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Marrickville streetscape.  There was more concrete behind me.

Marrickville streetscape – photo taken last week. There was more concrete behind me.

The news has been very tree-orientated in the last few days with Greg Hunt the Federal Environment Minister announcing that the government will have a vision for improved urban tree coverage within 18-months. See – http://bit.ly/1KvzEuO

The federal government’s plan for cities is to increase the urban canopy every decade to 2050 to “reduce heat within city environments and improve health outcomes.”

“Green cities — cities with high levels of trees, foliage and green spaces — provide enormous benefits to their residents. Increasing urban canopy coverage decreases heat, which improves health and quality of life.”

Finally the urban canopy is being acknowledged as a health issue!  Recent research has found an increase in respiratory & cardiac illness with more fatal cardiac arrests in areas with a poor canopy. Add increased depression & obesity & you have an unhealthy, unhappy community, which ultimately has a cost on all of the community.

Unless there is a change of culture, I believe these problems will only increase with the current trend of high-rise housing with little or no green space or access to peaceful green space, as many of our parks are being transformed into entertainment areas.  Therefore, an Australia-wide initiative driven by the federal government to increase the urban forest canopy can only be applauded. We can have high-rise & green space. Green walls & green roofs can be incorporated into new designs just as easily as a pool for example.

The federal government’s announcement might be alarming for those state governments which are removing trees at a fierce rate in the push for development.  In Sydney alone 400 trees, many of them large Fig trees that are iconic to Sydney are being removed in Randwick for the eastern suburbs light rail project. This is despite Randwick Council saying that the light rail line can travel the same route without removing the trees. A whopping 760 trees will be removed along the entire light rail route.

The NSW government’s response to criticism about the tree loss has been that eight new trees will be planted for every tree removed. Sounds good, but I will watch with interest at what species of tree is planted, how many survive & what the canopy looks like in a decade. I highly doubt the canopy will ever look like it did in the beginning of December 2015.

Even closer to Marrickville LGA is Sydney Park at St Peters where 350 trees are being removed to establish a construction depot for the WestConnex Motorway.  See – http://bit.ly/1OpHg63.  It seems that trees & green spaces are fair game for development, even when there are other options. Bushland at Wolli Creek is also threatened for WestConnex. The most expedient & cheapest way is to remove trees, yet the impact of doing so has far reaching consequences on both the community & the wildlife.

Then there is the 10/50 Code that allows for any tree to be removed within 10-metres of a home & remove underlying vegetation within 50-metres of a home without seeking approval because of bushfire risk. The North Shore & Pittwater areas of Sydney have been losing trees like they have no meaning.  The 10/50 Code offers a giant loophole for landowners to remove trees for any reason they like & according to Lane Cove Council, bushfire risk in the area is minimal. Still their urban forest has been decimated.

Globally 2015 was the hottest year since records started. 2011 to 2015 have been the hottest 5-year period world-wide since records started.  Sydney is expected to be like living in Rockhampton in subtropical Queensland by the turn of the century. See – http://bit.ly/1DM40tk Therefore, what is planted also needs to be taken into consideration if local councils want the trees to survive more than a few years.

Part of greening our cities, which also includes suburbs, requires a culture-shift of the community itself. Many areas of Sydney are defined by their trees – the North Shore, Pittwater, Eastwood area & Sutherland Shire as examples. Then there are suburbs with few trees, both public & private.

I took this photo in Bexley today.  This was one of a number of other street trees pruned like this.

I took this photo today in Bexley. This street tree has negligible amenity, except for the person who pruned it.  It adds no benefit to the wider community or to managing climate change

I think it may be a battle for a while until the prevailing attitude towards trees changes. To change public perception of trees, the government will need to embark on a strong multi-media education program. Twice in the past week I passed individuals in Marrickville who were casually pruning street trees into small stumps with no canopy.   That they do this in broad daylight shows that they believe that it is their right to do so & that they have little care or no conception that the street tree belongs to the whole community.

