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2014 street tree pruning by Augrid in Marrickville

2014 street tree pruning by Augrid in Marrickville.  This was an attractive tree.  It was left with barely any canopy to speak of and no amenity.

“The state’s electricity distributor has been accused of wilful vandalism by one of several Sydney councils frustrated by what they say is excessive pruning of street trees.”   See – http://bit.ly/1NkD6dV

That’s a pretty strong start to a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald about the new pruning techniques used by Ausgrid that are causing considerable shock to the Sydney community.

It is interesting to read the comments of the Mayors of Sutherland Shire Council, Marrickville Council & Woollahra Municipal Council.

Ausgrid said, “Contractors were trained to prune to Australian standards to protect the health of the tree and to allow for annual regrowth, as part of a vegetation management that cost Ausgrid about $40 million a year.”  And here is the threat – “Trimming trees more frequently would be inefficient and would add significantly to customers’ bills.”

From my observations Energy Australia came to my area to prune street trees every 7-8 years.  When Ausgrid took over the reigns, pruning of street trees seemed to be happening every 18-months, though since last year, it appears that they do not prune every tree in the street.  Thankfully, this stops the whole street looking like a war zone.

When Ausgrid started pruning street trees I thought this may just be a local problem. Lately I have been traveling around Sydney & have noticed that there are butchered street trees everywhere.

Part of the problem is inappropriate trees planted under power lines & the Councils are responsible for this.  Ausgrid appear to be addressing the problem by making trees so ugly or unstable that they are unviable.

Many of our street trees are decades old & therefore valuable infrastructure. They should be managed with care until they need to be removed because of natural causes or some other reason, but not because they have been rendered unsafe or unviable because of Ausgrid pruning practices.

Many local councils are aiming to increase the urban forest because of the threats to livability caused by climate change.  How are they going to get ahead when a large percentage of their street trees need to be removed or are rendered little more than poles with an insubstantial canopy?  The community is paying the energy supplier to destroy their street trees & decrease their quality of life.

Ausgrid says they have to prune like this for our safety.  Observation of the previous company‘s pruning practices is proof that such brutal & frequent pruning is not necessary.

When I talked to a pruning contractor & asked what he suggested as replacements, he said, “Shrubs or nothing.”

If you go to the suburbs of Port Macquarie you will see what streets look like when there are no street trees under power lines.  I wonder whether the Port Macquarie community receives a discount in their energy bills because very little pruning of street trees is needed for this community?  It would only seem reasonable.

Yes Councils can stop planting tall-growing trees under power lines, BUT a skilled pruner can prune taller trees making them safe without destroying the tree.  You only need to go through the streets of Sydney CBD to know that this is achievable.   Street trees of 3-4 storeys throughout the city streets have power lines going through or past the canopy, but the trees remain intact, tall & beautiful.

Ausgrid has a responsibility to the community to prune in a way that does not destroy their valuable infrastructure, their amenity & future livability with climate change. I have not even addressed the impact on wildlife.

One question which I have not had answered is why pruning of branches needs to be 1-metre below the telecommunications cable.

Two branches left after pruning by Ausgrid in 2014.

Two branches left after pruning by Ausgrid in 2014.  This was not an isolated incident in Marrickville municipality.  

This Magnolia  flower is as big as big as a dinner plate

This Magnolia flower is as big as big as a dinner plate

Magnolia are not only pretty, especially when in flower, but researchers have shown that “botanical extract honokiol, a biologically active molecule isolated from the bark of Magnolia spp. holds promise as an adjunct treatment for aggressive bladder and kidney cancers.”

Researcher Jun Yan found that “Honokiol significantly inhibited bladder cancer aggressiveness & tumour progression. 25-30% of patients with metastatic renal cancer cell line, 786-0 ….. have metastatic spread by the time they are diagnosed, with 5-year survival rates less than 10%.”  Go the Magnolia tree!  See – http://bit.ly/1VS5Wb8

Thankfully for both the tree & the community, this will one day be a thing of the past.  As they repave footpaths Marrickville Council is leaving more room for street trees to grow & collect rainwater.

