3 Topaz Place
16th August, 2003
I was a member of Tweed Shire Council's Bi-Centennial Committee and led the sub-committee which awarded prizes to schools for bi-centennial projects in their school grounds. The general aim was to promote restoration of native vegetation.
Camphor Laurel was a problem in old schools. The Dept. of Education promoted their use in the early days because cattle and horses didn't damage them and it was a good canopy tree. Schools that have removed them over time are Dungay, Burringbar, Stokers Siding, Murwillumbah High School and Wollumbin High School.
When Wollumbin High School was opened I organised tree plantings for V.I.Ps. Virginia Chadwick, Minister for Education, planted a blueberry ash, Don Beck, state member, an onion cedar, Neville Newell, federal member, an ebony and Principal Ann Newman a red cedar. This was the start for teachers and pupils each to plant a tree in the Wollumbin Heritage Rainforest The V.I.P trees refused to flourish. The soil was good with a tap nearby and they had plenty of TLC. However the trees planted by staff and pupils on the hillside are powering away. My suspicion was confirmed at the access meeting of Tweed Shire when J. Friend. B.Sc., research scientist addressed Council on camphor laurel pointing out its toxic effect on both trees and native fauna. On top of the Wollumbin hill adjacent to the failed plantings was a large camphor laurel. Although now dead its toxic influence remains.
The effect on our fauna is also disastrous. The vast population of flock pigeon, which were the staple diet of the pioneers from the hill country to the coast, are almost extinct. They feasted on camphor laurel seed, which rendered their eggs infertile. Only small flocks remain in the high country where camphor laurel is not as prevalent. Even worse is the influence of the poisons in camphor (leaves, bark and roots) on our fauna. Platypus, water lizards, frogs, certain butterflies and other birds are becoming rare in these areas.
I regard the exotic camphor laurel as the greatest curse threatening the future integrity of our World Heritage Area.
Yours Sincerely, Bruce Chick
Below: letter from the Upper Clarence Landcare Committee supporting the classification of the spread of Camphor Laurel as a process threatening local ecology.
30th March 2002
Camphor Laurel Research Centre
Thank you for your information on camphor laurel as requested. It was most beneficial and enlightening. As previously explained our 6 year old son suffers from a medical condition known as multiple chemical sensitivity'. He has been diagnosed with a highly reactive system such that any contact with strong plant phenolic compounds provokes irritable (extreme) behaviour and/or flushing and/or hives and general poor health. He also reacts to food preservatives and colours etc, and any strong smells associated with cleaning products, agricultural products, glues, perfumes etc. etc.
Our son had to be removed from his school environment in September 2001 as his school lopped camphor laurel trees and used the wood chip on the school gardens. Up until this time he was progressing well but his health and behaviour deteriorated rapidly which coincided with the camphors being cut and chipped.
Our major concern is the safety and wellbeing of our son both physically and socially. The effect the fresh camphor chip has on our son is severe and dramatic. His behaviour becomes erratic, he suffers from extreme migraines, over heating, nausea and sinus problems. The effects can be seen in the Teacher's class diary after the trees were lopped and chipped in August 2001. In the 200 days prior to the trees being trimmed and chipped there 9 incidents of misbehaviour. After the trees were trimmed and chipped there were 31 incidents of misbehaviour in 30 days. As an example it was reported that he was too long in the toilets and was found lying on the floor lapping water from the cement (trying to cool from over heating). Unfortunately this type of incident was seen by the school as a 'misbehaviour' - as inappropriate and disgusting behaviour and not related to his condition and, therefore, was not reported to us. I have included extracts from two texts containing information on camphor laurel that were sent to us from the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. One in particular describes camphor poisoning in children which accurately depicts camphor's effect on our son - 'headache, a feeling of warmth, confusion, excitement, restlessness.....'. In relation to understanding of MCS not only does our son have too contend with physical handicaps of the illness but he must face stigma and doubt afforded to him by people who have little or no understanding of the condition further adding to his isolation.
Once again thank you for your help and continued support in our endeavour to provide our son with a safe and happy school environment.
Should you require any further information regarding this matter please feel free to contact us and we hope to see you at the Camphor Laurel Conference in April.
David and Kim Patch.
Many Rivers Regional Council
Dear Mr Friend (Joe), Your correspondence was received in this office on 19 November 1998 when Regional Council were meeting at Newcastle. Please accept my apologies for the late response.
I have read the summary of proven results of research on the Camphor Laurel tree and its impact on Aquatic, Land/Soil, Avian and Native Laurel in NE NSW, thank you for the information.
To lessen their ecological and environment impact, I support your action plan to remove camphor laurel trees.
Terania Creek Road,
To Anyone Concerned or Sceptical About Camphor Laurel's Toxicity
On 20th August one of my cats brought me a catatonic Wonga (=Wonga Wonga) Pigeon. Upon retrieving the bird from the cat, its crop burst open, and out spilled Camphor berries. The bird died a few minutes later. The cat would not eat the bird as its flesh was contaminaterf with the Camphor toxins, and the bird reeked like mothballs!One week later I rescued a sick Bronze Pigeon sitting on the driveway, unable to fly, staggering and gasping. I took it home, gave it some water via an eye-dropper, and it died while I was ringing WIRE5 (Wildlife Rescue) 10 minutes later. It also smelled like mothballs.
I had been sceptical of how deadly Camphor is ... NOT ANY MORE.Marie Barber
James Gibson Rd
Camphor laurel (Cinnamomum camphora) has persisted as one of the worst weed problems in the Richmond-Tweed region of north-eastern NSW since its definition and description as a weed species in 1979 (Firth, 1979).
Obtaining community consensus with respect to the weed status of the species since then has been difficult due to a number of reasons. One of these relates to the problem of dealing with a 'tree weed' and, hence the possibility of some amenity value (eg cabinet timber) and/or ecological value (eg increase in bird population). Another relates to the diversity of social/economic/conservation interests of the human population of the region.
Mr Friend has indicated a commitment to obtaining some resolution of the camphor weed problem in his studies on the toxicology of the species in relation to local flora and fauna. Appropriate studies to help determine effects of the species on local flora and fauna within the context of its undoubted weed status for agricultural industries in the region will help to engender positive community programs for rehabilitation of camphor infested areas.
I strongly commend any proposal to elucidate the problem of camphor weed in relation to the total environment of the Richmond-Tweed region, especially by way of larger scale research/demonstration/community education projects.D J Firth