With luck, tree vandalism will become a rare occurrence, street trees will be planted in better conditions & the community will embrace the care of the tree by watering it while it is establishing & also during dry periods.

What will be wonderful in my opinion is that large canopy trees will become the norm because it is these trees that provide the most benefit & utility in cooling the streets & also in carbon sequestration.  It is also these types of trees that the federal government is talking about. I will be very pleased to see spindly street trees only used in spaces where there is no room for anything larger.

I will also enjoy the resultant beauty along our streetscapes when trees become more of a feature than buildings & where landscaping is used more often than concrete. Green walls & green roofs will be wonderful as well.

Lastly, greening our suburbs will bring wildlife in & support wildlife already here. Instead of the constant noise of traffic & planes, we will listen to white noise of bird song during the day & crickets & frogs at dusk. I know this to be true because the simple addition of some native trees & an under-storey has brought much wildlife to out place, whereas it was almost bereft when we moved in.

We have to change as individuals & as communities. Local Councils need to change as well. Much needs to be tossed out of current tree policies if they do not support increasing the canopy or the tree species chosen & placement does little to lower the urban heat island effect.  I suspect local councils will rapidly get on board with federal government directives, but I fear some in the community may find it hard to embrace an environment full of trees. We all have much to gain from a greener environment, from large canopy trees, to areas of under-storey filled with shrubs & plants & grasses & from being able to walk around without dashing from patch of shade to patch of shade.

Climate change will demand that everyone cooperates with the greening of our cities or we will suffer, cause our community to suffer & make it unlivable for future generations.

 

The sign by Marrickville Council. I am very pleased that Council is doing this.

The sign by Marrickville Council. I am very pleased that Council is doing this.

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.

Marrickville Council hung this large sign high up in a street tree on Salisbury Road Camperdown. My photo does not show that a whole side of the tree has been removed.

Marrickville Council hung this large sign high up in a street tree on Salisbury Road Camperdown. My photo does not show that a whole side of the tree has been removed.

Stanmore Sydney.  Trees can define an area and act as landmarks.  I remember when this palm was planted. It was the early 80s and a number of  people I worked with actually went have a look because it was so unusual for trees to be planted in roundabouts.

I don’t have a photo of London, so here is one in Stanmore Sydney. Trees can define an area and act as landmarks. I remember when this palm was planted. It was the early 80s and a number of people I worked with actually went have a look because it was so unusual for trees to be planted in roundabouts.

London England has 8-million trees & these just been calculated to have a value of £6.1 billion.  Yes, billion with a B.  The trees also contribute a further £130 million in wider benefits.

The value of the trees was calculated by an iTree urban forest survey. See – http://bit.ly/1YpoWy8

“Trees play a huge role in improving air quality and remove 299 tonnes of PM10 and 698 tonnes of NO2 pollution across London annually.”

“Key services London’s trees provide include:

  • storm water alleviation = 3,414,000m3 per annum worth £2.8 Million
  • carbon storage = 2,367,000t per annum worth £146.9 Million
  • pollution removal = 2241t per annum worth £126.1 Million
  • It would cost £6.1bn to replace all of London’s tree canopy.”

A new partnership with Unilever & the City of London will mean a further 40,000 new trees planted. 20,000 of these new trees will be offered to London’s schools & 20,000 trees will create a new urban woodland in West London, which the community will help plant.

“The Mayor has already supported the planting of nearly half a million trees in London including 20,000 street trees along some of the busiest roads.”

London definitely gets just how important trees are to helping mitigate climate change, carbon sequestration, lowering air pollution, managing storm water, adding beauty to the streetscapes, as well as improving livability & public health.  Imagine how beautiful another 40,000 trees will look.

A truly amazing sign placed on a tree by Shoalhaven City Council.  The tree is in Sanctuary Point, which is located about 25-km south of Nowra & around 200-km south of Sydney.   Photo  by Gavin Swan & I thank him for sharing it with me.