Thankfully for both the tree & the community, this will one day be a thing of the past. As they gradually repave footpaths Marrickville Council is leaving more room for street trees to grow & collect rainwater.

A report on trees by the City of Melbourne Council says, leafy streets boost sale prices by up to 30 per cent.” This is not at all surprising to me. http://bit.ly/1GIMGmr

This week more than 50 local councils will meet to learn how to grow & maintain an urban forest. The workshops aim is to increase the tree canopy to prevent increased temperatures due to the urban heat island effect & also to increase the physical/mental wellbeing of the community. Trees are very good for people.

Yesterday, the City of Melbourne with the Victorian government, released the Urban Forest Creation Guide to help local councils successfully increase & retain their urban forest. The Guide is an Australian first. I hope it is released to the public, as I imagine many would like to learn from this guide. http://ab.co/1KdBjY9

Eight tall mature trees dying.  This is an incredible loss.  It was such a beautiful place & admired by many.

Eight tall mature trees dying. This is an incredible loss. It was such a beautiful place & admired by many.

The top of one canopy. Very sad.

The top of one canopy. Very sad.

Eight mature Blackbutt trees have been poisoned in the garden of an apartment block on Homer Street Earlwood.

The apartment block has wonderful views, as it overlooks the Cooks River, Marrickville Golf Course & all the way to Sydney CBD. The trees are well-known to everyone who looks across the Cooks River from Marrickville & Dulwich Hill.

The strata believes the trees were accidentally poisoned when land regeneration works were undertaken in April.   A hired “bush regeneration specialist” used strong chemicals to kill weeds and unintentionally infected the gums, the spokeswoman said.”

I am wondering if the strata will take legal action against the “bush regeneration specialist,” alleging negligence & seeking compensation for the losses the property has now suffered.

Canterbury Council is investigating & taking tissue samples “to determine the cause of poisoning.”

“A council spokesman said the gums would not be cut down unless they started to pose a danger.”  Let’s hope they turn these into habitat trees (see – http://bit.ly/1bTy5LW ) & also plant eight new gum trees very soon that will take the place of these trees when they finally do have to come down.

See – http://bit.ly/1BDQqsM

Another view of the property.

Another view of the property.

The Bush Regeneratuon Specialist appears to have missed a good opportunity to remove the asparagus fern from the property.

The “bush regeneratuon specialist” appears to have missed a good opportunity to remove the asparagus fern from the property.

Beautiful sign from a  young person who knows the value of trees.   Photo by Selma Tracey Sergent with thanks.

Beautiful sign from a young person who knows the value of trees. Photo by Selma Tracey Sergent used with thanks.

Australian singer Olivia Newton-John has launched the ‘One Tree Per Child’ initiative in Bristol England to increase their urban forest. See – http://bit.ly/17pJuRA

The ‘One Tree Per Child’ global campaign was launched in early 2013 by Jon Dee of ‘Planet Ark’ & ‘Do Something’ with Olivia Newton-John. The campaign’s aim is for every child in the world under ten to plant at least one tree as part of a school project.

Bristol is the first city to take on the challenge of ‘One Tree Per Child’ with 36,000 primary school students taking part.  Not only do the children get to plant a tree, but they also receive education from experts about the environment.

Bristol City Council is covering the cost of the trees & tools. The school grounds will be planted first & the Council will find other sites for the remaining trees to be planted.

“Planting trees and shrubs is a great way for school children to connect to the environment & their local community. As a child’s tree grows, their commitment to the environment & their local community grows as well.” ~ Mayor George Ferguson, Bristol City Council.  I think he is right.

I think this is a terrific initiative & the positive impact on the children taking part is likely to last a lifetime.

It is my belief that if you want environmentally responsible adults, you need to teach them the value of the environment while they are children.

This project is more than listening to words in a classroom. Being able to get their hands dirty while planting a tree actively connects the children to the environment & opens their eyes to the beauty & benefits of nature. It also instills a sense of pride & ownership. Being able to see that they have improved the visual outlook of the community, as well as provided food & habitat for wildlife would have an immense positive impact.

Children are busting to have the opportunity to plant trees.  This is very evident every year when hundreds of children participate in planting trees on National Tree Day in Sydney Park.

