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Sydneysiders need to be aware & highly concerned at the rapid growth & loss of green space that is currently happening, plus the plans to take even more green space away.
Once the green space is gone, it is gone forever.
The loss of green space is a serious public health issue. Green space not only provides valuable habitat for wildlife, but it also cools the area around it. We need places with trees, grass & other vegetation.
We need green places for our mental, physical & spiritual health. Without access to decent green spaces human beings tend to suffer. People who suffer from mental illness can feel more settled when they are out in nature.
Recent research found without going into green spaces on a regular basis, people tend to get stressed, anxious, depressed, move less & gain weight. Many of us suffer morbid rumination, where we go over & over what we perceive are our failings or what is wrong with our lives. Just going for a walk where there are good trees can stop this mental thought process & improve our happiness & life satisfaction levels.
Green spaces provide us with a stress break in our busy lives & gives our mind a break from mental fatigue. Regular experience in the leafy outdoors helps improve work performance. It also helps improve our cognitive function, memory & ability to learn & retain information.
The intellectual development of children improves when they have contact with nature. Those who have ADD/ADHD tend to respond well to time spent in nature & have more content retention ability.
Research found that plants in the workplace resulted in decreased sick leave, so imagine the impact if there was nice green space for workers to have their lunch.
Those with Alzheimers or dementia are helped by being in green space & being able to touch plants.
“Various studies have found that urban dwellers with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems than people living near parks and that city dwellers who visit natural environments have lower levels of stress hormones immediately afterward than people who have not recently been outside.” See – http://nyti.ms/2lmPlzr
It is a fundamental need of human beings to have access to good green spaces. By good green spaces, I am not talking about a small patch of green on a main street or in a shopping mall, though these do have a significant role to play in offering areas of respite & helping lowering the urban heat island effect.
We all need areas where we can exercise for free without needing to pay for a gym membership. We need space to let off steam, to run, to shout, to play games alone or with friends.
We also need spaces where were can walk or sit quietly – where the only sound is nature; the wind in the trees & birds singing. We must keep those we have & not over develop them.
In my opinion, Council has a fundamental responsibility not to turn every green space into an entertainment venue. Places must be left where the only entertainment is what you can see in the natural environment around you. If people become depended on things to be provided for them to do in parks, they will lose the ability to relax or amuse themselves with whatever is around.
As our suburbs become more developed, our stress levels are likely to rise just doing everyday things like driving & shopping. Already traffic is a major negative issue in the locality & parking is often a nightmare.
Our streets are also green spaces – or they can be depending on the species of street tree planted. Squatty small canopy street trees do not have an impact, but big, full canopy street trees do. Have a look at the streets that are fortunate enough to have 80-year-old plus Brushbox trees. In the evening on hot days you will likely see pockets of people who have gathered outside in the shade. Good street trees are excellent at fostering connectivity between neighbours.
Verge gardens encourage connectivity as well. People like to talk about plants & gardening. Verge gardens offer the ability to swap plants & provide cuttings.
Today the news reported that the Total Environment Centre has identified more than 70 green spaces across Sydney at risk of being lost to development. See – http://bit.ly/2nrf0qZ
This is most concerning. If allowed to go ahead, habitat will be lost, wildlife will suffer & in cases like Cooks Cove where they want to develop the wetlands in Barton Park (see – http://bit.ly/2jey4Xi ) migratory birds, frogs & other creatures will die.
The report from the Total Environment Centre said, “Sydney will build 664,000 homes between 2011 and 2031, with 60-70 per cent coming from “infill” developments within existing city boundaries.”
We as the community will have to make our voice heard, considering the views of Anthony Roberts, the Minister in charge of Planning and Housing Affordability who said, “Anti-development activists are welcome to suggest ideas to me that will help us grow housing supply in NSW while protecting their favourite trees.”
I’ve got an idea Minister Roberts. How about leaving all the green spaces alone & not allowing development in these areas. It’s quite simple really. Leave the parks, the golf courses & riversides for the community & so people in the future can use them as well.
