It was hardly a poetic end for the large, leafy tree that loomed over Manuka.
Each limb was amputated from the trunk of the London plane on Wednesday by a team of mobile, chainsaw-wielding arborists and then craned up and away.
In the final moments of the operation, about 10 people gathered on the other side of Franklin Street to see it removed, the branches stacked up on the deck outside disused restaurant buildings.
Site owner Sotiria Liangis, whose plans for a five-star hotel on the site had been thwarted by efforts to protect the tree, did not see it removed.
She was busy working on another project on the South Coast but said work was going "full steam ahead" on the new Manuka development.
On Friday, Mrs Liangis' company, Liangis Investments Pty Ltd, walked out of mediation with the Conservator of Flora and Fauna after a resolution had been reached.
Five days later and the tree was all but gone.
It was a moment years in the making. The tree was the subject of three matters heard at the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, an investigation into a drill hole in its trunk with rumours of poisoning, and, as a resident on Wednesday put it, "the talk of Manuka".
Petitions and counter petitions have been presented, politicians have made statements, all while the local residents' group found themselves at odds with local businesses over the future of the site.
Fifteen of 21 responses sent to the conservator in the public consultation period for the tree's deregistration called for it to be retained.
Liangis Investments in 2015 applied to have the tree's protection lifted, which was first applied in 2012 after it was nominated in 2010.
The conservator finally refused that application in September 2016, prompting tribunal proceedings that uncovered "copy and paste" drafting errors in the ACT's tree protection laws.
In 2018, Liangis Investments lodged a development application for a hotel on the site, which was conditionally approved by the ACT's chief planner, Ben Ponton, pending a new decision on the tree.
In May, conservator Ian Walker decided to uphold the tree's protection, effectively blocking progress on the hotel.
The ACT planning authority had earlier argued there was no way to reasonably develop around the tree. The National Capital Design Review Panel had recommended the developer should look for alternative plans to incorporate the tree.
A 2016 arborist's report, prepared for Liangis Investments, concluded the tree's location was "inappropriate" and should be removed.
However, Mr Walker decided to side with community views and the advice of the design review panel.
The stump will remain in the gap between the cinema and the former restaurant until the site is redeveloped.
In the end, it will likely be pushed over with an excavator.
TIMELINE OF THE TREE
- 1970-1975: Sometime in this period the tree is planted in an easement between the Capitol Theatre and the Manuka post office, according to an arborists' report prepared for the site's owners.
- December 13, 2010: A local resident nominates the London plane tree for protection with an incomplete nomination form.
- December 16, 2010: An initial assessment finds the tree "provides aesthetic and environmental benefits" but is "not located in an ideal position".
- May 6, 2011: The tree was provisionally placed on the protection register.
- May 1, 2012: Then conservator of flora and fauna, Penny Farnsworth, includes the tree on the ACT Tree Protection Register.
- 2015: Liangis Investments buys the block of land next to the cinema building on the Flinders Way side of the site. The company first bought the Cinema in 1989 after it was redeveloped in 1980.
- November 2, 2015: Liangis Investments applies to the Conservator of Flora and Fauna to cancel the registration of the tree at 15 Franklin Street.
- March 31, 2016: The conservator decides not to grant the cancellation of the tree's registration.
- August 22, 2016: Liangis Investments applies to the conservator for a reconsideration of the decision.
- September 13, 2016: The conservator confirms the application has been refused.
- October 6, 2016: Liangis Investments applies to ACAT for a review of the Conservator's decision.
- November 25, 2016: The ACT Administrative and Civil Tribunal rules Liangis Investments could not apply for a review of the Conservator's decision, highlighting "copy and paste" issues in the Tree Protection Act that did not allow merit reviews.
- August 24, 2017: Then Transport and City Services Minister Meeghan Fitzharris introduces changes to the Tree Protection Act in the Legislative Assembly to allow for merits reviews.
- June 2018: Owner Sotiria Liangis lodges a development application for an "iconic and prestigious" hotel on the cinema site.
- November 2018: ACT Chief Planner Ben Ponton approves the removal of the tree, pending a decision from Conservator Ian Walker on whether to allow it to be struck from the protection register.
- December 2018: The Canberra Times reports the ACT's planning authority ignored the advice of the National Capital Design Review Panel, which recommended against approving the hotel plans.
- January 2019: Inner-south residents raise concerns for the tree's health, after a central column of leaves starts turning brown.
- February 2019: Mrs Liangis calls an arborist who finds a drill hole in the tree's trunk. Mrs Liangis reports the drill hole to police, she later tells The Canberra Times.
- March 2019: An investigation by the government's tree protection unit finds the drill hole but was unable to identify any poison in the hole.
- May 22, 2019: The conservator, Mr Walker, decides to keep the tree on the protection register, prompting Mrs Liangis' son, John Liangis, to lash out at unrepresentative residents' groups who had "weaponised" the process. Mr Walker's decision says there was no evidence of the tree's impact on services, despite large roots breaching a sewerage pipe.
- June 2019: A local business group calls for the tree to go to make way for a "transformative" hotel development.
- July 9, 2019: The Griffith Narrabundah Community Association, which had opposed the removal of the tree and argued that it should be included in future development on the block, calls for greater government investment in Manuka to arrest the decline of the "decaying" precinct.
- July 26, 2019: The tree is cleared for removal after mediation at the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal leads to a compromise between Liangis Investments and the conservator.
- July 31, 2019: Work starts to remove the tree.