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I think this Fig tree in Marrickville is pretty exceptional. I love the way it has grown along the fence, & not encroached on the property

I love it when I see Australian Councils doing great things about trees as it shows that we are growing in this area to follow what I perceive has been happening in the US & the UK for decades.

I recently wrote about the City of Melbourne’s initiative to increase their current canopy of 60,000 public trees by almost 100%.  See – http://bit.ly/AaoIZs  Their latest initiative is to create Exceptional Tree Register. To do this they are encouraging the community to be involved & to “recognise, celebrate & protect the exceptional trees that exist on private land in our city.”

The Woodland Trust in the UK has been doing something similar by asking the community to help them in their search for ancient trees.  They have just registered Tree Number-100,000; an ancient Juniper in North Yorkshire.  Their 100,000th ancient tree! Isn’t that stunning & still the hunt goes on.  What a great way to educate the community on the benefits of trees as well as to appreciate & protect trees.  See – http://www.ancient-tree-hunt.org.uk/

There are many exceptional trees in the grounds of St Bridget's Church in Marrickville.

Some of the criteria the City of Melbourne is using to classify an exceptional tree is its horticultural, historical, aesthetic & habitat value, whether it is rare, old or big, whether it has a historical link to its location (like the trees around the Marrickville Town Hall), whether it add to the aesthetics of the locality, has indigenous associations or a social, cultural or spiritual value. That’s a lot of areas where a private tree may fit the bill & be included on the register.  Much better than making it so hard to qualify that great trees miss out because they are not native or indigenous to the area.

We have some spectacular Oak trees in Stanmore that must have been planted in the days when deer hunting was part of the area’s recreational pastime. Forgive me if I am wrong here. Someone once told me years ago that the turrets on top of many of the grand old buildings in Stanmore were so that the local gentry could observe the deer or fox hunters as they rode past. I’d like it to be true, but would equally like to know what the turrets were for if not for this purpose.

Melbourne City Council say that they have around 20,000 private trees, near to the 25,000 public trees Marrickville Council estimate we currently have, so there is bound to be a rich choice of spectacular trees hidden away in back gardens. Add the 60,000 public trees & you can see why the city of Melbourne is a green place.  Melbourne people do love & respect their trees.

“The Exceptional Tree Register aims to –

  • Recognise & celebrate the City of Melbourne’s trees by promoting & raising awareness of existing exceptional trees.
  • Support the custodians of Melbourne’s exceptional trees by providing expert advice & opportunities to promote their tree.
  • Protect Melbourne’s exceptional trees through the Melbourne Planning Scheme so that planning permission is required to undertake any action that may harm the tree.
  • Encourage shared responsibilities for the retention & care of trees that span property boundaries.
  • Promote tree planting on private properties – trees that may become the exceptional trees of the future & increase canopy cover in our city.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our own Marrickville Council could do the same as part of the Tree Inventory process being undertaken this year.  I suspect Council would receive many nominations if they got the word out there that they were seriously interested in private trees.

I would assume at some stage Council will want to know the percentage of the private tree canopy.  Expanding this further to include a register of exceptional private trees would have many benefits, not least the opportunity to educate the community on the benefits of trees & promote a culture change to one that respects or even celebrates trees.

Though there would certainly be some that would not like their tree to be included in the register for fear of future development restrictions, such a register would go a long way to protect the wonderful trees that are being lost to development upsetting the community who see these trees as an important part of the landscape. It would also help stop the increasing loss of habitat trees for urban wildlife.  It’s food for thought anyway.  I love to know what you think.

Not in Marrickville LGA unfortunately, but this gorgeous Fig tree in Chatswood would be a real contender.

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In news just in, the Victorian Labor state government has ‘refined’ rules regarding street trees & power cables.  The new law, “set minimum clearance space” around cables. It ranges from 30cm to 3.5m, depending on the type of powerline.” The energy companies must be planning a big celebration party.

“Banyule Council deputy mayor Jenny Mulholland, whose municipality includes Ivanhoe & Eaglemont, said many of Melbourne’s leafy streetscapes would be reduced to rows of tree stumps. She said 75,000 trees would be affected, costing the council $3 million, or the equivalent of a 6% rate rise.”

