I am feeling proud of Marrickville Council. Today I drove up Salisbury Road, well-known locally as a lovely leafy street, even though it is a main thoroughfare. This is one of the few streets that has elm trees and sections where the canopy reaches across the road.
Quite a few of the street trees on the northern side of Salisbury Road have been pruned by power company Ausgrid and left a shadow of their former selves. The pruning is quite vicious with many of the trees losing a whole side.
My initial response was despair as I looked at the poor trees thinking yet another street of great trees has been lost. Then I saw a large vinyl sign tied up high on one of the more butchered trees.
The sign says – “THIS TREE HAS BEEN PRUNED BY Ausgrid. Contact Ausgrid on 13 13 65 to express your concerns. Marrickville Council wants to prevent this type of destructive pruning.”
(Sorry, no photos at this time as our computer is in for repairs. I will add photos once I get it back.)
I was extremely happy to see Marrickville Council making such a visible and clear response to Augrid’s pruning standards.
Although Ausgrid says their “tree trimming” conforms to standards, one need only drive, walk or cycle around the streets of Marrickville municipality to see that the tree pruning is radically different than it was when Energy Australia was the power company that pruned the street trees. Yes there would be the occasional butchered tree, but it was certainly not the norm, as it is now with Ausgrid at the helm.
Street trees that have been there since the 1940s have lost their shape due to recent pruning, where they lived happily with power lines and a cycle of 7-8 year pruning. Even when pruning was done, the trees were left viable and for the most part, with their beauty intact.
We did not have electrical fires and streets or suburbs burning down. Nothing happened. The community had street trees and electrical power. It is my experience of the past that convinces me that Ausgrid’s tree pruning standards are beyond what is needed. That Marrickville Council agrees with me also confirms my opinion.
I do not think is okay for Ausgrid to decimate the street trees leaving many unviable. This approach to street tree pruning not only has a negative effect on the trees themselves. Ausgrid pruned during spring when many of the trees were in flower. Consequently they removed a large amount of food that wildlife was dependent on. Spring is also nesting season and is the one time when trees should be left alone. It is even more important to consider wildlife when we now know that bird numbers are declining in urban areas.
The other impact is on the well being of the community. Recent research is quite clear that green leafy streets have a positive impact on human health. Trees clean the air from pollutants. If you only have half a tree remaining, it can do only half the job it was doing. Therefore air pollution rises and according to researchers, so does respiratory and heart disease, with more fatal heart attacks.
Then there is the psychological impact of less green and ugly trees. Again, it is well-known that a green leafy streetscape results in significantly less depressive illnesses within the community. Less obesity too, as people are more inclined to leave their house and ditch their car if they have pleasant streets to walk. The flow on effects of a poor canopy on public health is costly and accumulative.
Then there is the issue of climate change with COP21 recently finishing in Paris. Trees are a vital component in managing. climate change. The urban forest has a major role sequestering carbon dioxide and cooling the streets. Marrickville Council is trying to lower the urban heat island effect in Dulwich Hill, but how can they make any meaningful and lasting impact if Ausgrid comes and removes half or more of the street trees.
All power companies need to play a big part in managing climate change. Their aim may be to have no trees on the side of the street with power lines, but if this happens our suburbs will become much hotter. With heat comes heat-related deaths, sometimes in the thousands.
What Ausgrid presents as a simple community service to keep us all safe from fire, has multiple impacts and all of them negative. I cannot understand why the previous power company Energy Australia, who managed electricity and street trees for many decades, were able to prune street trees without decimating them and causing local councils to be outraged at the loss of community amenity. As far as I can tell, nothing changed except the attitude and practices of the new power company Ausgrid.