You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘10/50 Code and tree loss’ tag.

I love this oak tree that lives in a Marrickville back garden. The owner planted it 80 plus years ago and the whole family loves it.   It is bare for winter, but come spring, the wonderful vibrant green eaves transform this tree and the surrounding neighbourhood.

I am back.  I disappeared for a while.  My husband was in hospital twice & it has been a hectic time.   Lots has happened locally, but I did not have the time to focus.  He is home now, so now I can concentrate on trees & the local environment again.   Thanks to all who continued to come to see if I had written anything.

A resident sent me a Facebook post from Mayor Darcy Byrne who wants to make it easier for private trees to be removed if the resident feels it is posing a risk to safety or damaging their property.   See – https://www.facebook.com/byrne.darcy/videos/1797985483610673/

The Mayor says that the state government has changed the law to prevent Councillors from voting on tree applications “so officers who make the decisions have a lot of power.”  I presume this refers to Council Officers.  I always thought the Councillors had a lot of power to decide the fate of trees in the municipality.  I saw that if they were not tree-people, there was very little chance of them voting to retain a tree that was on the agenda of council meetings.

In this Facebook post Mayor Byrne repeatedly refers to replacing the trees & says he wants to increase the urban canopy.    This is good.

Saving Our Trees blog does not focus on private trees.  Public trees are more than enough work for one person to concentrate on.

I have always felt sorry for residents who have spoken to me about problem trees on their property & how hard it is to get permission to remove them.  It is a difficult subject because most of the ground to create a viable urban forest is private land.

The NSW government created the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code in 2014.  This Code allowed landowners to chop down trees on their property within 10-metres of a home & clear underlying vegetation such as shrubs on their property within 50-metres of their home, without a permit.  As a result, many of the leafy suburbs in Sydney lost a great percentage of their urban forest.  Many of the trees removed were significant, both in terms of visibility & were landmark trees & in providing homes & food for wildlife.   Trees removed were often not within the permitted area for tree removal.   There was an uproar in the community, the NSW Liberal government knew what was happening & gave notice of 18-months before they would change this law.  As a result, there was a rush to get trees chopped down.

Pittwater Council, Manly Council & Warringah Council fought the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Entitlement Code to prevent further tree loss, as they believed trees were being removed to make way for development, to enhance views, especially water views & that many trees were not being removed because they presented a fire risk.

I think this period of time showed that people will remove trees when they get the opportunity & there are many in Sydney who dislike trees.  This is of huge concern with rising temperatures due to climate change.  Wildlife is already in serious trouble because of a lack of habitat & food. We need a culture change in the way we regard trees.

I restate that I do believe that some trees are not appropriate for the spaces they have been planted, but I also believe this needs to be decided by Council.   So, I hope if the Mayor’s planned changes get through, that our community does not further decimate what is in reality a poor urban forest.

I also have concerns about what tree species will replace what is removed.  If you remove a gum tree & replace with a Crepe Myrtle for example.  I feel the same about the species choices for public trees as well.  I hope that Council insists that replacement trees offer amenity & help wildlife.

Labeling trees as ‘dangerous’ is also a problem.  Yes, people do get hurt or killed by trees, but it is a very small percentage.  Yet every day we get into cars & the statistics for people getting hurt or killed by vehicles is massive.  We ignore that & focus on trees.

Trees are useful to us.  They provide shade & oxygen for us to breathe.  They clean the air of pollution, especially particulate matter from vehicles.  A view of trees helps kids learn & all of us recover faster from illness.

To be amongst trees makes us feel peaceful & helps lift depression & calms anxiety. Trees sequester carbon & help mitigate climate change.   One tree can cool the air as much as ten residential air conditioners operating 20-hours a day & they do this silently & without using electricity.

Trees drop the cost of power, act as wind breaks & block off sound.  They also reduce storm water runoff, slow down cars & lower crime.

Shopping areas with lots of leafy trees have been shown to increase shopper spending by 11%.  They also raise property values, so there is a monetary reason to keep them & a monetary benefit to plant them.

Trees are great.   They keep us alive, keep us feeling good & work to improve our health.  Living in an area with few trees mean that the beauty that trees provide is not present.  Streets are also hot & birdsong is sparse.  Even if you think it is okay to be without trees, you are actually missing out on many proven benefits to your mental, emotional & physical health.

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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.

 

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