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Parramatta Road Stanmore – where are the street trees?  They only start when you cross the border into the City of Sydney municipality.

I read an interesting article in The Guardian yesterday titled, ‘The car is ingrained into people here’: West Midlands faces air pollution crisis.’  See – http://bit.ly/2oY2Fv7

The West Midlands is a region in England identified as an area of high air pollution air due to motorways & other high traffic roads. The United Kingdom has ten pollution hotspots & five of them are within the West Midlands region.

“The government’s own figures show air pollution [in this area] is responsible for almost 3,000 deaths a year ……”

This grabbed my attention.  3,000 deaths a year from something preventable is astounding.  What a powerful advertisement for public transport!

In June 2010, I posted about research on how living within a 500-metre  radius of a major thoroughfare was likely to cause major health issues & early death.  See – http://bit.ly/1MKStR8   I found it interesting to see that the distance from a main road in this UK study had dropped to only 150-metres.   In reality the situation would be much worse had they included the other 350-metres.

The Guardian article said thousands of British children are being exposed to illegal levels of air pollution due to schools & nurseries located within this 150-metre zone.   The article also said that none of the staff or parents of the ten worst affected nurseries in Birmingham were aware that this was a significant health issue for the children & employees.

Looking further, a whopping 2,091 places of learning for children from preschool to further education centres across England & Wales are within 150-metres of a high-traffic high-pollution road.  This is not a great start in life for these children.

Birmingham Council said it “was a challenge to change people’s attitudes to driving in a city that “grew up on the car industry”.  According to the council’s own figures 900 people die from poor air quality in the city each year, compared to 30 from road accidents.”

Birmingham Council is improving the cycle routes saying, “there are 200,000 journeys of under a mile in this city each day – it is about removing some of those trips.”  Inner West & City of Sydney Councils are doing similar with cycleways being added to allow people to ride safely on the street.

This is a great start, but the WestConnex Motorway cleaving its way through our municipality is of great concern for the future health of our community.  We are already burdened with a large number of high traffic roads through high density housing.

That the WestConnex Authority plans to install unfiltered stacks to release the air pollution from the tunnels has always concerned me.   I don’t know how much it would cost to have the air filtered to trap particulate matter & other air pollutants, but I do know that the future health costs of the community around these unfiltered stacks will be considerable.  Unless we go down in vast numbers, the health issues will be ignored & subsumed into the usual statistics.  Personally, I think the government is playing risk games with the future health of the community.

Also interesting is the image in the article of the spaghetti junction near Birmingham. It reminded me of the spin we are being given about our own impeding spaghetti junction at the massive Dial a Dump site at St Peters.

The WestConnex Authority says the area underneath the St Peters Interchange will become a tree-filled park with cycleways & walking paths.  It will be presented to the community as new green space in place of the large track of land & hundreds of mature trees taken from Sydney Park recently to widen the road for WestConnex Motorway.

This is an incredibly poor exchange – take from a beautiful & very much loved park & give back a spaghetti junction with hundreds of thousands of vehicles traveling above & spewing their pollution down on the new green space.

For the life of me I cannot imagine wanting to spend free time under a motorway with particulate matter raining down on me no matter how attractive it looks.  However, what cannot be seen will likely entice some people to think it is nice & safe to play there & I bet barbeques will be added to lure people in.

To cope with a climate change future & to cope with the air pollution from increased traffic in our densely built municipality, we need more trees.  We need trees & shrubs in gardens & more street trees.  The street trees species need to be able to reach a height above 5-metres & have broader canopies.  Big trees need to be planted in spaces where Energy Australia has no excuse to start pruning them because we can see that their pruning has reduced so many of our street trees into mangled messes or to a shadow of their former selves.

If we do not make a significant change in the streetscapes & gardens of our municipality, we will pay the price of increasing poor health in our children & ourselves & perhaps an early death.

We also need to ditch the car & walk, cycle & take more public transport whenever we can.  It will take a shift in our thinking & motivation, but we can do it.  I think one day we will be forced to.

Showing a partial view over the 16 hectares of what is to be the St Peters Interchange. Even though I expected a building site, actually seeing people’s homes and the trees removed shocked me.

May Street Reserve Corner of Campbell Street and Unwins Bridge Road St Peters has been destroyed and all the mature trees removed.  One more patch of green space removed in an area with the least amount of green space in Australia.  

2014 street tree pruning by Augrid in Marrickville

2014 street tree pruning by Augrid in Marrickville

This sign was installed  by Marrickville Council.

This sign was installed by Marrickville Council.

I think it is laughable that a large organisation who has purchased another organisation, completely changes the way they do business and then after enraging the community, decides to do community consultation.  This is what is happening with Ausgrid, which is owned by the NSW government.

Prior to Ausgrid, we had Energy Australia managing our electricity supply.  The business name has changed, but not the service the company provides.