Street trees in Darlinghurst

Quite understandably, many of Victoria’s local Councils are very unhappy about the new rules, as the fine is $30,000, which I presume will be for each tree that breaches the clearance space.  Councils will need to spend millions of dollars pruning & removing larger trees just to comply with the initial stages. Then there will be ongoing costs. This is death to most local government budgets.

Here is where it gets really interesting.  Melbourne is famous for its street & park trees.  Having lived there I can attest that is it is a lovely green city with large street trees everywhere.  Most ordinary streets in Melbourne are what we in Sydney would call ‘an avenue of trees’ & regard as special streets.  The city prides itself on its street trees & it has lots of urban wildlife.  People & businesses take care of the street trees.

We visited Melbourne recently & it seemed that there were more trees than when I lived there.  There was no rubbish around trees in the areas we visited, trees were not in cages, branches were not snapped off & main shopping strips were full of large leafy trees.  Large street trees in the middle of the road is the norm.  The general height of street trees in Melbourne is much higher than in Marrickville LGA.   Most street trees reach well above the gutters of buildings & many are higher than the buildings themselves.

Quite simply, the city & surrounding suburbs looked glorious. Speak to any Melbourne person about the street trees & watch their face light up. They love them.

It makes a big difference to how a city & its suburbs work when there are a lot of street trees. People are drawn to eat outside. Melbourne is a coffee-drinking culture.  There are hundreds of cafes with people sitting at tables eating & drinking under street trees.  They were doing this as a norm 30 years ago, while here in Sydney it is a relatively new thing.

Street trees in Liverpool Street Sydney

Many of the street trees of Melbourne are deciduous so, like Canberra, they have visible seasons with autumn colours, bare trees in winter & spring growth. Because much of Melbourne is flat terrain, trees are visible in the distance. They also bring much beauty to industrial areas or areas where the quality of the buildings is not so attractive.

Take the trees away & you have removed much of what makes Melbourne special. The city won’t recover & the loss of street trees will affect tourism in a major way.

Add the fact that Melbourne is very hot in summer. Most years they have a few days of constant heat-wave conditions.  Take the street trees away & the heat island effect is going to be horrendous. Then there is winter where the winds come straight from Antarctica & are bone-crunching freezing. With fewer street trees, the wind won’t be diffused & will roar around the streets. The heat will be hotter & the cold colder.

To me the Victorian Energy Minister Peter Batchelor has made a really strange decision. In one foul swoop he will seriously affect tourism for the city, he will ensure rates rise dramatically, he will anger the Councils & seriously anger the people. How will they accept that their beautiful streets are going to be denuded & made ugly? The process may start, but I doubt it will last long once people & industries start noticing the impact & the loss of quality of life.

Has the Minister not heard of global warming or climate change? Just how hot does he want the city of Melbourne & its suburbs to become?  Imagine the follow through as more people go to hospital with heat, respiratory & cardiac related illnesses.

Hills Figs in Jersey Street Marrickville

The real winners of this decision are the power companies & the retailers of air-conditioning units.  Every residence will need at least 1 air-conditioning unit & sales will go through the roof. More electricity will be used & power costs will increase dramatically. The city will pump out CO2 making us proud polluters in the world stage.  Urban wildlife will die. The city will be dirtier from particulate matter & dust that usually gets picked up by the trees.  People will be angrier. Graffiti will get worse as it is known to be high in areas that have few street trees. Rates will rise again just to pay for graffiti removal & state taxes will rise due to the increased pressure on the health system.

It’s astounding that this ‘rule’ comes out of the mouth of a representative of the people who is supposed to be doing things for the people & for the benefit of the people.  While the rest of the country & the world gets its act together about trees in urban areas & greens their cities, Melbourne will be doing the opposite.  Right now Melbourne is a role model of what a green city looks like.

Street trees in Salisbury Road Stanmore

Then the National Broadband Network will roll out.  If they don’t put the cables underground, they will put them on the power-poles just like Optus did.  They will probably want their broadband cable positioned another metre below the Optus cable & then all the street trees will have to be removed.  Great move.