I get annoyed at the simplistic view of politicians who, whenever the community speaks out against developing areas like Barton Park wetlands, say they are anti-development NIMBYs wanting people to move out of Sydney. Do these political leaders not see another way in which green spaces & areas of vital habitat cab be retained for the benefit of the whole community now & most certainly for the benefit of future generations? It can be done.
We had three heatwaves in February 2017 & this is expected to get worse as climate change accelerates. Green spaces are essential components of a livable city. That or we take a risk every year that heat wave events will be more frequent. Loss of human life has happened in cities across the world as a result of heat waves. Our government warned us that the power supply was likely to be shut off because of increased use of air-conditioning.
The urban heat island effect is another serious health issue that is relatively ignored. Roads are still being covered in black bitumen as a way of maintaining them despite knowing that these are major heat sinks.
On 10th February 2017 the temperature at Blaxland Riverside Park in Sydney Olympic Park was 41.6 degrees in the shade. However, some of the soft play surfaces in the children’s playground were around 84 degrees. The road surface in the car park was almost 73 degrees. This gives you an idea of our future if our gardens & streets are not significantly greened & if we lose green spaces. See – http://bit.ly/2lxujhu
“As Sydney’s population is growing there’s more houses, less trees, less green, more roads … it’s adding to the heat. ….. The way we’re going – and adding another million people plus an airport, more roads, more pollution, more industry, we can expect 10 more extreme hot days a year over 35 [degrees] ….. It will become the norm. Without the proper designs [and planning] the problem will only get worse.” ~ Stephen Bali, president of the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils.
I remind you that the former Marrickville municipality has the least green space in Australia. We cannot afford to lose any of it, not even a morsel despite whatever the so-called gain to the community is slated to be. We cannot comment on public consultation in either the Leichhardt or Ashfield LGAs, despite being amalgamated into one large council. Therefore, Marrickville’s abysmal amount of green space should not be watered down by including green space from the other two municipalities we have amalgamated with.
Council should be taking every opportunity they can to add to the green space by transforming suitable areas of public space. I think they failed with Alex Trevallion Plaza in Marrickville Road Marrickville, the Marrickville Town Hall Forecourt & the latest being the unusually large street space area on the corner of Canterbury Road & Herbert Street Dulwich Hill, though this is my own opinion.
The public space outside the Victoria Road entrance of Marrickville Metro is also an area eliciting much conversation within the community. All that I have read or heard has been negative. Whether you like what Metro has done is personal, but there is no doubt a heat sink has been created with all that concrete & tiling. It is also a big loss to see that a number of mature trees have been removed.
I was thrilled to see six good sized Queensland Brushbox trees planted along the west side of Livingstone Road near Marrickville Park. Not only will these trees improve the streetscape, but they will also visually lead the eye to the park. Big canopy street trees is totally appropriate for this wide road.
I was also pleased to see that Council did not remove the red flowering gum trees planted along here. Although these trees could be deemed a failure because they range from around 1-metre to 1.8-metres tall after 5-years of growth, they still flower every year & provide food for wildlife.
Planet Ark has released their newest research into the benefits of trees titled, ‘Adding Trees: A prescription for health, happiness and fulfilment.’ The report found that spending time in nature makes us “healthier, happier, brighter, calmer & closer.”
Research like this makes me feel happy because it confirms what I am trying to do with this blog is correct & that I am on the right path. Trees, green spaces, access to nature & participation in natural surroundings is most definitely a public health issue. In fact, it is a much bigger public health issue than I think is understood by many local councils in Australia. Take these incredible statistics from the report as examples.
Time in nature reduces a person’s chance of –
- developing diabetes by 43%,
- developing cardiovascular disease & stroke by 37% &
- developing depression by 25%.
Diabetes in Australia http://bit.ly/1WhzS2s says –
- “Around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes.
- 280 Australians develop diabetes every day. That’s one person every five minutes.
- The total annual cost impact of diabetes in Australia estimated at $14.6 billion.
