Biodiversity Priority Planting Areas in khaki green from the Street Tree Master Plan.  I do not understand why the aim is not to make whole of the  municipality great for wildlife.

Biodiversity Priority Planting Areas shown in khaki green – from the Street Tree Master Plan. I do not understand why the aim is not to make whole of the municipality great for wildlife.

Manchurian Pear trees will be planted along most of our main roads.

Manchurian Pear trees will be planted along most of our main roads.

The incredibly beautiful Willimans Parade in Dulwich Hill will be the only street with Plane trees.

The incredibly beautiful Williams Parade in Dulwich Hill will be the only street with Plane trees.    These trees are used to great effect in the City of Sydney Council Area.  

95 streets will have Crepe myrtle trees

95 streets will have Crepe myrtle trees.

This is a long post, but in order to keep context I thought it was important to keep it all together.

The Marrickville Street Tree Master Plan is a well-written document & a big improvement on what was before. It certainly is a complete change in attitude from the November 2012 recommendation for the Councillors to approve the removal & replacement of street trees if there is a conflict with footpath renewal. Thankfully, this is not an approach Council is pursuing.

It is obvious that a lot of work went into this document. As for the changes Council has planned, not everyone will be happy, but this is it the time to let Council know your thoughts. The Street Tree Master Plan is on public exhibition until Friday 20th June 2014.

I think one month is far too short for community consultation for such an important document – or documents, for there are many. It is easy for a whole section of the community to miss out on the opportunity to comment because of life restrictions, being way or just far too busy to tackle such a large document in a short period. I am super interested, yet even for me the time frame is restricted.

The Street Tree Master Plan says Council is committed to increase the canopy cover in Marrickville LGA, which is wonderful. However, unlike other Councils, does not say by what percentage they wish to increase the canopy or by what date any target will be achieved.

I was delighted to read that Council views street trees as long-term assets that may live between 50 to 150 years. This is much better than the 7-15 years I was once told. Interestingly, the document also said that most people only occupy their houses for 5-10 years on average.

The first thing I noticed about the document was that most of the photos showed our finest streets as far as street trees are concerned. It could quite possibly give a false impression to any reader who has not been to the area.

That said, the following is what the community asked for during community consultation –

  • “Street trees native or endemic to Marrickville.
  • A mix of different species of tree (ie two or more species within the same street).
  • Evergreen trees.
  • Medium sized trees (10-15 metres in height).
  • Broad & spreading trees with thin & less dense leaves that provide filtered shade.”

The community consultation also showed that –

  • 29% were concerned about damage by trees to footpaths & plumbing.
  • 24% were concerned about leaf drop.
  • This tells me that the majority of the community is pro street trees & accepting of issues that trees present.

Our urban forest now –

  • Currently 45% of our urban forest is comprised of just five tree species.
  • Our street trees are an average height of 5.2-metres & 4.45 metres wide with an upper height range of 6-8 metres.   Street trees are short compared to surrounding municipalities & this is noticeable when you drive in from elsewhere in Sydney, especially from the east & south.
  • Although we have a total of 360 different tree species, 340 of these represent less than 1% of our canopy cover.
  • Between 19.02% & 25.49% of the street trees in the suburbs of Sydenham, St Peters, Marrickville South, Stanmore North, Enmore, Newtown, Newtown South, & Camperdown are Bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis).
  • 28 streets with noticeable historic trees have been identified. 18 of these streets are lined with Brush Box trees.
  • 58% of street trees in Tempe are of poor or fair condition. More than half.
  • 51% of street trees in St Peters are of poor or fair condition.   More than half.
  • 45% of street trees in Marrickville industrial are of poor or fair condition. Almost half.

Verges –

  • Approximately 54% of our verges are full concrete.
  • 44% of verges are a mix of grass & concrete.
  • 25% of streets have verges less than 1.8-metres. This is important, as some of these streets will get few or no street trees.
  • 73% have verges of between 1.8-3.5-metres.
  • The Sustainable Streets Program has recently been given extra funding. If I remember correctly, it amounts to three times the current amount, which means more concrete being removed & the establishment of more verge gardens. This is great for beauty, biodiversity & the lowering of the Urban Heat Island Effect.