A truly amazing sign placed on a tree by Shoalhaven City Council. The tree is in Sanctuary Point, located about 25-km south of Nowra & around 200-km south of Sydney. Photo taken by Gavin Swan & I thank him for sharing it with me.

“The spread of the built environment results on conflicts between the death of such trees and public safety. The importance of old growth remnants for native fauna habitat was recognised in the decision to retain the main parts of this tree and the numerous hollows it contains. It has also been retained to show the scale of coastal forests that once covered the area. SCC”Shoalhaven City Council.

How progressive is this!  I think this is a fabulous way to educate the community on the value of trees, especially old growth trees.  Hollows are incredibly important & they are being lost at an alarming rate.

It takes between 100-150 years before trees start creating hollows.  Eucalypts start creating hollows after dropping branches & we know that once branch-dropping starts, the tree is removed for the safety of the human population

“Australia-wide, 15% of all land birds use hollows. These 114 species include parrots, owls cockatoos & lorikeets, ducks, treecreepers, owls, owlet-nightjar, kingfishers, pardolotes, martins & woodswallows.”  ~ Sourced from Wildlife Notes, Department of Conservation & Management April 2005.

One of the least known characteristics of Australian animals is their high utilisation of tree hollows. For example, the proportion of Australian animals that use tree hollows is three times greater than in North America & twice as great as in South Africa.

About 350 Australian animals use hollows for either roosting or nesting. This includes:


  • half of our small bats, 
  • nearly 90% of our parrots, 
  • all of our gliders, 
  • all but one of our owls 
  • all of our tree-creepers. 

Nearly 20% of our birds use hollows in some way. For 60% of these, hollows are essential.” http://www.ozbox.net.au/anim&holl.htm

Of the 22 species of bats that have been recorded to utilise tree hollows in NSW, 10 of these are listed as threatened. (Gibbons & Lindenmayer 1997).

I am very impressed by this action by Shoalhaven City Council & hope that it becomes commonplace across Australia.

Lots of trees has transformed this park into a pleasant green space for locals.

Camperdown Memorial Rest Park.  Lots of trees has transformed this park into a pleasant green space for locals.

We were surprised to discover the City of Sydney’s plan to increase current canopy cover by 50 per cent could have a bigger impact on reducing air pollution than a reduction in traffic.” ~ Peter Irga lead researcher of a University of Technology Sydney study that shows the pollution reduction benefits of trees.

Today, ‘The Economic Framework for Green Infrastructure,’ was released.  The Framework is a joint effort by City of Melbourne, City of Banyule, City of Kingston, City of Moonee Valley & Victoria University in partnership with the Victorian Government.  The document will help local councils put a dollar value on their urban greening activities.

“The Framework identifies the key steps needed to value “green infrastructure”, and outlines a full life cycle management process to assist decision making. It also provides explanations around various approaches used to value green infrastructure.”

The evidence is becoming overwhelming. Trees, canopy cover & green space is vital for the health of the community. Without these things in sufficient amounts, people suffer from negative health effects such as depression. obesity, heart disease, respiratory disease & according to the University of Technology researchers, several types of cancer. Local councils need to increase their budget to allow for green infrastructure to be increased, maintained & built upon to increase livability, health & happiness.

To read more see – http://bit.ly/1SL08xj

A resident said with some sarcasm that they were glad Ausgrid at least left some canopy over the street.

A resident said with some sarcasm that they were glad Ausgrid at least left some canopy over the street.

 Despointes Street Marrickville were pruned recently & are a shadow of their former selves. Photo 2012

Despointes Street Marrickville were pruned recently & are a shadow of their former selves. Photo 2012

Power company Ausgrid has until the end of November an online community survey on tree pruning, which covers parts of Sydney, the Central Coast & the Hunter region. They are asking the public to do this survey & I believe if we want to see change in the way our tree assets are being managed, it is in our best interest to participate.