In a senate debate, “To bury or not to bury,” the following was written – “To provide optical fibre cables aerially, the NBN Co will need to either use existing electricity utility infrastructure, or to build their own poles where there are none in existence. Aerial cabling is most likely to be used in existing, or ‘brownfield’ areas, where telecommunications & other infrastructure already exists. Extrapolating from that assumption & taking guidance from the Tasmanian roll-out, the committee believes that aerial cabling may be deployed over the vast majority of the 90 per cent FTTP footprint.”

http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/broadband_ctte/third_report/c04.htm

I can’t imagine the people of Melbourne will just sit back & allow their suburbs be made into wastelands. I will watch how this pans out & report back on the most interesting bits.  Good luck Melbourne.

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/melbournes-famous-tree-lined-streets-could-be-stripped/story-e6frf7kx-1225941423229

I recently came across a video segment from the program Stateline on ABC from March 2010 where they discussed the dollar value of trees.  This video discusses the following & more:

  • The loss of Adelaide’s street & park trees for lack of water
  • Melbourne has decided to water their street & park trees
  • A real estate agent talking about how both street trees & trees on the property increase the value of the property
  • How much trees are actually worth
  • What it will be like to live in an area that has few or no trees
  • Councils used to irrigate street trees
  • Residents used to give trees both on their property & in front of their property regular watering
  • The cost of watering trees to save their life far outweighs the cost of losing a tree through lack of water
  • How the fact that a tree is not a native somehow gives permission for it to be cut down
  • Trees can be worth as much as $100,000
  • Trees are assets & investments which appreciate over time

roots of a big, beautiful Fig

In Melbourne, they are talking about how their 100-year-old trees are “an extremely valuable asset” while Marrickville Council talks about our older trees as “senescent” & past their time.  You may remember earlier this year Marrickville Council put up a plan before the Councillors to remove many of the old trees over the next 5 years.  The designated amount was 1,000 trees to be removed per year for 5 years targeting senescent trees.  Thankfully the Councillors did not accept this Tree Strategy Issues Paper, but it was a close call & a revised Paper will be returning for consideration soon.

This video is 7 minutes duration.  I whole-heartedly recommend watching it.  If you do, check out the hole in one of the larger trees right at the end.  I have seen a

Pine tree in Brighton le Sands

tree like that closer to home along the beachfront at Brighton-le-Sands.  A few of the tall pines had substantial holes in their trunks. Rather than chopping them down, Rockdale Council had the rot treated & the hole cemented allowing the tree to remain stable & continue to live for the benefit of the community.  I would imagine those trees are heritage listed.

When I was a child, it was quite common for a Tree Surgeon (as Arborists were called then), to be employed to save trees on private property. I remember watching them scrapping out the hole, using chemicals to stop the disease & filling the hole with cement, just like a dentist fills dental caries.  I saw trees bolted together if they had a split in their trunk & other such things that seem to be out of vogue today.  Nowadays, the simplest intervention seems to be to cut the tree down saying “everything has to die.”  True, but many tree species live far longer than what we are led to believe.  Melbourne is proof of this.

As we have been in a long & protracted drought that is not over yet, trees dying from lack of water is going to become a significant issue, especially if the culture changes & trees are truly recognised as significant green assets.  We may yet return to the days where Councils water the public trees & property owners take care of the trees on their property as well as the tree out front.  I have my fingers

lovely Fig in Enmore Park

crossed.  Already around the municipality there are trees dying.  Some of them were stunners that now stand brown & present a danger of falling, damaging property & perhaps a risk to life.  I find it sad as many of these tree deaths could have been averted if they had been watered.

Another article in the same vein that may be of interest says Adelaide City Council is considering putting a dollar value on its trees following in the footsteps of Melbourne.  This may lead to developers being required to compensate for the trees they say they need to chop down by planting trees to that dollar value.  So if trees are valued at $100,000, they will be required to plant trees to that value.  I’m hoping it may bring business to those tree companies who are skilled at large tree relocation.  Relocation costs may actually be cheaper than paying for the trees that would be lost if chopped down.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/04/13/2870993.htm

The Stateline video & a transcript of the main points can be accessed by clicking on the following link- http://www.abc.net.au/news/video/2010/03/26/2857693.htm

This beautiful tree-lined walk along the Cooks River offers respite from the city's hectic life. The tall trees which make this section special.

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