The Street Tree Master Plan recommends –

For planting:

  • Planting “the right tree for the right location.”
  • Sourcing good quality tree stock & checking these trees prior to purchase. This may seem obvious, but I have been told that Council has gone for the cheaper option in the past, buying trees of poor stock.
  • Improving tree establishment for newly planted trees. I could find no reference as to whether new trees will be watered for longer than the current twice weekly for 12 weeks.
  • Using better site preparation & planting techniques & providing better space for root growth by using expanded planting pits, in-road planting & kerb extensions to prevent pavement lifting. Council has just done the first of these for three advanced-sized Lilly Pilly trees in Cavendish Street Stanmore to replace 4 mature Hill’s Fig trees.
  • Planting a greater variety of species & for biodiversity. A priority will be along the ‘habitat corridors’ along the Cooks River, Alexandra Canal & the rail lines.  I don’t know why biodiversity is not a priority for the whole of the municipality.
  • A mix of natives & exotics will be planted.
  • Planting “no more than 40% for one family, 30% for a genera & 10% for any one species.”
  • Planting more trees in industrial areas.

For management:

  • Management of the tree for the whole of its life, including pruning deadwood. This is a recent management approach, as I was once told that Council did not have the time to prune trees. It may mean we get to keep more mature street trees, as branches that are likely to fall may be pruned before they do.
  • Monitoring footpaths for hazards.
  • Using flexible pathways, raised pathways. bridging footpaths & a “Tripstop’ jointing system on affected footpaths where appropriate.
  • Doing root-pruning & installing root barriers.
  • The removal of street trees said to be causing damage will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. However, removal is “not considered justified when damage is restricted to minor works such as unit paving, fencing or footpaths & driveways or to deteriorating sewer or drainage lines where reasonable & practical repairs can be carried out.” Only time will tell how this eventuates, as the Councillors have the last say & usually vote to remove the tree, even when Council staff recommend otherwise.

Council will avoid:

  • Planting trees that produce a lot of fruit, such as Plum pines.
  • Planting trees that produce fleshy flowers, heavy seed pods or have excessive leaf drop – except deciduous trees.
  • Planting tree species that drop limbs or lift pavements. I’d love to see a list of the tree species that do this.
  • Planting palms due to the ongoing cost of removing fronds & because of their limited canopy.
  • Restricted use of Evergreen ash (Fraxinus griffithi) & Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia) because of their tendency to become weeds.
  • Fruit trees should be on private land & not as a street tree. I presume this includes Olive trees.  In comparison, the City of Sydney Councl are trialing fruit & nut trees as street trees to create an urban food forest.

For sites:

  • 10% of the streets across Marrickville LGA have very narrow verges. In this case Council may not plant trees at all, or may use in-road planting. When they choose the in-road planting option, one side of the road will be kept free to allow free access by pedestrians, prams & wheelchairs.
  • Investigate in-road planting opportunities in wide streets.
  • Investigate using underground power & telecommunications cables.
  • Investigate using Aerial Bundled Cabling in some streets.
  • Replace old earthenware pipes with PVC welded pipes.
  • Remove smaller trees & replace with larger growing trees where appropriate.
  • Create a consistent streetscape character. Council will also use a precinct-planting concept “to provide character.” I have no idea why this is necessary & fear a continuation of an inequity of the type of streetscapes that has been to date.
  • Plant larger growing trees on the side without power lines, leaving the side that has powerlines without street trees where applicable.
  • Plant small growing trees under powerlines.
  • Protect in-road planting sites & reuse these once the current tree is removed.
  • No longer will there be one street tree in front of each house. By my understanding, Council will plant fewer trees in each street, often on one side only, but these will be larger canopy trees. How this will increase the overall canopy, I don’t know.
  • Stop planting street trees in front of parks, “unless the park trees are set well back & the verges are wide enough for successful tree planting.” In at least one location, this means no street trees opposite the park either.
  • Streets that have a north-south sides will be planted with smaller &/or deciduous trees on the southern side to allow for winter sun.
  • When a street tree is removed, another will be planted very close to the site.
  • Main road corridors will be planted with one tree species “over decades.”
  • Brushbox trees are planned for the Princes Highway & for Marrickville, Sydenham & Livingstone Roads, as well as Gordon, West & Crystal Streets.
  • Spotted gum & Crepe myrtle are planned for Illawarra Road.
  • Manchurian pear for New Canterbury, Stanmore, Edgeware, Addison & Unwin Bridge Roads & May Street.

