The streets of Waterloo are wonderfully green with lots of tall trees.

The streets of Waterloo are wonderfully green with lots of tall trees.  

Dank Street Waterloo - verge gardens on both sides of the footpath, plus many tall street trees.  It was a very pleasant streetscape. Also, note the three tall Eucalypts that have been left in situ & a roof structure built around them instead of removing them.

Dank Street Waterloo – verge gardens on both sides of the footpath, plus many tall street trees. It was a very pleasant place to walk & people were everywhere.  Note the three tall Eucalypts that have been left in situ & a roof structure built around them instead of removing them….keeping trees whenever possible is one way to retain the urban forest.

A new report called Neighborhood greenspace and health in a large urban center’ has found that people who live in neighborhoods with a higher density of trees on their streets report significantly higher health perception and significantly less cardio-metabolic conditions[cardio-metabolic conditions include diabetes, heart disease or stroke.]

We find that having 10 more trees in a city block, on average, improves health perception in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $10,000 higher median income or being 7 years younger.

We also find that having 11 more trees in a city block, on average, decreases cardio-metabolic conditions in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $20,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $20,000 higher median income or being 1.4 years younger.” See – http://bit.ly/1G9OL9u

It’s easy to see why.  Trees & the view of trees make people feel better. The presence of good-looking trees (not the small spindly things passing for street trees in our municipality or the poor butchered trees) improves peoples’ mental, physical & spiritual health.  Apart from “significantly less” diabetes, heart disease & stroke, depression rates lessen & overall happiness increases.  A good urban forest is vital for a community’s health & should be a priority for every local council.

Marrickville municipality’s urban forest is 16.3%, which is dismal & one of the lowest in Sydney.

Recently Marrickville Council said on Facebook that they are planting “over 400 trees” this season. This is great, but they also planned for the removal of 1,590 street trees since December 2012, plus the other trees removed that were not identified for removal in the Tree Inventory. The bulk of the trees to be removed were mature.  It takes a long time to replace the benefits provided by a mature tree.

At 400 new trees per year, it would take 4-years just to replace the 1,590 street trees removed (or still to be removed) & this does not equate to increasing our urban forest.  It is just breaking even with what is currently considered a poor level of canopy cover.

As for the research finding that having 10 more trees in a city block, on average, improves health perception in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $10,000 higher median income or being 7 years younger,” this too is understandable.

One only needs to travel to nearby suburbs like Alexandria, North Newtown, Darlington, Redfern, Waterloo, Darlinghurst or Paddington to see the enormous & positive difference good street trees can make to an area.  Travel over the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the North Shore & the differences are more pronounced, but so are the housing prices.  People pay much more to live in leafy areas.

Trees make an area. They increase livability. They provide beauty, muffle the sound of traffic, remove pollution, provide shade & shelter & bring in the wildlife.

Even the sound of birds makes life nicer. This is something that is taken for granted when one is used to living with the sound of birdsong, but when there are few trees & fewer birds, one notices the lack of birdsong. Unfortunately many have become accustomed to the lack of birdsong & don’t notice the “wildlife poverty.”

Earlier this week I traveled to Baulkham Hills via Pymble. After looking at their urban forest, I am convinced that we have “tree poverty” here in many parts of Marrickville LGA. There is no reason for this other than Council’s decision on what species of tree they plant & where they plant.   To me it is sad. We have many wide roads & many places where trees could be planted, yet the Tree Inventory said there was only 1,544 “vacant planting opportunities.”

The Tree Inventory found that Marrickville municipality had a total of 22,608 street trees in December 2012. That may sound a lot, but remember we have one of the smallest tree canopies in Sydney. Although Council says they are committed to increasing the urban forest, they have not given a percentage target of their planned increase. This is unlike other local councils throughout Sydney & Australia who numerically disclose their intended target.  This means any amount of trees planted will allow Council to say they have achieved their Key Performance Indicator for that year & the community will be none the wiser.

If the ‘vacant planting opportunities’ do get filled, this will mean our urban forest will have a total of only 24,152 trees. This is not nearly enough in my opinion. The idea that our urban forest will only ever be as good as an extra 1,544 trees makes me feel frustrated. It means that the urban forest will likely continue to be as it is currently & our municipality will not get the injection of streetscape beauty needed in many of our streets.

To reiterate some of the most important findings of the Tree Inventory –

  • 2,034 or 9% of our urban are in poor health or dead.
  • 4,068 trees or 18% of our urban forest have poor or very poor structure or have failed. This makes 6,102 trees in total that are sick, have poor structure or are dying or dead.
  • 4,236 trees were identified as causing footpath damage, kerb damage, road damage or damage to private infrastructure.
  • 15,226 trees or 69% are mature.
  • 4,540 trees or 20% are assessed as having a Useful Life Expectancy of 10 years or less.
  • Compared to 8 other Councils Marrickville street trees are smaller in size, so this will be even more noticeable when the identified 20% or 4,540 trees come to the end of their safe useful life expectancy by December 2017 & are removed.
  • 7,997 trees were identified for minor maintenance through to tree removal. 7,011 trees were recommended for major & minor tree maintenance works. This is a total of 15,008 trees of which 88% are Moderate Priority (within 2 years) or Low Priority (within 4 Years).

As the research shows again & again – trees are good for our health & the more trees there are, the better our health on all levels.

Another view of the street trees in Waterloo.  These were not one offs - every street we walked was full of street trees.

Another view of the street trees in Waterloo. These were not one offs – every street we walked was full of big tall street trees.

Tall street trees always look fabulous, even without leaves in winter.

Another Waterloo street.  Tall street trees always look fabulous, even without leaves in winter.

And another Waterloo street looking gorgeous.

And another Waterloo street looking gorgeous.  If this can be done so close to Sydney CBD, it can be achieved in Marrickville municipality.

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