They say that this survey, part of their community engagement program –

  • “aims to understand communities’ interests,
  • develop a shared understanding of the need for tree trimming around the electricity network and
  • help to improve the way Ausgrid performs tree trimming in the future.”

I have done the survey. It is pretty basic & consists of ten questions.

One question asked whether I would be prepared to pay a higher electricity bill in return for Ausgrid taking into consideration how the trees look when they undertake tree pruning. In other words, would I be prepared to pay for trees not to be butchered? This approach begs the question – how did Energy Australia do a better job at pruning our street trees without the need to butcher most trees & why did this not cost the consumer more?

I would like to know how much extra it would cost for tree pruners to do a ro sympathetically prune trees & why? Is it because they would need a few more minutes to assess the tree? I don’t know. These are serious questions in my mind.

Ausgrid says that they spend almost $40 million on “tree trimming.” In the financial years of 2013-2014 Ausgrid is reported to have a net profit after tax of $607.5 million. See –  http://bit.ly/1Q2mmvf   This again makes me wonder why the consumer would need to pay more to have trees pruned sympathetically to retain their amenity & aesthetics, whilst still ensuring safety.

There are important factors with street tree pruning. I agree that electricity supply needs to be safe. However, I can only wonder what has happened with the electricity infrastructure that was not affecting Energy Australia when they managed the system & the trees. Energy Australia pruned on a cycle of around every 7-8 years. Yes it visually hurt when they came to prune, but certainly not on the level that pruning is done these days – though this is strictly my opinion.

I agree that many of the street trees in my municipality are inappropriate for the site. For example, Paperbark trees planted directly under the power lines is a common sight across Marrickville LGA. However, many of these trees were planted 40 plus years ago & they survived pruning well until the change in the power company ownership.

One option in the Ausgrid survey is to work with local councils to remove all inappropriate trees & plant smaller trees.   This is a good idea, but can you imagine what the impact would be on our already poor canopy of 16.3% if there were a mass removal of all street trees that would grow into or near the power lines – or the telecommunications cable, which seems to be so delicate that pruning needs to occur 1-metre below this?

Take a look around you the next time you go out. I would guess that at least half of our street trees would need to be removed.

I can understand the need for safety, but I cannot understand why pruning needs to keep the telecommunications cables clear. Every now & then the media mention the NBN & suggests that some areas will need these cables attached to the power poles. Can you imagine how much lower pruning would need to be if this eventuates?

The only realistic option I can see is a compromise between Ausgrid & the local councils – for the local councils to start a very sensible program of only planting small stature trees under power lines & plant the other side of the street with tall stature trees.

Seems a no-brainer to me, but this has not been done as a norm. Everywhere you look around Marrickville LGA you see tall growing trees planted under the power lines & many of these trees reach 10-metres or more at maturity. Yet the other side of the road is often bare or planted with small trees.

I have often wondered whether this is deliberate in that it provides a good reason to remove a street tree. It is rendered unviable after so much pruning, it has outgrown the space, is causing problems for infrastructure & so on. People tend to become attached to trees. Their attachment only increases as the tree ages & becomes more of a fixture in their life & their view of the area they live in. This can cause problems for the council when a tree or trees are to be removed.

A past staff member of Marrickville Council told me that street trees were only expected to live for 7-years. It was raised to 15-years after I expressed shock.  I am not saying this remains the opinion of Council, but it did highlight to me the disposability of street trees. I do know that both Melbourne City Council & City of Sydney Council plan for public trees to live for decades & that they protect their veteran trees.

Many local councils are planting to attempt to mitigate the effects of climate change & to lower the urban heat island effect. Heat waves are killers. Trees help substantially to lowering heat & providing respite from heat. They also have many more benefits, including filtering air pollution & providing the oxygen we need to breathe. See ‘100 Tree Facts’ in the pages above. We cannot live well without trees & certainly the current research says that the community would have poor mental & physical health without trees. Trees are extremely good for us on many levels & I am not even considering the wildlife in this. For them trees are essential.

