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This was the Council Meeting. All Councillors attended as Mayor Iskandar had returned from his Sister Cities tour. For around half of the meeting I found it difficult to hear so parts of this post are incomplete. The meeting was not recorded in full because of problems with the sound system. For the first time since I have been attending Council meetings there was a large screen that showed the recommendations as printed on each business paper. I found this very helpful to fill in the blanks when I was not able to hear. This new technology is a good addition. Any mistakes are mine.
Review of Community Cultural Events Program – Mayor Iskandar wanted to postpone this item for further discussions. Clr Kontellis & Clr Thanos objected. Clr Thanos said he was against the events program as it costs $450,000 a year & this money could build a new library that Council has been discussing for 12 years. This developed into Clr Thanos asking for a motion of dissent as Chair Mayor Iskandar was calling him out of order. Clrs Thanos, Byrne, Phillips, Peters, Olive & Kontellis supported the dissent motion which was lost. The Greens & Clr Thanos voted against deferral. Item deferred on the Mayor’s casting vote.
Management Plan & Budget 2010/14 – A number of issues pertaining to the budget were debated. 3 speakers
from the community spoke in support of the budget with regards to fees for outside seating for cafes/restaurants. They asked fees not be increased above the CPI.
3 residents, 2 of whom were children, spoke against the budget in regards to delaying half-road closure works for Audley Street Petersham that were approved by Council 3 ½ years ago. The speakers wanted works included in the budget, saying 24 children on the street were at risk by through traffic.
The main debate centred on where to find the money to do the Audley Street works & fund the Greenway Co-ordinator’s position. Clr Tsardoulias made an amendment to take $50,000 from the Marrickville Station works & give $40,000 to Audley Street & $10,000 to the Greenway position. Clrs Olive, Thanos, Byrnes, Peters, Phillips & Kontellis opposed the motion, not wanting any money taken from Marrickville Station upgrade works. Carried. Clr Olive said that $100,000 for Wilga Avenue upgrade needs to be returned to the budget allocation.
State Government changes to infrastructure contributions – The NSW State Labor government has capped Section 94 contributions from developers to $20,000. (wow!)
Conditions of a 12 month Licence to Tempe Basin Motor Boat Club Association – 2 people spoke, one representing the current lease holders. He asked that the 12 month lease continues as is, outlining the work they have already completed at the site & the training opportunities they have offered to TAFE students. Another speaker spoke about what work they would do if the lease was rescinded & given to their organisation &, as a charity, how they would involve the community. Clr Phillips moved an alternative motion to open the tender to allow all interested parties to apply. He said the process was rushed & other parties were not even included. He & other members of the Greens spoke of a perception in the community that due process wasn’t followed. This was debated strongly. The motion to rescind was lost & the motion to continue the lease as is for 12 months was carried with the Greens voting against.
Street lighting – Council wants low voltage lights used, particularly on main roads, to lower greenhouse gas emissions as well as reduce the escalating costs of street lighting. Energy Australia has increased costs by 31%. Council will write to NSW ministers & the opposition regarding the crippling costs & seek financial assistance. 50% of Marrickville LGA carbon emissions come from street lighting.
(To read how Victorian Councils are attempting to address this issue, see the first item - http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/06/22/tree-news-3/ )
Greenhouse gas emissions target – Clr Phllips moved a motion that Council prepare a report about greenhouses gasses for 2010 & make budget adjustments to meet targets. He said Council set a target in 1997 to reduce emissions by 2010. This hasn’t happened & we are either 4,444 tonnes or 2,222 tonnes over, depending on the estimates of a recent report. He was against Council going the way of buying carbon offsets & instead move over to renewable energy as much as possible. Motion lost with all Councillors against except the Greens & Clr Thanos.
Here ends the Report for this week.
Dr Jago Dodson from Griffith University’s Urban Research Program is advocating the creation of many more community gardens in cities saying there will be increased pressure on urban areas to produce food in the future.
“In the context of some of the big challenges we’re facing – challenges about the sustainability of rural & regional agriculture, challenges about drought conditions, changing environmental conditions, questions about global warming’s impact on food supplies across the world & also questions about the sustainability of petroleum, which is one of the key inputs into industrial agricultural systems – those big changes are going to start to motivate more creatively how we produce food in society.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/03/22/2852294.htm
Dr Dodson has some innovative ideas that I think are really exciting. Judging by Marrickville Council’s support for the latest verge gardening project in Wilga Avenue & the community garden in Denison Road Dulwich Hill, I would imagine Council will also support other community gardens in the LGA. This year they have said they will provide help in-kind such as removing cement to facilitate such projects & that there are a number of suitable places for community gardens in the LGA. Access to water is the main issue if the gardens are not on the verges out front.