It’s like having a deli on the main street for 60-years.  Then the business is sold & it continues to operate as a deli, except under new management.  For 60-years this deli  was famous for selling a wide range of quality cheese.  However, the new owners chose not to have a wide range of cheese, only stocking cheddar for sale.  It’s still a deli, but what it offers has changed.

Now that might not be the best analogy, but this is what I feel has happened with the transfer of management of Energy Australia to Ausgrid in terms of street tree pruning.

  • Energy Australia pruned the street trees on a 7-8 year cycle.
  • Ausgrid prunes the street trees on an 18-month cycle.

Does this mean that Energy Australia provided an inferior & dangerous service to the community for all those years?  I don’t think so at all.

While Energy Australia was not immune to butchering street trees, they did not do it as a matter of course.  Since Ausgrid has taken over management, the state of street trees all over their area of control in Sydney is deplorable.   It’s not unusual to see the street trees in sections of streets looking as though they have been through a war.

And the community has been complaining loudly.

After their initial round of pruning, it appears that Ausgrid do a few street trees in a street, then come back at a later date to do the others.  I presume this is to somewhat mitigate the look of destruction it leaves behind.

Ausgrid calls what it does “tree trimming.”  I would debate this.  “Trimming” sounds gentle & nothing like the savage butchering well below the service cable for Pay TV & even further below the electricity cables.

IMPORTANT:  I would like to state clearly that I am not focusing on or criticising the workers who do the tree pruning.  They do what the company tells them to do to.

Ausgrid clearly has different opinions on what is safe clearance from electricity cables than did the previous energy supplier Energy Australia.  Yet, we did not have electrical fires breaking out all over the place, as is the explanation for the brutal tree pruning on Ausgrid’s website.   We are keeping you safe is their message & that is hard to argue against unless you ask why Energy Australia managed to prune the street trees differently & still keep us safe.

Ausgrid needs to expand on their perception of “safe.”  Increasingly researchers all over the world are publishing about the urban heat island effect, deaths from heatwaves, mental health deterioration & increased respiratory illness & fatal heart attacks in areas that have a poor urban forest.

The street where I live had street trees that reached the top of the power poles for the two decades that we have lived here & it was the same for all the streets around us.  There were no fires. There was no loss of power supply.  Service was stable & all this through a number of major storms, including the incredibly damaging hail storm in April 1999 & the major storms of June 2007 & February 2010.

Ausgrid took over from Energy Australia in March 2011 & my street is a shadow of its former self.

We lost shade, we lost beauty (because our street trees were beautiful) & we lost bird life.  We are now a street with power poles poking metres above savaged street trees & every time Ausgrid visits, more branches are lost.

The urban forest is a mix of street trees, park trees & private trees.  Our area, the old Marrickville municipality, has –

  • the least green space in Australia – so we are not getting much benefit from trees in parks unless we go to the parks on a regular basis & stay there for a while.
  • Land lots are small & often not suitable for a decent sized tree. Therefore, the dependence on street trees – green leafy streets – is substantial in the Inner West.
  • In 2015 Marrickville municipality was rated “poor” in terms of its urban forest with a canopy cover of just 16.3%.
  • Marrickville was also also found to be the unhappiest community in Australia according to Deakin University’s Australian Unity Wellbeing Index.

Can poor happiness levels relate to the lack of canopy, to poor street trees & to the lack of green space?  Yes, I believe it can & that it does.

This is backed up by research published by The Forestry Commission of Great Britain called, ‘Trees, People & the Built Environment.’   The results of the study show that our trees are not just something to make an area look nice but they may actually be making people happier.  See – http://bit.ly/S8fjpR

So, with all this in mind, think about the impact Ausgrid’s new street tree pruning practices are having on our urban forest & how this flows on to the community’s health, our increased risk of a range of illnesses & disease starting from childhood & even death.   It is a serious public health issue & I have not even mentioned climate change yet.

Climate change is breaking all the records for increased & unseasonal temperatures.  Every year it is harder to be out on the streets in the middle of the day.  If we don’t have sufficient street trees with a decent canopy, then we are going to suffer.  We are already suffering.  Some of us will die from the heat.  It is as simple as that.

Research by the University of Oxford published in July 2016 found that –

  • “Scientists have specified how many deaths can be attributed to human-made climate change during an extreme heatwave. Researchers calculate that in Paris, the hottest city in Europe during the heatwave in summer 2003, 506 out of 735 summer deaths recorded in the French capital were due to a heatwave made worse by human-made climate change. The impact was less severe in London, with an additional 64 deaths out of a total of 315 heat-related deaths.”