I think it would be great for Marrickville Council to take part in the ‘One Tree Per Child’ initiative.  Even if not all primary school students could take part due to lack of necessary funds, at least Year 6 of every school every year could. This is achievable & would help get our tree canopy above the woeful 16.3% that it is now.

If kids actually had the opportunity to plant trees, this kind of disrespect towards trees may become a thing of the past.

If kids actually had the opportunity to plant trees & watch them grow, this kind of disrespect towards trees may become a thing of the past.  

Screenshot of part of the City of Melbourne's urban forest map.  Look at all thise trees in three of the parks & just how many street trees there are.  The Council plans to increase their urban forest by 40% by 2040. They will achieve this by planting 3,000 trees per year.

Screenshot of part of the City of Melbourne’s urban forest map. Look at all thise trees in three of the parks & just how many street trees there are. The Council plans to increase their urban forest by 40% by 2040. They will achieve this by planting 3,000 trees per year.

The City of Melbourne has an interesting initiative that is showing that the community cares about its public trees.  I first read about this last year & it seems to have taken off in the community’s mind.

The City of Melbourne’s Urban Landscapes Team had the quite brilliant idea that each of their 70,000 public trees be assigned an email address allowing the community to send an email if they had something to report regarding a tree.

This initiative did not cost much as the Council already had a comprehensive database on every one of their public trees. Every tree has its own ID number, so the community does not need to try & describe the location of the tree to the Council in any correspondence. The ID number provides Council with all the information they need about ythe tree, a bit like your medical file.

The initiative allows people to report problems with trees to the Council, but they also started receiving positive emails about particular trees & how the person writing loves them.  In response, the Council staff began sending a reply email from the tree. How lovely is that!

I think this is a brilliant way of encouraging people of all ages to value the urban forest. I can easily imagine schoolteachers asking students to pick their favourite tree & to send an email listing all the reasons why they like it & thanking the tree for the benefits it provides. What an interesting way to get kids engaged & learn about the value of trees. Sending a reply could be fun for the Council staff too.  See – http://bit.ly/1KdQZrh

The article also said that Eucalypts are Melbourne’s most common trees. Nice that they have an Australian native tree that provides a quintessential Australian look to the streets, as well as being a great food & habitat provider for wildlife.

The City of Melbourne also has a comprehensive & interactive webpage about their urban forest. It also allows you to explore the database, which is really excellent community engagement in my opinion. You can find it here – http://melbourneurbanforestvisual.com.au/

South Dowling Street Darlinghurst - less than 10kms away from Marrickville, but like stepping into another world.

South Dowling Street Darlinghurst – less than 10kms away from Marrickville, but like stepping into another world.

Compare with Unwins Bridge Road at St Peters - my route coming home.

Compare with Unwins Bridge Road at St Peters – my route coming home.

New research published in the ‘Landscape & Urban Planning’ journal called, Urban street tree density and antidepressant prescription rates—A cross-sectional study in London, UK’ found that the rate of antidepressant prescriptions is lower in those people who live in areas with more street trees. Nor does it matter if you are rich or poor. The more street trees, the less need for anti-depressant medication.

I don’t find this at all surprising & it fits into my belief that public trees are a public health issue. Put another way – the decisions made by the local council in regards to greening the streetscape can & does impact on the mental health of the residents.

We all know of streets & indeed suburbs in Marrickville LGA that are relatively green & leafy. I say “relatively” because there is no comparison with many other municipalities across Sydney & the fact that Marrickville municipality has been shown to have one of the poorest tree canopies in Sydney with just 16% canopy cover.  Just cross Parramatta Road & visit Annandale or go to North Newtown to see the difference. See – http://bit.ly/1zixCtJ

There are also areas & suburbs in Marrickville LGA that have fewer & poor quality street trees & loads more hard surfaces.  Add to this that birds are active in areas with good street trees & almost non-existent in those without & you see another level of impact – white noise – & I think, joy. Birds give me a lot of pleasure & I love to hear them.

Birdsong is something I stop to listen for when I travel around the municipality & I have noticed that some streets have very little birdsong. I may see a few Indian mynas, but not much else.

