NEWCASTLE Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes has made a name for herself as a Labor leader able to work with a Coalition state government, while encouraging a construction boom that her party may not have been entirely comfortable with had her predecessor, Jeff McCloy, or any other "developer", been running the council.
So why is it, then, that she and her Labor deputy Declan Clausen have embarked on a last-minute rally to save a handful of fig trees on the footpath edge of Birdwood Park in Newcastle West?
To improve traffic flows around the light rail crossing of nearby Hannell Street, the NSW government's Transport for NSW (TfNSW) agency wants to install a "slip lane" from the south-bound side of Stewart Avenue, for motorists turning left into King Street and heading east.
The need for road changes has been known since before the light rail was built.
And given the antagonism in Newcastle East after the council felled various trees in Foreshore Park to make way for the SuperCars, isn't it a bit much to complain about these few figs - at least two of which are very close to the side of the road - even if the area itself has some heritage significance?
Not according to Cr Nelmes, who says the council was not consulted by TfNSW, which she says did not object to the council's West End Stage 1 Public Domain Plan for the area, which was exhibited before being adopted in March 2018.
Nor, she says, is it a symbolic protest, begun too late to have any real chance of succeeding, with the work due to start on Sunday.
Cr Nelmes says the absence of consultation meant the council learned about the intended tree lopping from "constituents".
With no time to negotiate quietly with the government, Cr Nelmes has gone public and released a letter written on Monday to Transport Minister Andrew Constance.
And she is adamant: "They can't just take down heritage trees. They are not removing them".
Regardless of whether the council was properly informed, TfNSW has been less than transparent with the public: its website says anyone wanting to see a Review of Environmental Factors for the roadworks must email the project manager involved.
That is not good enough, even without considering previous battles over figs.
It can only add weight to the lord mayor's claim that TfNSW "does whatever it wants, whenever it wants".
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