DEFIANT: Former Newcastle City councillor Bob Cook has told critics of his OAM to “write to the Governor General”. Picture: Simone De PeakFORMER Newcastle councillor Bob Cook has dismissed criticism ofhis Australia Day honour fromsupporters oftheLaman Street figs, defending “every single thing” he did during the controversy.
Mr Cook became a nemesistothe Save Our Figs movementwith his persistentprosecution of the case to remove the street’s 14 fig treesthat were eventuallycut down amid a near-riotin2012.
Veterans ofSave Our Figsreacted with disbelief this weekto Mr Cook being awarded theOrder of Australia“for service to heritage preservation and the community”.
“It’s ironic that hegets this award when he was so proactive in making sure the figs were destroyed,” figs advocate Debbi Long said.
“His heritage work with the former BHP site may have been commendable, but his heritage record has been badly tarnished by his role in the desecration of Laman Street.”
Save Our Figs’sRoz Ramplin said she would never forgive Mr Cook for walking“through the demonstrators as they cried during the chainsawing, with his hands behind his back, telling anti-fig people what a wonderful day it was”.
Mr Cook, who worked at theBHPfor 36 years and was awarded theOAM for his workaspresident of the Newcastle Industrial Heritage Association, said he was neither surprised nor bothered by the criticism.
“I stand by every single thing I ever did in relation to the figs, and it has proved to be the right thing to do,” Mr Cook said.
“They have their view, and that is the nature of democracy. My opinion is they should write to the Governor General and tell him to take it off me.”
Mr Cook grew instatureasafigure in the figs furorewhenhe released a point-by-point YouTube video makingthe case for the trees’ removal, described as “infamous” by Save Our Figs.
Someof Mr Cook’s opponents from his four years on Newcastle CityCouncilquestionedthe award.
Former Greenscouncillor John Sutton saidit wasa “surprise”.
Current Greens councillor Michael Osborne said he hadn’t readthe citation for giving Mr Cook the award, but that the decisionwas“very curious”.
“It is surprising given the number of development decisions he supported,” Cr Osborne said.
“I do think whoever hands out these awards needs to look at someone’s entire record.”
The council debated the Laman Street figsamidtwo years of legal wrangling and spent more than $1 million on legal fees, site security and other costs before the treesfellin January 2012.