The paper says the mortality rate attributed to human-made climate change in both these cities is notably high, but they are just two of a large number of cities that were affected by the heatwave that year. It suggests that the resulting total number of deaths across Europe due to climate change is likely to be substantially higher.  See – http://bit.ly/2cJ5gXx

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found that “between 540 & 760 deaths could be attributed to the ongoing spell of hot weather” over a 9-day period in July 2013. See –   http://bit.ly/2cKDkUo

139 deaths due to heat occurred in Victoria Australia in January 2014.  Victoria suffered another heatwave in 2009 resulting in 374 deaths. See –  http://bit.ly/M0XGps

Research published in 2016 by Lancaster University found that –

  • “Toxic nanoparticles from air pollution have been discovered in human brains in “abundant” quantities.”
  • Air pollution is a global health crisis that kills more people than malaria and HIV/Aids combined and it has long been linked to lung and heart disease and strokes. But research is uncovering new impacts on health, including degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, mental illness & reduced intelligence.” See – http://bit.ly/2bOMXew

This is truly alarming & should be also alarm the NSW government.  They constantly tell us that they are terribly worried about the cost of caring for people who have Alzheimer’s disease.

Particulate matter from air pollution has been shown to significantly increase incidence of this disease.  So what picks up harmful particulate matter?  Trees of course!  So once again, street trees are a public health issue.

If the government wants to get control of the increasing health care costs of the community, they should provide local councils with the funds to greatly increase the urban forest.  This spending will, as the trees grow & start to become more useful, start to impact on all kinds of health issues ranging from obesity, respiratory & cardiac illness, depression & Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s a no brainer. 

  • Stop ripping out the trees for development or parking lots for WestConnex,
  • Stop the energy companies from destroying the viability & usefulness of the street trees &
  • Provide sufficient funds to allow suburbs with poor canopies to start to look like other more wealthlier suburbs across Sydney. Often the housing is similar – it is the streetscapes that are radically different.  We already know that poorer suburbs tend to have less tree cover.

I’ve often wondered whether it has been a deliberate initiative to keep some suburbs more affordable by having less tree cover & unattractive streetscapes.  Unfortunately, this is being blurred by the soaring housing costs in Sydney where even a shabby house in an unattractive street is being purchased for $1 million plus.  Even so, I think some might use housing prices as their argument why I am incorrect in my observations.

I say to the NSW government – instead of whinging on the nightly news about how the government will pay for health care in an ageing population, take action to give people the quality of life while they are living, from the cradle onwards.   Give them a decent urban forest with a great tree canopy cover, so that the air that they breathe is not harming them by creating a range of physical & mental health issues.   Keep many of the community out of hospital by making our city green.

Ausgrid’s website (http://bit.ly/2cJ4aeB) says –

To help improve our services we undertook an engagement program that –

  • aimed to understand our community’s interests,
  • develop a shared understanding of the need for managing trees growing under powerlines and near other infrastructure on our electricity network and
  • help to improve the way Ausgrid performs this work in the future.”

Now Ausgrid is showing that they are listening to the myriad complaints from both the community & local councils by holding community consultation via a working group.  And as is usual with community consultation, if we do not participate, then it is business as usual. Any further complaints are met with – well we held community consultation & didn’t get much in the way of negative feedback, so what can we do.  We are keeping you safe…blah, blah, blah.

The working group –  “… includes nine community members as well as representatives from local government areas including Parramatta, Burwood, Botany Bay, Cessnock, Canterbury-Bankstown, City of Sydney, Cumberland, Hornsby Shire, Hunters Hill, Inner West, Ku-ring-gai, Lake Macquarie, Mosman, Newcastle City, North Sydney, Northern Beaches, Port Stephens, Randwick, Strathfield, Sutherland, Willoughby and Woollahra; the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, Local Government NSW, Local Government Tree Resource Association, NSW Department of Planning and Environment, Arboriculture Australia, NSW Energy and Water Ombudsman and the Energy Networks Association.”

The working group will meet four times between August & December 2016.

So, if the state of the street tree pruning bothers you (It bothers Marrickville Council) & if you care about your own & your family’s health, take up their offer & leave feedback at the Inner West Council – council@marrickville.nsw.gov.au  Then Council will have something from the community to take to these meetings.  If enough of us participate, we may actually be able to effect positive change, though it may take decades for some of the trees to look good again.

I hope that Ausgrid does more than listen & that it makes significant changes to its tree pruning standards.   Sydney needs street trees now more than ever with Sydney’s population over 5-million.  Trees, the urban forest canopy will become more important than ever.

Most of the canopy is on the ground.

Most of the canopy is on the ground.

Wonderful that Marrickville council planted  Queensland Brushbox trees along the Princes Highway Tempe.  Once grown they should help all the residents living close to the highway.

Wonderful that Marrickville council planted Queensland Brushbox trees along the Princes Highway Tempe. Once grown they should help the workers in the shops and all the residents living close to the highway.