Other:

  • There will be no changes to Council’s notification of removals.
  • “Any person found guilty of tree vandalism will be prosecuted.”

Council plans to plant a total of 73 tree species across Marrickville municipality.  These are –

  • 27 species or 36.9% will be exotic.
  • 46 species or 63.1% will be native.
  • 30 or 41.1% will be endemic to Sydney region.
  • 52 species or 71.2% will be evergreen.
  • 18 or 24.7% will be deciduous.
  • 3 or 4.1% will be palms.
  • 16 species or 21.9% are to be large stature.
  • 33 species or 45.2% are to be medium stature.
  • 24 species or 32.9% are to be small stature.

With nearly half our street trees being small stature, when Council does transition to medium-sized trees as the norm, our municipality should start to look vastly different & much greener.

Of interest:

  • 122 streets will have Watergum trees.
  • 95 streets will have Crepe myrtle trees.
  • 25 streets will have Bottlebrush trees.
  • 22 streets will have Tuckeroo trees. Look at Warren Road between Illawarra & Livingstone Road to see how unattractive this looks.
  • 16 streets will have Camelia trees. I would call a Camelia a shrub.
  • 9 streets will have Evergreen ash trees.
  • 5 streets will have Illawarra Flame trees. Lucky people.
  • 3 streets will have Firewheel trees. Another group of lucky people. I am shocked that only 8 streets will have Illawarra Flame & Firewheel trees. I personally think it is a shame that these trees will not be more common or used a feature trees. They are exceptionally beautiful when in flower & provide lots of food for wildlife.
  • Newington precinct will have lots of Jacaranda trees.
  • The wide barren verge outside St Vincent’s de Paul complex on West Street Lewisham will be planted with Brush Box trees.
  • Some of the really leafy streets in Newtown, Newtown North & Camperdown look like they are going to become less leafy as they will get trees only on one side of the street.
  • Newtown South & Enmore – 50% streets have a verge of less than 1.8 metres.
  • Newtown North & Camperdown 33% of the verges are less than 1.8 metres wide, which may mean no street trees.
  • Newtown South & Enmore also appear to be in for smaller street trees.
  • St Peters has many small verges as well, with many streets marked for no street trees at all.

I am disappointed that some streets will not get street trees at all because they have narrow footpaths. The City of Sydney Council do plant street trees on very narrow footpaths, choosing a slender, erect trees appropriate to the site. With trees known to be a massive factor in mental, physical & spiritual health of a community, I think these residents will miss out big time. No mention was given to alternative greening strategies for these streets.

I am thrilled that the neglected & ugly Princes Highway will finally get trees & decent Brush Box trees at that. What a difference it will make to the health of local residents, as well as commuters.

What concerns me is that the Master Plan said the greening of main roads would take “decades.” I wonder why this is necessary. Planting street trees in these areas is a priority in my mind because of the plethora of recent research proving the massive health benefits of street trees & more importantly, the negative health impacts to all ages in areas without street trees & where particulate matter from vehicles is a major factor. With respiratory & cardiac illness an accepted outcome of living & working near a main road, & with fatal heart attacks being more prevalent, I believe greening these areas is a serious public health issue.

