Lavenders Riverside Cafe staff have said their final farewells to the historic tree

Final day: Owner-operator of Lavenders Riverside Cafe Steph Purdon watches on as longest-serving staff member Carol Wagner hammers goodbye messages into the tree. Picture: Lachlan Leeming
Final day: Owner-operator of Lavenders Riverside Cafe Steph Purdon watches on as longest-serving staff member Carol Wagner hammers goodbye messages into the tree. Picture: Lachlan Leeming

In a moving gathering, customers and staff of Lavenders Riverside Cafe have said their final farewells to an historic camphor laurel tree set to be cut down on Monday.

About 30 people gathered at the cafe on The Levee on Sunday afternoon to bid farewell to the tree, believed to be more than 100 years old.

Guests carved their names into the tree trunk and also carved the word “No”, as an objection to a Maitland City Council decision to bring the tree down.

The tree has been part of the landscape of Maitland’s riverbank for decades and is coming down at 7am Monday because its huge scale has caused significant maintenance issues due to leaf litter and associated water damage.

Lavenders Riverside Cafe owner Stephanie Purdon lost her appeal to save the iconic tree, which has provided a picturesque backdrop and shade for her patrons.

Lavenders will close Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and reopen on Thursday at 7am. 

Mrs Purdon said she was unable to afford the installation of expensive shade structures, which came with a price tag of about $35,000.

Maitland Council approved the removal of the tree after an assessment by tree service company Assurance Trees.

A council spokesperson said the tree is also likely to be causing structural damage to an adjacent building.

Farewell: The staff at Lavenders Riverside Cafe ahead of the historic camphor laurel tree being cut down on Monday.

Farewell: The staff at Lavenders Riverside Cafe ahead of the historic camphor laurel tree being cut down on Monday.

“The response from customers has been overwhelming. They are all disgusted with this decision,” Mrs Purdon said.

“Ever since people found out it was coming down they have been coming in and taking photographs.

“They’re not happy and quite upset they are cutting down such an iconic Maitland tree.”

Mrs Purdon said her staff are sad and aware that if business slows because of the tree’s removal they may well lose their jobs.

“That’s something that we’re just going to have to play by ear,” she said.

“I still can’t believe they’re cutting it down at this time of the year when shade is needed during the warmer months.”

”I’ve really done everything I could do to try and stop this but obviously it wasn’t enough,” Mrs Purdon said.