Corner of Canterbury Road and Herbert Street Dulwich Hill – an unusual opportunity by Council to make a truly green and inviting space for the community in this location. A missed opportunity and I bet this work cost a lot.

New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill.   Plenty of room for street trees here

A while ago a reader wrote & asked what I thought of the NSW government’s plan to plant 5-million new trees across Sydney by 2030.  I was surprised that I had missed such a great commitment from the government & pleased that finally, something was happening to address Sydney’s canopy.

The issue is back in the news today, so I thought I would write about it for the people like me who missed this news.

Climate change is coming with a vengeance.  You just have to feel today’s temperature at a record-breaking 35-degrees for the third time this week in mid-Autumn to know something is going on & every year it gets hotter. Even the trees are getting confused putting on a second flowering when they are supposed to be shedding their leaves.

The ‘Five Million Trees’ initiative will cost $37.5-million over four years & will increase Sydney’s existing tree canopy from 16.8% to 40% over the next 12-years.  The former Marrickville LGA’s canopy was documented as “poor” by 202020 Vision at 16.3%.  Leichardt LGA was documented as 20.3%, & Ashfield as 19.8%.  

You just have to cross Parramatta Road to Leichhardt & Annandale to see a massive difference in the canopy compared to Marrickville, Tempe, Sydenham & St Peters.  The suburbs of Petersham, Camperdown & Stanmore fare much better & to my mind, have a much nicer streetscape because of the street trees. Even then, the comparison to streetscapes in the former Leichhardt LGA makes these suburbs look tree poor.  Dulwich Hill is somewhere in the middle depending on where you are.

Taking our canopy from 16.3% to 40% by 2030 will mean a substantial increase in livability for residents, though I do have concerns about how this will be managed with the coming over-development for Marrickville & Dulwich Hill.

Development generally means losing mature trees & token trees as a replacement.  Let’s hope the government forces developers to leave space for big canopy trees & not take the route of removing trees in one place & saying it is okay to plant trees somewhere else.  This is a terribly poor result for the community & especially wildlife.

This would be a good time to force developers to set their high-rise buildings back 4-5 metres to allow trees to be planted at the street front instead of building right to the footpath.  Trees in the front of set-back buildings could look so much better & be much healthier for the residents of these buildings.  I would be happy to give developers extra height to allow space at the front for trees & to avoid the tunnel effect of overbearing buildings.

380,000 trees will need to be planted by local councils across Sydney every year for 12-years to achieve the target & to minimize the urban heat island effect. 

I would love to know how many new trees Inner West Council will need to plant every year to meet this target. The improved canopy cover is expected to reduce temperatures when the sun is at its hottest by approximately 5-degrees Celsius.  That doesn’t sound much, but stand under a shady tree on a hot summer’s day & you will instantly notice how much cooler & pleasant this is. We will have people being neighbourly again & not trapped inside with the air-conditioning. This will be a good thing for community relations.

In 2017 the Inner West Council said they planted 1,000 trees across the municipality.  While I am pleased for any new tree planted, I thought that was a low number for what was, until recently, three municipalities.  They did not say where the trees were planted, so we have no idea whether each former municipality got one-third each or Balmain & Leichhardt lucked out with the largest number of new trees planted. Who knows?  You can’t blame anyone for wondering these things when there is poor information given.

I estimate that the Inner West Council will be required to plant more than three times that number every year from now on.  Perhaps, this will encourage council to include the community in tree planting, as happens elsewhere across the globe.  If the residents help plant the trees, there is a lesser chance that these will be vandalized.

The community will come to understand why trees are necessary & how these new street trees will improve their quality of life, their health, the value of their home & lessen their power bills.

You just have to see the work done by Blacktown City Council’s Cool Streets project to see how their community went from choosing small stature street trees to choosing a mixture of medium to tall trees.  They made the huge change because they learnt about the benefits to their health & their wallet.  Of course, there is always a chance of a roaming vandal, but hopefully, these people get caught up in the tree education and decide to vandalise inanimate objects (or their own home) instead of public trees.

The NSW government also plans to give away 15,000 trees to people who are building homes in new land release areas in Western Sydney.  This is a very good thing, but I wonder where they will find space to plant them. Having seen new estates, the blocks are almost all covered by the building’s footprint.   There also needs to be means to check that these trees have actually been planted.

Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said, “Planting this many trees across Sydney is equivalent to taking about 355,000 cars off the road each year.”

The ‘Five Million Trees’ initiative is part of the NSW Government’s Open Spaces package at a cost of $290 million.

  • $100-million will be to secure green space,
  • $20-million will be to build & renovate up to 200 playgrounds.
  • $30-million will be to create 81 school ovals & playgrounds for public use during school holidays.   I have concerns about using playgrounds as public green space. I may write about this on another occasion.

Marrickville streetscape. There was more concrete behind me.

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