Researchers from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research at the University of Sydney have released their review into the health impact of tiny air pollution particles, also known as particulate matter.  They found that most particulate matter is man-made & “could lead to increase in people reporting to hospitals with respiratory or cardiovascular effects.”

This supports 2010 research done by the US Health Effects Institute who reviewed 700 worldwide health-pollution studies. They found:

  • traffic pollution within a 500-metre radius of a major thoroughfare is likely to exacerbate asthma in children.
  • trigger new asthma cases across all ages
  • impair lung function in adults &
  • could cause cardiovascular illness & death. See – http://bit.ly/1MKStR8

The researchers from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research recommended that immediate steps be taken to reduce particulate matter pollution from the air.  Although particulate matter can come from plant & animal matter, the majority comes from motor vehicles, mining, power stations & even coal fire barbeques & wood heaters.

“On high pollution days we may detect extra cases of stroke, other myocardial infarctions, heart attacks, for instance, and also PM (particulate matter) air pollution has been linked to premature mortality…..  So it will bring forward those few extra deaths – particularly, we think, in more vulnerable people such as the elderly.”  See http://ab.co/1RP6teY

However, this study from the Lancaster Environment Centre has shown that –

  • “increasing deposition by the planting of vegetation in street canyons can reduce street-level concentrations in those canyons by as much as 40% for nitrogen dioxide & 60% for particulate matter.
  • Deposition rates of nitrogen dioxide & particulate matter to vegetation are much higher than those to hard, built surfaces.
  • Substantial street-level air quality improvements can be gained through action at the scale of a single street canyon or across city-sized areas of canyons.
  • Vegetation will continue to offer benefits in the reduction of pollution even if the traffic source is removed from city centers.” See – http://bit.ly/1UMfVQV

And, “The efficacy of roadside trees for mitigation of PM [particulate matter] health hazard might be seriously underestimated in some current atmospheric models.”

The ability to lower particulate matter is in the power of human beings.  Stop using coal power stations, drive less, ride bicycles & catch public transport more & don’t use coal-fired barbeques or burn wood for heating.

We can plant a tree on our property if there is space & create a verge garden on the street.  We can also lobby our local councils to increase the urban forest, as the Lancaster research clearly demonstrated a drop of 60% for particulate matter between the street & the row of terrace houses & these were only small Birch trees in pots.  Imagine what a good canopy mature street tree can do for us all in cleaning up the air.

Researchers continue to clearly show us that trees are good for people in a myriad of ways.  Our mental health & happiness levels, our ability to learn & our respiratory & cardiac health are just some benefits trees bring.

A street in Marrickville.  No overhead powerlines and footpaths of equal size on both sides of the road.

A street in Marrickville. No overhead powerlines and footpaths of equal size on both sides of the road.  For the benefit of all, there should be street trees along here.  

 

Princes Highway Tempe - as with any highway there is lots of advertising signs.  They could all be made into air purifying devices.

Princes Highway Tempe – as with any highway there is lots of advertising signs. They could all be made into air purifying devices.

Particulate matter increases respiratory disease, heart disease & the incidence of fatal heart attacks. Also, according to the World Health Organisation, particulate matter causes cancer. These are really important reasons why trees are needed along streets & highways.

Development also creates an increase in particulate matter, with truck & other vehicle movement, as well as an upheaval of soil creating dust that in our area at least, is often filled with lead & other pollutants.

In come scientists from the University of Engineering & Technology in Peru who recently developed a billboard that is capable of purifying 100,000 cubic metres of air every day.

The billboard works by inhaling the air & purifying it through a water system before releasing it back into the atmosphere. They say that the billboard can reach a radius of five blocks in every direction.

Inventions like this give me hope for the future.  I would prefer trees, but air-purifying billboards could dramatically improve air quality along motorways & highways.  There are billboards at bus stops, on the backs of taxis & buses, on buildings, along highways, on the side of buildings & even on poles along city footpaths. Imagine is all of these were fitted with the air-purifying process.

Trees are still needed because they sequester carbon & have a positive impact on the mental, physical & spiritual health of human beings, whereas billboards have the opposite effect for most people. Still, billboards are a part of life with advertising everywhere. I wouldn’t mind so much if I knew the billboards were busy working to improve the air quality for five blocks in every direction.

You can watch a 2-minute video about the new billboard here –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k89rewsIy94

The street trees & the verge gardens along busy New Canterbury Road would be working to prevent a percentage of the particulate matter & other pollutants from getting to the houses.

The street trees & the verge gardens along busy New Canterbury Road would be working to prevent a good percentage of the particulate matter & other pollutants from getting into the houses.  This is much better than no street trees or verge gardens.