Council appears to be aiming to radically reduce the Bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis) tree species throughout all precincts, which I think is a shame. The tree itself, planted on the side of the road without powerlines, so the power company does not need to prune it, is very beautiful indeed. It flowers for much of the year bringing colour & most importantly, provides food for birds & other wildlife. I have one outside my house & there are birds in it most of the day. I seriously wonder whether the near eradication of these trees that have been proven to cope with the harsh conditions is the right choice.

I would also prefer Council to set a target for increasing the urban forest. We do not even get told how many street trees are planted each year, nor whether Council’s target is met, unless a Councillor happens to ask via Questions on Notice in a Council Meeting. This has only happened once in the five years since I have been watching.

I believe it would be in Council’s best interest to tell the community – as a norm, how many trees they are planting & whether they have achieved their target. Information like this serves to raise the consciousness of the community. It empowers & motivates the community to value trees & appreciate Council’s work. I often find it odd that I read about other Councils’ tree planting targets & achievements, but know very little about my own.

While I think the ‘narrow street case study’ (page 36) is attractive on paper, I have strong reservations about reducing the trees from 17 trees on both sides of the road to 8 larger trees. Larger does not mean large. Fewer street trees may help Council manage the trees, but I feel the homes with no tree out the front will miss out in more ways than one. I also cannot see how reducing the number of street trees on a street will lead to increasing the overall canopy.

I would not like to be living in one of the houses on the treeless side of the street or one of the four houses on the other side that does not have a tree out front. I think we may need to see this approach to be able to assess whether it is a boon for the street or whether they do indeed need more trees.

Lastly, the document mentions ‘tree walls’ & lack of sunlight with a tree outside each property as though these are detractions. In my area, these shady spaces created by street trees often bring people out onto the street creating informal, but important place-making & connection for the community. Many times I’ve heard sighs of relief because it is cooler in these areas, while the houses & back gardens are hot.

It is also well-known that a good street tree out front significantly increases property values. I’ve even heard a Councillor speaking about pedestrians racing from street tree to street tree to get some relief from the sun. I am not an expert, so am happy to be told I am wrong with my impressions.

Overall, I think there are vast improvements coming to our municipality & think there is quite a bit to celebrate in the new approach. Even the horrid Pear trees will be removed from Crystal Street. It seems that many of our gateway streets, where people passing through form an opinion of the area, will become tree-lined & hopefully, more attractive.

It also seems that Council will put a stop for the need of Ausgrid to regularly decimate street trees because they were inappropriate plantings in the first place. The outcome of this will be the retention of beauty, bigger street trees & less emotional distress for many in the community, which was obvious during their last visit to the area. Hopefully, the urban forest will consist of real trees & not ‘little shorties’ that could be shrubs & which remain the same size for 5-years.

Hopefully we cease having areas that look like a desert when compared to our surrounding municipalities. North Newtown, Chippendale, Redfern, Balmain & Glebe have been transformed into leafy havens despite their narrow streets & verges. It Marrickville municipality joins them in outlook, it will be a wonderful thing.

I hope too that there is equity across the municipality, as currently there is quite a significant divide between areas that are leafy & those that are not. Equity in streetscape beautification, like hedges & verge plantings outside what is organized by the community, would be good too.

This is enough. I may revisit this topic. Thanks for reading this far. As always, this is my opinion, preferences & understanding. With trees I expect there to be differences in what people like. Don’t forget to have your say. I suspect this Master Plan will be in place for many decades. J

Thankfully the weedy Fraxinus griffithii will be less used as a street tree.

Thankfully the recognised weed Fraxinus griffithii will be used less as a street tree.

Hopefully, this common look around the streets of Marrickville LGA will be a thing of the past with more verges having kerb to fence concrete removed & trees planted in optimum conditions.

Hopefully, this common look around the streets of Marrickville LGA will soon be a thing of the past with more verges having kerb to fence concrete removed & trees planted in optimum conditions.

Street trees will be planted in industrial areas

Street trees will be planted in industrial areas

West Street will get Brush Box trees in this super-wide verge.

West Street Lewisham will get Brush Box trees in this super-wide verge.

 

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