- For every person diagnosed with diabetes there is usually a family member or carer who also ‘lives with diabetes’ every day in a support role. This means that an estimated 2.4 million Australians are affected by diabetes every day.”
The Heart Foundation http://bit.ly/25enK7N says –
- “Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major cause of death in Australia, with 43,603 deaths attributed to CVD in Australia in 2013.
- Cardiovascular disease (heart, stroke & blood vessel diseases) kills one Australian every 12 minutes.
- CVD was the main cause for 518,563 hospitalisations in 2012/13 & played an additional role in another 680,000 hospitalisations.”
A paper by Heart Disease Research Australia http://bit.ly/29Qgs3b says –
- “In 2010 Coronary Heart Disease had a financial burden of $5.1b & a burden of disease cost of $13.3b. Total economic cost of $18.3b.
- Number of Australians dying from repeat heart attacks is expected to increase by over 40% (across all age groups) by 2020.”
The Submission to the Commission of Audit from the National Heart Foundation of Australia 2013 http://bit.ly/29N6QoD found that –
- “Physical inactivity is a major health problem in its own right.
- 54% of Australian adults are not physically active.
- Physical inactivity costs …. an estimated $1.5 billion a year, causes 16,000 premature deaths a year, increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, colon & breast cancer & is a critical factor in Australia’s obesity epidemic, with more than half of all Australian adults being overweight or obese.”
For me it is much more enjoyable to be physically active in a lovely leafy park & along leafy green streets. Improving the outlook of both our parks & streets by adding more trees to create more shade will encourage the community to walk, instead of instantly going for their air-conditioned car.
If walking can help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, colon & breast cancer & obesity, should not the outlook of the parks & transforming the streetscapes be a priority for local councils?
Beyond Blue http://bit.ly/1gRLoHG says –
- “Depression costs the Australian economy approximately $12.6 billion per year and accounts for up to six million working days of lost productivity.” You can add further costs (monetary, lost productivity, personal & social) to others who are connected in some way to the depressed person.
If my calculations are correct the costs of just these these diseases in Australia is a minimum of $47 billion every year.
Alcohol & other drug use, often connected to depression, also has a massive financial impact in the workplace & on the economy in terms of loss of productivity, absenteeism, mistakes & accidents in the workplace. Then there are the social impacts & costs, which are vast.
If alcohol & other drug use in Australia was factored in, you could add $55.2 billion bringing the costs to a total of 102.2 billion every year.
The $55.2 billion comes from a 2008 report by Collins & Lapsley for health costs in 2004–2005. Alcohol & other drug use in Australia seems to have accelerated since then, so we could reasonably expect the costs to be higher.
I wonder how much it would cost to increase the urban forest canopy in all metropolitan suburbs that had a poor or medium canopy, install aerial bundled cabling where needed & create green leafy parks, shopping strips & small green spaces. I doubt the cost would come anywhere near $47 billion annually & most certainly not 102.2 billion every year.
Preventative health care is cheaper in the long run. If trees, beautiful streetscapes & leafy shopping strips help make the community healthier & happier, why isn’t it being done to the degree that is needed by the bulk of our local councils? To me it shows there needs to be a significant culture change toward trees in many areas in Sydney & undoubtedly in many areas in other cities. Step 1: allocate significantly more to the annual budget for trees, streetscapes & parks.
There also needs to be a culture change when it comes to getting people to want to go outdoors & spend time in nature. We live in a very fast paced world these days & the temptation to veg out watching television or playing internet games is strong.
Our kids do not have contact with nature like we did when I was a child. In the research report there is a term – “outdoor illiterate.” I think it is a brilliant way to describe the consequences for children who spend very little time outdoors.
Today I saw something unusual in that a gum boot wearing toddler was splashing around in a puddle at the markets. Her mum was enjoying watching her daughter having a good time.
The report found that children of today spend the bulk of their time inside on level floor surfaces. As a consequence of this lifestyle it has been found that “Australian children cannot walk confidently and & skillfully in outdoor environs; they are unfamiliar with uneven ground, crossing rivers or negotiating steep hilly terrain (Stone, 2009).” How sad is that. Outside is becoming an issue too with more concrete paths being added to our parks.