Therefore our local councils & Ausgrid need to negotiate a common goal that meets the electricity needs, as well as the health of the community. This can be done without charging the consumer more. I believe this because it was done in the past. The change in the trees species under power lines needs to happen as the tree/s need to be removed, gradually, so that there is not a great loss to the community & the environment. It can be done.

I thank Ausgrid for listening to the complaints from the community about their tree pruning practices & for actively soliciting feedback from us by this survey.

Please consider taking the time to do this survey. You can find it here –

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ausgridtreetrimming

Every Melaleuca tree along Renwick Street now looks like this one. Photo 2014.

Every Melaleuca tree along Renwick Street now looks like this one. Photo 2014.

Street trees are being pruned like this in many parts of Sydney.  This Brushbox is in Canterbury.

Street trees are being pruned like this in many parts of Sydney. This Brushbox is in Canterbury. Photo 2015.

Marrickville Council created new verge gardens on both sides of Dickson Street Newtown.  Recently these were planted on a community planting day.  It looks great.

Marrickville Council created new verge gardens on both sides of Dickson Street Newtown. Recently these were planted on a community planting day.  It looks great.

I’ve just spent a very interesting block of time using the new ‘Trees and Health App’ designed by ‘The Healthy Trees, Healthy People’ program at Portland State University in the USA.   13 cities of the United States are covered in this app with more cities planned for the future.

The main research questions were –

  • “How do different canopy designs (type, composition, distribution, and location of vegetation) improve air quality and reduce the heat island formation in urban landscapes?
  • Which canopy designs are best for reducing the incidence of acute respiratory illness in neighborhood residence most exposed to air pollutants?
  • Which canopy designs are most promising for reducing health care costs to the United States?” [I love to read this as I have always said that the lack of trees is a health issue resulting is significant ongoing costs for the community. If you want better health in a community, then the urban forest & canopy cover needs to be better than good. At 16.3% the canopy of Marrickville municipality is deemed poor.]

The following puts the issues better than I can – “A growing body of research is drawing the link between human health outcomes and the presence – or absence – of trees. Urban street trees slow traffic, provide sidewalk shade, improve air quality, and reduce the urban heat island effect, contributing to improved health outcomes for children, older adults, and those living in poverty.  Air quality vulnerability varies between neighborhoods – and so does the presence of trees – but new trees are rarely planted with these variations in mind.”  See – http://bit.ly/1F5xYuU

The ‘Trees and Health App’ has three functions – to assess, prioritize & plan. Each of these delivers a lot of important information about the urban forest of the particular city mapped. Detailed information can be gathered about –

  • Percentage of canopy cover [note – this is different from the number of trees. Canopy cover refers to the proportion is how much land area is covered by tree crowns when viewed from the air.]
  • Traffic related air quality.
  • Urban heat island index.
  • Percentage of residents under age 18 years. [Young people are included because of the significant impact on their health when the canopy cover is poor.]
  • Percentage of residents over age 65 years. [The health of older people is more at risk by a poor canopy cover.]
  • Percentage of residents living under poverty level. [Of interest is that wealthier suburbs generally have more trees, including street trees & street landscaping. This is easy to see across Sydney, & also easy to see in Marrickville LGA, though rising housing costs are making so-called ‘less desirable suburbs’ million dollar suburbs despite a poor canopy cover.]
  • Vulnerable populations.

The first function of the app, ‘Access’ shows the vulnerability to poor air quality in any neighbourhood. The map has colour gradations that allow you to have an overview at a glance, then, go to any area you choose for more information.  Sliders filter neighborhoods by value.  You can even ask the app to show you the worst neighbourhoods in terms of lack of canopy cover.

The second function, ‘Prioritize’ allows you to get further details regarding neighborhood vulnerability statistics. It also allows you to find the areas that most need trees.

The third function, ‘Plan’ allows you to set a tree-planting goal in either a particular neighbourhood or to increase the current canopy cover.   You can even choose whether you plant trees that are small, medium or large at maturity & whether these will actually allow you to achieve your goal. The app will also tell you how many trees you need to plant in any particular block or neighbourhood.