A month or so ago I watched a segment on the television program ‘Trust me I am a Doctor’ about how an experiment with birch trees placed along a high traffic street impacted on air quality. See –http://bbc.in/1fjuxnm

The results were surprising, particularly because these were only small trees in pots. The experiment, developed by Professor Barbara Mahar from the University of Lancaster England consisted of twenty-four young Silver birch trees in pots lined up along the footpath beside four terrace houses. The trees were left in place for two weeks. The adjoining four other terraces were also included in the experiment.

Prior to installing the trees, the computer & television screens were cleaned in all terraces. They were then left on stand-by as these items produce static electricity & would continue to collect airborne dust & particulate matter.

At the end of the fortnight, all the computer & television screens were cleaned again. The air pollution collected on the screens was found to 50-60% lower in the four terraces that had the birch trees between them & the road, showing how vital street trees are for collecting particulate matter, dust & other pollutants from passing traffic.

Whether this percentage of protection happens with all street trees is not known, but the birch trees were chosen specifically because their leaves have hairs & ridges, which collect small particles. It may be that birch trees are found to be superior trees at collecting air pollution.

Every tree collects particulate matter & other air pollutants on their leaves, though it may be that some are better at collecting than others.   According to the article, trees with a denser canopy are not as effective at trapping air pollution as are the sparse canopy Silver birch, which allows for free airflow.  Denser canopy trees tend to collect pollution at ground level, where people are.

Rain cleans the leaves allowing the process to start again. Deciduous trees would only provide this benefit while they have leaves.

Vehicle exhaust releases very fine particles of particulate matter (PM), which is breathed into our lungs. From there it enters our cardiovascular system.   A recent government report [English] suggested that as many as 29,000 people a year die because of breathing in too much PM.”

The article lists three ways to limit exposure of particulate matter when outside –

  1. School drop off zones have high levels of particulate matter because of all the idling cars.   “So a quick drop-off, & fewer cars at the school gates is important.”
  2. To reduce your intake on particulate matter when driving, especially when stuck in heavy traffic, keep the windows & vents closed.  Also keep some space between you & the car ahead.
  3. Cyclists are advised to avoid routes with heavy traffic. Pedestrians are advised to walk as far away from the traffic as possible & also avoid walking along streets with heavy traffic. See – http://bbc.in/1tSRh1m

A 2013 study by the Laboratory of Aviation & the Environment at Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that premature death caused by air pollutants was the highest from road transportation – that is vehicle exhaust.   http://bit.ly/1k0tbtH

The humble street tree continues to demonstrate its worth.  They provide the community with many benefits, including better respiratory & heart health.   It is already known that residents in suburbs with fewer trees have poorer health, so increasing the canopy must be a priority.

I can instantly appreciate cleaner air in streets like Victoria Street in Dulwich Hill.  The air smells different.

I can instantly appreciate cleaner air in streets like Victoria Street in Dulwich Hill that have many big street trees.  The air smells different – better.

 

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

Street trees along the City of Sydney Council end of King Street Newtown proving it can be done

We know that the particulate matter in air pollution comes from vehicles & coal power stations causes respiratory disease, including asthma in both children & adults as well as heart attack related death. Now 2 new research studies done by entirely different research groups in Germany & the USA have shown that particulate matter also increases the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes.

… the new data provide important & more rigorous evidence that real-world pollution may be tampering with blood sugar control in a large & growing number of people.

The researchers used proximity to roads — where vehicles would be a major pollution source — as a proxy for exposure to fine particulates. Women who developed diabetes were more likely to have lived nearest to heavily trafficked roads.

Compared to the 25% of women living farthest from busy roads, the relative risk of developing diabetes was 15% higher for the 25% of women living closest to major roadways.

There is a growing body of literature suggesting that people with diabetes may be more susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution.

All the more reason why we need to start planting more street trees, especially on & around main roads. This issue is fast becoming one that will have serious impacts on our health system.  It makes sense to use nature to try to lessen the impact of our 21st Century lifestyle as money spent now may help mitigate the financial cost of disease in the future.

It’s well worth reading the full article – http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/63971/title/Air_pollution_appears_to_foster_diabetes

I wrote about this issue here – https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/living-close-to-a-main-road-is-bad-for-your-health/ &

https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/trees-particulate-matter/

This week I counted the following trees around the current Marrickville Metro & the block where they intend to expand.

67 Fig trees, 9 Brush Box trees, 3 Camphor laurel trees, 8 Eucalypts, 4 Palm trees, 1 Canary Island Palm, 2 Melaleuca trees, 8 Bottlebrush trees, 4 Peppercorn trees, 10 Wattle trees & 26 unidentified species of trees.

TOTAL POTENTIAL TREE LOSS = 142 trees

There are another 24 medium trees on site that may be included in the development bringing the potential total tree loss to 166 trees.