The research looked at street trees across London & did not include trees in public parks. They also looked at socioeconomic status, unemployment, smoking & age.

In streets with an average of 40 trees per kilometer (which is awfully low) antidepressant prescriptions were between 358 – 578 per 1,000 people.

More street trees resulted in lower prescription rates. “For every additional tree per kilometer of street, the researchers found 1.38 fewer prescriptions in the population.”  See – http://bit.ly/1CdQGtx

The lesson in this is that if you want a happy community, then a really good way to start is to have a leafy streetscape. It is a failure to think that a patch of greenspace will be sufficient.  It won’t.

Remember that Deakin University’s annual Australian Unity Wellbeing Index in 2006 found that Marrickville was the unhappiest suburb in the country. We don’t know if this is changing, but I don’t think this is something that should be ignored or deemed ‘past.’

Heat is another factor affecting the community here that I don’t think would be as much an issue for the London community.  The streets in Marrickville municipality are hot & not just in the summer months.   2014 was the hottest year yet & even our winter had many hot days.

If you walk you will notice that there is a long space between patches of shade in many streets.   Even then the shade is not much.  I often see women with prams standing stationary under a small street tree obviously taking a breather from the heat.

In my opinion Marrickville Council needs to allocate significantly greater funds to the planting & care of street trees.  They also need to choose more species that are actually shade-producing.

With climate change starting to have an impact, the issue whether a street is south-facing may soon be a thing of the past.   Relevant once, but not with a changing climate & with Sydney predicted to have temperatures aligned with Rockhampton as it is now by the end of the century.

Heat-related deaths are also expected to soar to 17,200 deaths a year – up from the current 5,800.   See- http://bit.ly/1DM40tk   All these are very good reason why our urban forest needs to grow in size.

Public thoroughfare in Darlinghurst.  This is a very pleasant place to spend some time.

Pedestrian thoroughfare in Darlinghurst. This is a very pleasant place to spend some time.

Compare with this pedstrian thoroughfare at the top of John Street Petersham.  It's brown & barren.

Compare with this pedstrian thoroughfare at the top of John Street Petersham. It’s brown, barren & depressing.

Google map of Barangaroo & other iconic sites nearby.

Google map of Barangaroo & other iconic sites nearby.

Barangaroo is an iconic harbourside area in the City of Sydney that is being redeveloped. It is of important historical significance. The western promenade more so, because what is put there will showcase what the NSW government wants to show the world. One would therefore think representing the area’s heritage & character to the millions of local & foreign visitors is a top priority.

I was horrified to read an article in the Sun-Herald that an avenue of more than 100 American Honey locust trees (Gledistia triacanthos) are being planned for this iconic site.  See – http://bit.ly/1JCoSBN   It says that local landscape architects have written to the NSW Premier Baird to intervene to stop the planting.

Native to North America, the Honey locust is a rapid growing deciduous tree that grows to 20-metres. In October to November it blooms with creamy-yellow hanging flower stalks that develop into 20-30 cm long brown seedpods. It produces prolific seeds.

The tree is covered with large 3-10 cm thorns. There are so-called ‘thornless’ varieties, but these tend to produce thorns eventually. Their large thorny branches have a tendency to drop in windstorms.

They spread through the droppings of animals, carried in water flows or by suckering. There is a real risk that their seeds will be carried all around Sydney Harbour.

The species is a major invasive weed in many Australian areas.  The State of Queensland started an eradication program in 1993.   Honey locust trees cannot be sold anywhere in Queensland & all trees discovered must be destroyed.  They are also a problem on the NSW North Coast.

The Australian government’s Environment Department describes the species as an aggressive exotic tree. It says, “Although beneficial in the short term as stock feed, the long term consequences of its growth & spread are counter productive.  Honey locust is an invasive tree capable of out-competing & replacing native vegetation.”

They are described as being able to spread at an uncontrollable rate. Bulldozing them only serves to help them spread as they vigorously regrow from their broken trunks. Poisoning with herbicides is the recommended method of killing them.

They are not an appropriate tree for this harbourside location.

