, staff training and an apology to the Bundjalung people in place, the monetary verdict is yet to be issued.
To have this happen once was bad enough, but twice - and the fault pinned on a lone employee in a multi-tiered organisation like local government - is incredulous, but of no consequence for the vanishing tree.
Or the people whose often disregarded history has now lost another living link.
The red bean is gone.
Red faces remain.