Just some of the trees at risk of removal if the Marrickville Metro expansion goes ahead. The trees create a lovely ambience around the Metro, collect air pollution from vehicles, bring significant beauty to the area, sequester large amounts of CO2, help to lessen the Heat Island Effect & provide homes & food for urban wildlife. Their loss will be devastating.

AMP Capital say the Fig trees only have an average 5-15 years left to live. In ideal conditions, Figs live 150-200 years.  Although these trees are not in ideal conditions they are very healthy. To replace the trees they plan to plant 28 Eucalyptus paniculata (Grey Ironbark) along Murray Street & low level accent, grass & groundcovers “to ensure that general safety, sightlines & CPTED principals are maintained.” – meaning all signs & the building will be very visible as if the height of the new buildings is not enough.

More of the trees at risk of removal.

I think losing these trees will be a huge loss for the community, for air quality, for beauty of the area & for urban wildlife.  Currently most of Marrickville Metro is hidden behind large beautiful, healthy trees. I cannot imagine the area without them. Most of these trees are mature & took decades to grow.

Still more trees at risk of removal

The Metro expansion will also result in a 65-68% increase in traffic from an estimated extra 4 million customers a year. It will destroy our local shopping strips & remove much of the individual kind of shop that make the Inner West unique.

I asked a taxi driver standing outside Metro what he thought, thinking he would be for the expansion as it would bring him more business. He replied, “It will kill the local shops in Marrickville, Enmore & Newtown. I don’t think it will be good for us.”

Marrickville Metro want to buy Smidmore Street. Every bit of green is at risk of removal

AMP Capital also want to purchase Smidmore Street from Marrickville Council.  I think there is a big chance that Council will sell Smidmore Street to help with their financial situation.  In last Wednesday’s Sydney Morning Herald

Council sources said a figure of $8 million has been discussed for the purchase of Smidmore Street, along the shopping centre’s southern boundary, but that no formal offer has yet been made. Several councillors told the Herald the council is united in refusing to sell Smidmore Street ”on principle”, but would not comment on whether that position would change if the project gained approval. http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/mall-goes-a-street-too-far-opponents-say-20100811-11zqg.html

In return for traffic gridlocked streets, parking problems, much more noise, air pollution, visual pollution & the potential loss of at least 142 beautiful trees, AMP Capital will give us many more shops like we can get at close-by Roselands, Eastgardens or Broadway shopping malls. They are also offering a small library & a community education board.

We already have a number of fabulous & free-to-use libraries courtesy of Marrickville Council & a public education board is nothing to get excited about.

The car park of Marrickville Metro is surrounded by the canopy of the Figs & other trees providing a buffer to surrounding properties & creating an ambience unknown anywhere else in Sydney. They also prevent particulate matter (known to cause lung & heart disease) from the vehicles from dropping onto the street & surrounding properties.

The expansion to double the size of the current Metro makes me wonder where the customers are going to come from. Around 2-3 years ago, all the shops in Metro were required to do a specific renovation as part of sprucing up Metro & their rents were raised.   A number of shops were struggling to meet this cost & some moved out to set up shop elsewhere.  Since then, there have always been vacant shops in Marrickville Metro.

I am of the belief that AMP Capital would not be investing millions to do the expansion if they weren’t absolutely sure they will make bucket-loads of money.

All these trees are at risk of removal as well

Right now the area is classified as a village, but if the expansion goes ahead, the Department of Planning may be within their rights to reclassify the area as a ‘Town Centre’ simply because of the size of Marrickville Metro.  This will mean that development in the league of Bondi Junction & Hurstville will be allowed.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see the industrial-zoned areas around Metro being rezoned residential.  Once that is done, a ‘unit city’ can be built very close to Metro.  Then, to cope with the massive increase in traffic, the M6, an arterial road that is planned for Edgeware Road may one day be built. Edgeware Road is already often bumper-to-bumper.  The Marrickville Transport Action Group say – Cardigan St, Edgeware Rd, Liberty St & Kingston Rd are key to the F6 plan.

http://www.marrickvilletag.org/html/transport_johnsonscreek_history.html

Who knows if my theories have any weight, but it does make more sense as to why such a huge shopping mall is being planned when there are not enough current customers & it constantly has a number of empty shops.

The proposed Metro expansion is going to have a massive impact on Marrickville & surrounding suburbs in terms of traffic & pollution.  To my mind, it is not just an issue for residents who live nearby & shop owners, although it is an appalling prospect for them.  The expansion is an issue that will affect many of us because:

  • it will choke many of the roads that are at capacity now
  • it will likely weaken our shopping strips reducing choice & this often negatively affects variety of products & price
  • it will reduce competition
  • it will bring more 19-metre long semi-trailers to our narrow suburban streets  &
  • it will take away the community feeling that shopping strips help create, because these are public spaces where we retain all our rights as citizens, whereas shopping malls are private spaces under the control of developers/corporations.