I predict community gardens will be as popular as book clubs in the not too distant future & as is with Book Clubs, only limited places are available so it pays to be involved from the beginning.
The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health published research from the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam showed that living less than 1km (0.62miles) from a green space had a major impact in lowering the incidence of major physical disease & mental ill-health.
Professor Barbara Maher of the Lancaster Environment Centre said, “The study confirmed that green spaces create oases of improved health around them especially for children.” She said, “At least part of this ‘oasis’ effect probably reflects changes in air quality.”
More proof that a good-sized street tree out front does more than beautify, raise property values & reduce your power costs for heating & cooling. Street trees also remove up to 60% of street level particulate matter such as dust, smoke, ash & the sooty bi-product from car & truck exhausts that we would generally filter through our lungs & which cause asthma & other respiratory illnesses. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8307024.stm
A recent study found tripling the number of street trees could reduce asthma among children by 25 percent. Researchers from Columbia University in the US found rates of asthma fell by a ¼ when there were around 350 more trees in a square kilometre. http://www.nhs.uk/news/2008/05May/Pages/Asthmarisklowinleafysuburbs.asp
The research found that children are less likely to develop asthma if they live in tree-lined streets, particularly in areas with more street trees. Here, I think they mean nice big trees with a canopy, not the hacked variety that are so prevalent in Marrickville LGA.
Part of the aims of New York City’s Million Tree Program is to reduce the incidence of respiratory illness as well as improve the overall mental & physical health of its residents. They also believe in global warming & in 2005, New York tallied its CO2 emissions & found they were approximately 1% of US totals & less than 1/3 of the average US per capita level. 79% CO2 came from buildings. They believe their emissions are so low because there is a heavy reliance on cycling & public transport use. They still to reduce their CO2 emissions by a further 33%. http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/apr2007/2007-04-11-03.asp
A short, succinct article from Real Estate Agents about the monetary worth of trees on your property, which says, “mature trees & a well-landscaped yard can improve your home’s value by 10-25%.”
Every time I mention this to others I watch the disbelief on their faces, yet this estimate is a number I come across repeatedly in research & articles about the value of trees.
Try looking in the local community papers in the Real Estate section. If there is a street tree in front of the property, the photographer always includes a branch or leaves from the tree in the photo of the property. They do this because the sight of trees has a subconscious effect on us. When we see leafy green, we get a feeling of peace & safety even if we are not directly aware of this. Leafy green means good place to rear children, safety & happiness. Not to many of us will look at a photo of a property surrounded by cement with no green & compare it favorably with a property that has trees & landscaping, even if the greener property is of lesser value.
The iconic Coral trees in Clifton Gardens were chopped down mid April 2010 by Mosman Council as part of an upgrade of the picnic area. They said the trees had a high-hazard rating. The residents were very unhappy to lose these & 4 other trees. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/trees-cleared-at-clifton-gardens-no-picnic-for-some-residents/
Professional tree trimmers in Gilroy California killed 2 owlets when they chopped down a palm tree despite being warned twice about the nest. The Wildlife Education & Rehabilitation Center is caring for the third owlet, who survived the fall. Police are investigating. http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2008/05/21/2-baby-owls-killed-when-palm-tree-cut-down/UPI-39621211398657/
Energy Australia reduced a Frenches Forest woman to tears after their tree pruners entered her property & ‘butchered’ her trees. She said her trees grew straight upwards & were 4 metres away from the power lines & Energy Australia’s intervention was unnecessary. The first comment by ‘Chips’ is also interesting as he says this has happened to trees on his property numerous times. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/tears-over-butchered-garden/
Good news… Buffalo, Illinois, a town of 500 residents has no more room for street trees. They have been focused on street tree planting since 1986 & have now run out of room. Mike Dirksen, city arborist in nearby Springfield said, “There are so many benefits from trees. They shouldn’t just be seen as having an ornamental purpose.” This should be engraved on a gold plaque. Bet the town looks stunning! http://friendsoftrees.org/blog/2010/04/16/illinois-town-has-no-more-room-for-trees/
CELEBRITY NEWS (drum-roll please) Last April, in Sao Paulo, Avatar Producer James Cameron & actor Sigourney Weaver planted a native Brazilian tree pau-brasil which is 99% extinct to kick-off a global Earth Day Network which intends to plant 1 million trees in 15 countries by the end of 2010. http://www.tonic.com/article/james-cameron-plants-first-one-million-trees/
I have been following with great interest developments around the world concerning climate change & the value of trees. Every climate change expert has been seriously & loudly advocating that we immediately stop large-scale logging in forests. They are also advising that we embark on mass reforestation world-wide, citing this as the most effective means of soaking up the dangerous levels of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere & preventing run-away climate change. Of course there are other interventions, such as stopping the use of coal for power, but trees are universally recognised as an essential component in the management of climate change & the prevention of species extinction, including human beings.