It makes me wonder what are the implications for children’s ability to age well? Flexibility & balance become increasingly important as one gets older. Falling due to poor balance often results in a broken hip, necessitating surgery, lengthy rehabilitation & unfortunately for many, a one way journey to live out the rest of their lives in a nursing home. Are we setting up children to have more problems earlier when they get older?
“The message is urgent: unplug, boot it down, get off-line, get outdoors, breathe again, become real in the real world.” ~ David Orr.
Not just children, but adults too. Technology is great, but not if it comes at the cost of our children not being able to walk properly & people of all ages being sick, unhappy or chronically depressed.
Living in a city is great too, but again, not if we have poor green spaces, or too few green spaces or crowded green spaces that focus on providing organized entertainment with little or no space for peaceful reflection & down time.
A May 2016 article in the Sydney Morning Herald titled, ‘Sydney’s green spaces to get squeezed as city’s population swells’ http://ow.ly/lVbw30016R7 said –
- “Over the next 15 years the amount of total open space per person in the city is expected to shrink by more than 20 per cent, from 18.3 square metres a head to 14.4 square metres by 2036.” Our courtyard is larger than this!
- “By that stage the Sydney local government area will be home to an extra 81,000 people, up from 200,000 now.” And this is just the City of Sydney.
In the mid-1990s, Pyrmont had a population of around 1,000 people. This has ballooned to more than 15,000 & the suburb is unrecognizable, at least from across the water at White Bay.
In the article, the demand for playing fields is deemed unachievable & so suggests that the way to provide what is needed is to install synthetic playing fields – so we will even lose the grass.
How the birds like magpies, galahs & little corellas who rely on these spaces will cope, I do not know, but the reality is, wildlife doesn’t feature much when local councils want to install synthetic turf. Locally, you just need to look at Arlington Reserve to see this. It all happened against fierce community opposition & at the same time as the light rail station was being built in an area where listed as ‘endangered’ Long-nosed Bandicoots were thought to live.
How did these animals cope when two green areas of habitat close to each other were being torn apart & redeveloped? I think the attitude is that birds/animals will move on, but increasingly it is becoming an issue of “where to?” The declining numbers of common native birds like the magpie is proof they are not adjusting to the loss of green space.
I don’t know about you, but a big part of my nature / green space experience is birds. I like to see them. I like to look at them & I especially like to hear them. As I ride around Marrickville & surrounds, I often pass through deadly quiet streets. There are poor street trees, or few street trees & very few trees in gardens. As a consequence, there seems to be a lack of birds. That or they are all sleeping when I ride past.
How do you keep a population happy & healthy if there is little green space & where wildlife doesn’t feature much?
I’ve already written too much & have barely touched on the findings of the report, so will post Part 2 soon. It’s a brilliant report & certainly got me thinking.
The new high-rise housing development on Alice Street is nearing completion. I am pleased to see that all the street trees have been protected. It was nice to see the shadow pattern of dappled leaves over balconies knowing that whoever lives there will look out onto the canopy of these trees & enjoy the shade, green & birdlife. My bet is the outlook onto mature trees will be used as a selling point.
Behind this building in Alice Lane I counted 20 new trees planted as part of the development. One species looks to be Banksia with another species planted with every alternate tree.
At the corner of Pearl Street & Alice Lane they (I am assuming this work was done by the developers) have built a large rain garden. It looks great & will only improve as the plants grow. It is obvious that planning has included making it an informal meeting place where people can sit & chat.
On the wall of the house that sits beside the rain garden in a very nice nature-themed mural painted by @mulgatheartist. The outlook is ‘groovy tropical’ with Australian native birds looking hip wearing sun glasses. It’s sweet, funny & a bit whimisical. I like it a lot & I especially love that it is nature-themed.