Unless the community come out in great numbers & say they do not want the Metro expansion, it will happen.

If you are against any aspect of the planned expansion, please send in a submission to the Department of Planning by Friday 27th August 2010.  Their e-mail is – Plan_comment@planning.nsw.gov.au

It is called Major Project – MP_0191 – 34 Victoria Road Marrickville. If you would like a draft submission please send me an e-mail.

On 26th June 2010 the Sydney Morning Herald published an article headlined: Why living near a road is bad for your health. A major study was done by the US Health Effects Institute who reviewed 700 worldwide health-pollution studies. They found:

  • traffic pollution within a 500-metre radius of a major thoroughfare was likely to exacerbate asthma in children
  • trigger new asthma cases across all ages
  • impair lung function in adults &
  • could cause cardiovascular illness & death

Because the results showed a clear health-risk for those living within 500 metres of a main road the National Environment Protection Council will consider the US study in a review of existing national air pollution regulations next month.

The National Environment Protection Council will be considering “whether a limit should be imposed on the concentration levels of particulate matter larger than 2.5 micrometres. Currently authorities need to adhere to limits set for particulate matter larger than 10 micrometres.”

That’s good, even if it is significantly overdue.  25 years ago a friend’s mother  told me not to rent a house in Leichhardt because it was a block away from Parramatta Road. She said the pollution will be dropping in your yard & you will be breathing it every day, especially when the wind blows towards the property. I took heed & let that house go even though the rent was low.

The Australian Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries is already trying to find loopholes saying, “the industry supported moves to minimise pollution from cars, but added that air quality was good in Australia & warned against comparisons in US studies.” Except the 700 health-pollution studies were taken world-wide, not just in the US.

A random view of the Pacific Highway, Sydney. There are just as many trees along most of its length to Hornsby.

Recently I posted on the differences between Parramatta Road & the Pacific Highway.  They are both main roads, but the differences between the two are astounding, so much so, one could believe they are in different countries, not in the same city separated by a bridge.  The Pacific Highway has large trunk tall trees along its length. Tree canopies cascade over the road & no one is in fear even though the majority appears to me to be of the Eucalypt variety.

Parramatta Road however, has very few trees along the section managed by Marrickville & Leichhardt Councils & most of this road managed by other Councils are just as treeless.  The Princes Highway also is almost devoid of trees, even though this road appears to have more obvious spaces that would allow for planting.  I would think these Councils made a decision not to plant street trees along these main thoroughfares as these roads have remained in this state for decades. https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/north-shore-versus-inner-west-main-roads/

A random view of Parramatta Road at Stanmore.

Now it is not just a matter of unsightliness (which has its own recognized impact on mental & physical health), it has been recognized as a serious health matter for the thousands of people who live within 500 metres of main roads. The pollution from Parramatta Road & the Princes Highway must be at astounding levels.  I don’t know whether anyone has measured the pollution levels along these roads, but I doubt it will be too long before a study is done on this.

All the people who live within 500 metres of these roads are having their health compromised on a daily basis when all that needs to be done is plant decent sized street trees.

A tree with a 76 cm-diameter trunk removes 70 times more pollution per year than does a tree with a 7.5 cm trunk.  This is not a big tree. Double the trunk size & you will be removing a much greater amount of particulate matter & other pollutants.  The trees along the Pacific Highway are not small thin little things. They are big trunked robust growing trees with a significant canopy.

Trees are best known for their ability to sequester & store CO2, but they also absorb other pollutants such as Ozone, Nitrogen Dioxide & Sulfur Dioxide through their leaves. They reduce air temperature ground-level ozone, which contributes to greenhouse gas creation & global warming. They also remove up to 60% of street level particulate matter such as dust, smoke, ash & the sooty bi-product from car & truck exhausts. The more trees planted, the less heat is generated & the more air pollution is removed.

Now that health effects from pollution from main roads is finally being taken seriously in Australia, it is time all main roads are made safer.  The cars & trucks are not going to go away for the foreseeable future & it doesn’t matter that engines of newer cars spew out lower levels of toxic material, it is still happening year in, year out & having a major effect on the health & lives of residents & people who work on or near main roads.  Perhaps the Health Department will help cover the cost of trees for planting. It’s a valid argument as trees will help stop thousands of people becoming ill & landing up at hospitals.

http://www.smh.com.au/national/why-living-near-a-road-is-bad-for-your-health-20100626-zavi.html

In a few short years the City of Sydney Council have made this run down area opposite the Fish Markets at Pyrmont unrecognizable. Young Hills Figs line the road on both sides softening buildings & other grey infrastructure. I think the landscaping looks fabulous & all those trees are great for the health of the people who live & work in this area. The beauty of the area will also give a favourable impression of Sydney to the many tourists who visit the markets.