There is a also a increasing push for rich countries to pay for the preservation of old growth forests which are currently being logged or burnt at alarming rates. The Amazon Rain Forest, long regarded as the ‘lungs of the world,’ is one forest the existence of which is deemed essential to preserving life on this planet because it removes billions of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere & stores it as carbon.
There is also a plethora of information coming out about the value of trees in the urban setting. Again, the experts say that we must plant more trees in our cities & that we should be doing it now.
The climate change experts say we need to plant substantial trees with large trunks & substantial canopies, as these tree species are the most effective at sequestering & storing CO2. Small stature trees with thin trunks & branches are not nearly as effective in CO2 sequestration as large trunk trees & should be used when there are no other options. However, you just need to visit a intensely built suburb like Balmain or Paddington to realise that large trees can survive well in small spaces & the buildings do not fall down as a result of large trees planted near them.
My reading has shown there is a marked difference in attitude regarding trees between Australia & most of the world with the difference most noticeable with America.
Americans love their trees & it is quite common for a local community to come together to protest the removal of any tree within the urban landscape. Tree removal & pruning is reported widely in American news.
Read any article about trees in the local news throughout America & you will find many comments left by readers, sometimes into the hundreds. The community is highly engaged when it comes to trees & not just concerning street & park trees. Americans with no particular affiliations & of all ages routinely protest the proposed pruning of trees in back roads, the removal of a lone 100 year old tree sitting next to a railway line, the removal of street trees because of pavement movement or development & even the lowering of the green canopy by new home owners who remove trees on their property.
In New York state a number of counties have invoked Ordinances which prevent developers from clear-cutting lots for housing, a practice which is done routinely in Australia. Counties are also preventing people who have newly bought into the area from cutting down trees on their property stating that this action changes the character of the town. They say it is unacceptable for people buy into an area because it looks good, then proceed to make the area look bad by cutting down the trees on their property & even asking that the street trees be removed as well.
In one County in New York both the community & the Governing bodies because upset when they realised the green canopy had decreased. Now there are strict town codes preventing the removal of trees & hefty fines for those who chop first & ask questions later. The County knows who have chopped down trees on their property not only because of reporting from neighbours, but also, because they have done a tree inventory & this is monitored on a regular basis.
Significant proof is required if residents accuse trees of causing damage. All trees cut down on private property have to be immediately replaced. There are also strict requirements about the species of tree that is required to be planted in the place of a tree that has been removed. A property owner cannot cut down a large tree & replace it with a small growing tree unless they have accepted proof as to why this is necessary & they certainly cannot elect to not plant a replacement tree without good reason.
I highly doubt they allow pruning of street trees done by residents to ensure a tree doesn’t grow, a practice that is reasonably common in the streets of Marrickville LGA.
The community is educated about the benefits of trees from school upwards. There may be significant debate & denial about anthropogenic climate change in America, but most people know that trees collect storm runoff, prevent soil erosion, remove pollutants from the air & raise property values. Neither the community nor the Governing bodies are willing to allow what they openly term ‘tree haters’ to remove trees without good reason. They believe that trees belong to the community & should be protected by the community. They also strongly believe that trees are vital to the community’s well being.
We often follow America in our likes & customs. I am hoping that a general love, knowledge & appreciation of trees become the norm in our society. If the climate change scientists are correct, we don’t have too long because we need trees now more than we ever have in the known history of mankind & trees take decades to grow to the size needed to be effective in removing & storing CO2 from our atmosphere. We need to start now.
One thing that has surprised me when researching street trees is how much impact trees have on property values. It has been found that trees can increase property values up to 25%. Initially this percentage seems amazing & somehow unreal, but when you think about it, properties in beautiful tree-lined streets do sell for more money. If there are beautiful trees on the property as well as a beautiful tree-lined street, then the value of the property is even higher. Those green suburbs that have thousands of tall trees with large natural canopies are well known for their high property values. Yet, much of their housing is similar to that in Marrickville LGA. Those suburbs only look better because they have more tall trees on private property & many more street trees.
Why do trees raise property values? People react to green. Trees make most people feel good on a deep & often unconscious level. Trees make people relax & send the message that here, in this place, we can be happy.
When we drive down a street where the trees are hacked & unpleasant to look at, we have one of 2 emotional responses. We either ignore our surroundings or we become agitated. Even if we ignore our surroundings, we are still unconsciously assessing an area & if asked about it later, we are likely to say that we don’t particularly like the suburb. If we become agitated, we are reacting to the ugliness. We know there is something about the locality that we don’t like, be it the ugly buildings, the feeling of being cramped, the graffiti, general dirtiness or the large areas of cement. We notice all these things because of the lack of trees or because the trees themselves are stumpy, lob-sided & ugly.