You can even go further into an area by getting the app to break it down to street blocks.

All the information can be printed off into a jpg, pdf or exported in ESRI Shapefile format.

This is a basic overview of what the app can do. It provides way more information than I have covered, but you can read more & use the app yourself by going to their internet page. I most certainly recommend doing this, as it is a unique experience that will have you thinking about our own canopy cover.

One can only hope that this app is purchased for use in Australia as many local councils could benefit greatly from this remarkable app. The days of saying, “We have (insert number) thousand street trees” is over. This information is stuff of the past.

Thanks to the many researchers who have studied the urban tree canopy, we now know that the health impacts are significant, the cost the community is significant, as well as ongoing & that poorer areas have less street trees & less landscaping. I have often wondered whether the lack of street trees & pleasant landscaping in poorer areas is a choice by local councils to attempt to keep some suburbs more affordable.

Certainly this article believes that there is a clear demonstration that income equality can be seen from space.  Communities with a lower income have fewer trees than high-income communities.   See – http://bit.ly/1r0snht

You can find out about the Trees and Health App’ here – http://bit.ly/1KkJAqz

They have also made a video which can be viewed here – http://bit.ly/1JecLKc

One of the last Hills Fig trees outside of parks. I think it is a perfect planting in this space at Edinburgh Road Marrickville.

One of the last Hills Fig trees outside of parks in Marrickville LGA.  I think it is a perfect planting in this space at Edinburgh Road Marrickville because there is plenty of room for the tree.  I alos like that there are large garden beds on both sides of the road.

Ornamental pear trees are planted along Crystal Street Petersham.  In my opinion these provide very little benefit of impact to the streetscape.

Ornamental pear trees along Crystal Street Petersham. In my opinion these provide very little benefit or impact to the streetscape.

Three stumps in Beauchamp Street Marrickville.  To me it looks like the removal of the trees was not authorised.

Three stumps in Beauchamp Street Marrickville. To me it looks like the removal of the trees was not authorised.

Poor photo sorry, but Council has planted two trees to replace the three trees that appear to have been removed without authority in Beauchamp Street Marrickville.

Poor photo sorry, but Council has planted two trees to replace the three trees that appear to have been removed without authority in Beauchamp Street Marrickville.

On 15th September 2015 a Press Release from Marrickville Council said that they planted the last of 500 street trees the previous day, a Golden Penda. This is the first time that I am aware that Marrickville Council has published the number of street trees they got into the ground for the planting season.  I am very pleased & thank Council for publicly releasing this information.

Mayor Gardiner said in the Press Release – “Trees are amongst Marrickville’s most important assets.” I can only agree.

In March 2015 I wrote about the ‘One Child One Tree’ initiative. I wrote –

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.  See http://bit.ly/1DK6SSN

Therefore I was very happy to read further on in the Press Release that earlier this year Marrickville Council decided they would participate in the ‘One Child One Tree’ initiative.   As a community we should be proud of this. I would love to know just how many children we have in Marrickville LGA.

Council donated 70-mature trees to our local schools on National Schools Tree Day 2015.  Again, this is terrific & will help green our municipality, as well as educating our children on the benefits of nature.

The Press Release also spoke about Council’s participation on National Tree Day on 26th July 2015. Reading this I realized that I have been remiss & had forgotten to post about the event in Tempe Reserve despite visiting the site later that day. I participated in the event at Sydney Park.

So better late than never –

Marrickville Council’s National Tree Day site for 2015 is on the left side & behind the kiosk that sits alone to the left of the saltwater wetland. A small section on the other side of the path behind the kiosk was also included.

Logs from the felled wattle trees have been used to help prevent erosion in the area behind the kiosk.  Dead logs also provide habitat for flora & fauna, as well as add to the soil as they decay.