A random view of the Pacific Highway, Sydney. There are just as many trees along most of its length to Hornsby.

In this post I am discussing 2 main roads: the Pacific Highway & Parramatta Road.  Travelling on either road is like travelling in different countries.  I cannot help but be astounded by the difference.

There is really no difference in the utility between the two roads except that Parramatta Road has many more shopping strips. However, I don’t see why this should mean there should be dearth of trees along its length.

The section of Parramatta Road that is under the control of Marrickville & Leichhardt Councils is ugly & getting visually worse as the years pass. The almost treeless state of Parramatta Road under the control of these 2 Councils seems to be a planning decision that was probably made decades ago & little has been done to change it.  Of course, there are other parts of this road that are just as treeless, but I am presently concerned with the section under the control of Marrickville, Leichhardt & City of Sydney Councils.

You can see the demarcation line between Marrickville & Leichhardt Councils & the City of Sydney Council by looking for the presence of street trees.  Once they start you are in City of Sydney territory. Once they stop you are in Marrickville & Leichhardt territory.

A random view of Parramatta Road at Stanmore. The Palm belongs to McDonalds car park.

Sydney City has planted quite a number of Eucalypts along their section of Parramatta Road & the trees are already looking good.  Sydney Council’s action proves it can be done.  Interestingly they planted Eucalypts, trees which some regard as dangerous because of falling branches.  Mind you, the branch die-off is a slow process & is clearly visible to the naked eye. I’d guess that Sydney City Council chose to plant Eucalypts because they grow tall & straight, grow rapidly & also flower providing food for the birds.  I’d also guess they made a decision to check on the trees occasionally & prune any branches that die off as part of general maintenance.

The Pacific Highway is filled with a variety of tall growing trees along its length, again proving that trees can exist on a main thoroughfare.  The trees don’t cause visibility problems for the traffic & they certainly help keep pedestrians safer. The trees also provide a pollution barrier to local housing by capturing particulate matter from the exhausts of passing traffic.  People who live within a block of the Pacific will have much cleaner air than those who live along or near Parramatta Road.

Parramatta Road opposite McDonalds at Stanmore looking towards the city.

It annoys me that Sydney’s Inner West of has to be exposed to more pollution, including visual pollution.   What does it take to cut out concrete & plant trees in available spaces along Parramatta Road? If Leichhardt & Marrickville Councils followed City of Sydney’s lead & planted 3-4 metre high saplings, the effect would be to instantly beautify & green the place. The trees would also have a much greater chance of survival, as they are not sitting ducks to be vandalized.  The new street trees recently planted along Glebe Point Road are proof of this.

I know money is an issue, but is losing 95% of saplings planted each season due to dying for lack of water, accidents, vandalism & the like a wise investment?  Wouldn’t it be better to plant bigger saplings which do cost more, but if watered, are more likely to survive?

Couldn’t the nearest business owner be given a complementary watering can & asked to water the tree?  Council could give them a big bright sticker to put in their window saying that they are caretakers of the street trees with much thanks from Council & the community.  Something like I am a volunteer caretaker of the street tree/s outside this business.

View of the Pacific Hwy just before Chatswood. Even in this area street trees are regularly spaced & of a tall growing species.

People notice these things.  Couldn’t community appreciation awards be given each year to those people & businesses that kept the street trees alive?  Surely this type of recognition would be good for their professional reputation because a large percentage of the community cares about green issues these days.

My dream is that once businesses catch on to the fact that shoppers spend around 11% more where there are shady trees, they will be beating down Council’s door demanding trees be planted.

Parramatta Road is also a main route south of Sydney Harbour Bridge.  Tourists travel along it daily & they will gain an impression of Sydney from this road.  As for the Princes Highway, straight out from the airport…….

The Princes is shamefully ugly.  The section from St Peters to the Cooks River always looked dreadful &, like Parramatta Road, is only getting worse.  Rockdale Council made their section look considerably better & more people-friendly by planting street trees every 3 metres along the whole length of the shopping strip.  Rockdale Council prunes & maintains these trees & although they are trees in cages, they look good.  It is the kind of care that is noticeable & makes people feel good, better connected in their communities & happier.

Trees have this extraordinary capacity to cause people to feel happier & peaceful. Research has been done regarding the effects of trees on peoples’ physical & mental health, so it is not just me banging on. 100 Tree Facts has more information regarding the benefits of trees.  https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/100-tree-facts/

Marrickville Council won’t do anything about this unless we let them know that we want more trees in areas like Parramatta Road where there is tree-poverty.  We should not need to get used to ugliness when the solution is so simple & good for us & our children. If we work or live in areas with a predominance of grey infrastructure, it will have a negative impact on our health & our quality of life.  Besides, the UN says we should be planting 14 billion trees a year across the planet if we are going to have a chance of holding back the thrust towards climate change.

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