This reaction is why some suburbs are designated as ‘not good areas.’ Sure, some suburbs are well known for their criminal activities & although there are many factors that contribute to criminality in a community, trees even have a part to play in this. Research has shown that people who live in streets with many large street trees have a heightened sense of community pride. There is little or no graffiti, less littering & less dumping. People are reacting to the green & the beauty of trees & they think twice before doing an action that will mar this. They will go elsewhere to leave their tags for example.
Lovely street trees bring a sense of order to the visual environment where there is an architectural hotch-potch of buildings because the human eye notices the beauty of the trees & not the ugliness of the
buildings. The city of Canberra knows this well because they hide most of their factories behind a mass of trees. They also plant many tall growing trees in car parks so they eye sees the beauty of the trees & not the asphalt.
For decades the roads leaving Sydney airport were unbelievably ugly consisting of miles of buildings with very few trees. Mascot Council has changed this over the last decade by planting thousands of Eucalypts & other tall growing street trees. To my mind, this has greatly improved the area. The roads surrounding the airport are now green & a haven for nectar-feeding birds. The roads also showcase Australian flora for tourists. Similarly, the M5 was beautified before the Olympics by the planting of masses of trees, native flowers & grasses.
No one wants to live in ugly localities. They do so because they cannot afford to live in prettier suburbs. Seeing acres of tiled roofs disturbs people. We like green. Even if some of us think trees should be a significant distance from our house, we still like trees & even go to places in our leisure time where there are trees because everyone needs a dose of green to feel good. Only skate-boarders & graffiti artists spend their leisure time in cemented areas.
In America insuring the trees is commonplace. Real Estate Agents calculate the tree’s Leaf Surface Area (LSA) when determining property values. A property with more LSA has a higher value than one with fewer trees & lower LSA. These values accumulate incrementally over time because each tree typically adds more leaf surface area after each growing season.
So, if you are considering chopping down a tree on your property or you want the street tree out front removed, you need to be aware that doing so will likely decrease the value of your property & that of your neighbours as well. Sweeping those annoying leaves is really an investment. As for root damage, once a tree is mature, its roots are in place & it will not be creating any further damage to your property. Trees planted 70 plus years ago will not likely be causing damage today. There are businesses that specialise in using sonar to track the path of tree roots & boundaries can be put in place to prevent roots from travelling further if you wish to ensure they won’t encroach on your property. These interventions cost money, but a large tree will pay for itself over time not just in higher property values, but also by lowering household energy costs throughout the year.
With global warming many of us need to rethink our attitude to trees. They are not nuisances that only belong in parks. As climate change advances we will be more reliant on their cooling ability & for their spectacular ability to absorb CO2 & store carbon. Communities will find themselves planting urban forests rather than chopping trees down.
An amazing thing has just happened in Sydney! Today’s MX newspaper reports on their front page that the City of Sydney Council is currently considering using Aerial Bundled Cabling, which will allow them to plant 10% more trees in the CBD.
Aerial Bundled Cabling is a process where the power lines are bundled into one insulated cable. This type of cabling is used when Councils want to pass power lines through the foliage of a tree without chopping away its branches.
Energy Australia states they need minimum of 1.5 metres between any part of the tree & the powerlines. Because they prune at the nearest growth point or collar, this mostly results in branches being lopped back more than the minimum required 1.5 metre clearance, often several feet away. Plus they often add an extra bit of trimming to account for expected growth until the next pruning, about 7 years. Often, the result is very ugly trees looking lob-sided or V-shaped. You can view examples of trees which have been severely cut back in “The Shame Page’ in the left-hand column of this site.
The City of Sydney Council say their plan to use Aerial Bundled Cabling & plant 10% more trees could cut summer temperature by up to 2 degrees & reduce greenhouse emissions because they would not be using chainsaws & clippers to cut back the city’s trees to allow the free passage of power cables. They plan to use Aerial Bundled Cabling across 268 spans & have identified 1700 spans that could also be converted to Aerial Bundled Cabling. The cost for this will be $250,000, which is not much for such as great improvement.
I am ecstatic about this news & believe it should be the norm. Many trees in this LGA stop at the height of the overhead powerlines. They look ugly & stunted. Taller trees, if they have been allowed to grow, often end up looking decimated. Marrickville Council has removed many tall trees and is planting short-stature ornamental fruit trees that capture less CO2 and do not produce any food for birds. My hope is that the City of Sydney Council go ahead with their plan. Sydney City trees, people, tourism, birds, animals & infrastructure will certainly benefit from this action & it is the only responsible thing to do in this age of climate change. We need good healthy, tall trees & we need to increase the tree canopy. Maybe our Council will follow their lead.