The NSW government department (Barangaroo Delivery Authority) seems to have uncritically accepted the choice without any thinking of its own. For such an iconic area of Sydney, I would have thought Australian native trees could have been planted. Instead we will get thorny exotic trees declared a noxious weed in some parts of Australia.

I would have expected the government department responsible for delivering such an important piece of public infrastructure to have been a good deal more astute when it received this recommendation from a foreign-based consultant, as opposed to slavishly accepting it. I hope the NSW Premier listens to the desperate calls from the local experts & stops the planting.

Thorns of a Honey locust tree - decalred as a Class 1 Pest Plant in Queensland.  Photo by Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry Biosecurity Queensland - used with thanks.

Thorns of a Honey locust tree – declared as a Class 1 Pest Plant in Queensland.   I can’t imagine they will plant these, but even non-thorny varietties eventually do grow thorns.  Photo by Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry Biosecurity Queensland – used with thanks.

The shows two entrances into two separate hollows.  It looks very natural.

The shows the entrance into the hollow. It looks very natural & would be very attractive for a bird to explore. 

This photo shows the back of two man-made hollows  shows how hard they are to spot from the ground.

The back of two man-made hollows that shows how hard they are to spot from the ground.

The following photos are examples of how Marrickville Council creates a habitat tree, which is a tree that would normally be removed because it presents a risk to the public or infrastructure.  Instead it is modified to remain useful to wildlife.

These were on display in Council’s kiosk at the Marrickville Festival last Sunday.  I did not go to the festival, but was fortunate to be shown these exhibits last week.

I found it extremely interesting to be able to look at these hollows & to see close-up just how small the entrance are. It’s one thing to see a photo or read a description & something else entirely to be able to see & touch a real one.

I think it was a great idea for Marrickville Council to create such an exhibit & feel happy that so many in our community got to see & touch these exhibits as I did.

You can read about habitat trees here – http://bit.ly/1034evv

Inside a man-made microbbat hollow - nice & roomy

Inside a man-made hollow – nice & roomy. 

Holding the back panel to the above nesting hollow

Holding the back panel to the above nesting hollow

Demonstrating the small entrance for microbats.

Demonstrating the small entrance for microbats.

 

I literally gasped at the beauty when I first saw Williams Parade in Dulwich Hill.   It's also full of bird song, which adds to the whole wonderful streetscape.

I literally gasped at the beauty when I first saw Williams Parade in Dulwich Hill. It’s also full of bird song, which adds to the whole wonderful streetscape.

Warren Road Marrickville has looked like this for at least 5-years.

Warren Road Marrickville has looked like this for at least 5-years.

Once again inequity of the urban environment has been shown to impact the health of the community, this time pregnant woman & newborn babies.

New research published in ‘Environmental Health Perspectives’ by researchers from Oregon State University USA, the University of British Columbia Canada & Utrecht University in The Netherlands has shown that that a leafy environment in urban areas has an impact on birth weight & full-term gestation of human babies.

Live in a green leafy area & it is more likely that there will be fewer premature births & babies will be born with a higher birth weight. The opposite is true for pregnant women who live in areas with less greenery & less green space.

“The findings held even when factors such as socioeconomic status, walkability, & exposure to air pollution & noise were controlled for…” http://bit.ly/1pUW7pl

The researchers think that reduced stress levels & depression, plus the ability to connect with others while out in green spaces are factors.

Mental health & connectivity have been the subject of recent research that clearly shows that street trees, leafy parks & green spaces all help raise the mental, physical & spiritual health of the community.  In contrast, areas with few trees, & I would include good-looking trees, & few green spaces increases the incidence & duration of depressive illness.

Not only does Marrickville municipality have the least green space in Australia, but in 2010, Marrickville was found to be the unhappiest suburb in Australia according to the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index conducted by Deakin University. Add to this the incredible increase in traffic in some parts of the municipality & I think street trees & green leafy parks are once again showing their importance to public health.

The more street trees, green walls, verge gardens & leafy parks we can have, the better off the health of our community will be. I also think that new high-rise housing developments should include green space. Now it has been shown that trees & green space play a vital part in the start of life.

You can read the research in here – http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1308049/

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