Logs from the felled wattle trees have been used to help prevent erosion in the area behind the kiosk. Dead logs also provide habitat for flora & fauna, as well as add to the soil as they decay.

Unfortunately, many of the wattle trees in Tempe Reserve had reached the end of their relatively short lives, as they had all been planted at the same time when the park was created.  The kiosk was surrounded by a significant number of wattle trees. Every time we cycled past, another wattle tree was down or dying. The area looked like a war zone in the end with dead tree trunks & weeds everywhere, so it was a great choice of site for National Tree Day.

Council and/or the community planted 7 new trees & all were a good size, which I believe lessens the chance of vandalism. They were untouched 2-3 weeks ago when we last cycled past. I don’t know how many community members attended, how many plants or even what kind of plants were planted.

The site looks mulched & cared for. The new trees will look terrific once grown & will most certainly be visible from many vantages from across the Cooks River. They are all natives & therefore will be a source of habitat & food for local wildlife. My thanks to Council & also to the community who participated.

Showing four new trees planted around the kiosk in Tempe Reserve for National Tree Day. .  There are also plants in the mulched areas, but being small are hard to see in this photo.

Showing four new trees planted around the kiosk in Tempe Reserve for National Tree Day. . There are also plants in the mulched areas, but being small are hard to see in this photo.  The area behind this photo was the 2011 National Tree Day site.

Looking from the bottom of the slope.

Sam area as the above photo, but looking from the bottom of the slope.

Area of planting on the other side of the path at Tempe Reserve.  This was the 2011 National Tree Day site.

Area of planting on the other side of the path at Tempe Reserve. This was the 2011 National Tree Day site.

New tree planted in the area opposite the path behind the kiosk.

New tree planted in the area opposite the path behind the kiosk.

 

Two very important trees in this photograph - the remnant Eucalypt at the gates of the Addison Road Centre thought to be at least 150-years-old and the Cooks Pine street tree across the road.  That too is is an old tree.

Two very important trees in this photograph – the remnant Eucalypt at the gates of the Addison Road Centre thought to be at least 150-years-old and the Cooks Pine across the road. That too is is an old tree & amazing that it is a street tree.

Councillor Chris Cornish of the City of Bayswater in Perth Western Australia has had a brilliant idea.

  • He wants to “assign trees with a dollar value that must be taken into account in planning decisions, weighted according to the trees economic, environmental and health benefits.” See – http://bit.ly/1gl7gST

He believes this will have a positive impact on the loss of the urban forest due to development. Any tree that has to be removed should be regarded as an asset (which they clearly are) & therefore the developer must pay for the loss of the asset.

Much to my admiration Councillor Cornish sees trees as “a critical issue.”  So do I.  With climate change bringing with it a steadily rising urban heat island effect there will be a much higher risk of death due to heat.

Trees also have significant impact on human health.  Trees filter pollution from vehicles.  Areas where the canopy is not good have been shown to have an increase in heart attacks & respiratory illness.  In a nutshell, trees are essential, not only for wildlife, but also for human beings.

Suffice to say that giving a dollar value to trees may go a long way to saving some of our urban forest, especially older trees.  I hope assigning a dollar value to trees becomes the norm across Australia.

Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada already has plans to put a dollar value on both private & public trees.  The city developed a database of all their 140,000 trees way back in 1990. This information is open access to the public & is updated weekly as new trees are planted.

Of interest, all their street trees undergo pruning every 8-years. The database does not include the 350,000 other trees in their parks. The city must look beautiful.

They want to expand the database to “quantify the annual “eco impact” of each tree, right down to how much it saves taxpayers in stormwater diversion, energy savings from shading, sequestration of carbon dioxide and filtration of pollutants.”

Vancouver’s urban forest canopy cover is 18%. It was 22.5% in 1995, but development & private tree removal has lowered the canopy cover “despite a mandate by [the] Mayor ….to plant 150,000 new trees by 2020 as part of their Greenest City Action Plan.” See – http://bit.ly/1OpHOtk

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.  

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