Improvements like this help with stormwater & clean the water before it reaches the Cooks River, even from this far away. The raingarden, new trees & mural also help soften the landscape, plus add beauty & a patch of habitat in a hard landscape.
We were driving up Moorefields Road Kingsgrove today when our eyes saw a shock of orange. The green arbor was in flower & what a sight it was. I last wrote about this here – http://bit.ly/1PnJ1it
Now that I have seen the flower I know it as the Orange Trumpet vine (Pyrostegia venusta). Although native to Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia & Paraguay, it is common sight covering sheds & fences in Queensland adding pops of orange to the landscape through winter to spring.
Unfortunately, the Orange Trumpet vine has naturalized in Queensland. It can be grown from cuttings & can sometimes spread due to branches taking root in the ground.
‘Grow Me Instead’ suggests planting the Red Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) instead saying, “The plant [Orange Trumpet vine] must not be planted near environmentally sensitive areas as it will escape & invade adjacent natural systems.” However, in this location in Kingsgrove, I’d be surprised if it caused any problems.
The vine was brought to England from Brazil in 1815 by Admiral Sir John Beresford. A prolific climber, it can climb 6-metres or more. The bees love the trumpet-like flowers disappearing inside the trumpet for ages.
Despite its problems in Australia, I think it looks fabulous in this pocket park & there is nowhere for it to spread to. The arbor itself is a great way to create a sense of peace in a small patch of green next to a busy road. I am glad to have seen it looking its best.
Inner West Council (nee Marrickville) have given notification that they intend to remove 5 x Robinia (Robinia pseudoacacia) trees outside 366 New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill
Council gives the following reason for removal –
- “Trees to be removed as part of an upgrade project. They are in poor condition & at the end of their useful life.”
They say the trees will be replaced with “super advanced 400L container size tree Liriodendron tulipifera installed in structural soil to provide optimal soil volumes.”
I can have a guess at what “structural soil” & “optimal soil volumes” mean, but why not write the reason in plain English so that everyone in the community can understand? Industry jargon always isolates & alienates those not in the industry & this applies to all industries. The target audience is the community, not other arborists & town planners.
Of importance is our urban forest will not be increasing fast when five trees are removed to be replaced with only one tree.
The Liriodendron tulipifera is a deciduous tree native to North America. It produces green/yellow flowers in spring & yellow autumn color before the leaves are dropped. It grows in an upright form & can reach 20-metres in 10-15 years. Liriodendron tulipifera are planted along the Marrickville Road shopping strip.
I went to have a look & could only see four Robinia trees in this location. One was a power pole with a streetlight, so easily mistaken I suppose. Maybe the pole will be removed as well.
I wanted to call this post ‘A lost opportunity.’
In 2015 Marrickville Council did research to garner information about the urban heat island effect & the impact of heatwaves in Dulwich Hill. They also created a Thermal Map, which showed the hot areas in Dulwich Hill.
Not only was New Canterbury Road nominated as ‘hot spot’ by the community, but the thermal map showed that this perception was indeed correct. The corner of Herbert Street & New Canterbury Road is right up there in terms of excessive heat at between 32.9 – 36.8 degrees – the maximum heat shown in the thermal map.
The same corner was also in the second highest area of a study of the ‘population vulnerable to heat stress.’
So knowing that this location is really hot & is in an area of population deemed vulnerable to heat stress, Council only plans to plant one tree? Seriously!
The location at corner of Herbert Street & New Canterbury Road has an unusually large streetscape space. It’s not often Council gets an opportunity to work in public street space that is around 5 x 20 metres. The corner juts out in a wide swoop. Currently it is a wide space of concrete with the four trees, one pole & two bench seats & still leaving plenty of room that is open-air concrete.
To plant only one tree is a missed opportunity for Council to create something lovely to not only beautify the streetscape, but to also lower the heat island effect here.
I had difficulty taking photos of the trees that did not include people because they kept rushing into the space to sit on the seats or to stand in the shade. At one stage there were fifteen people under the trees. This shows that this is a popular meeting space for the community – another reason why more than one tree should be the upgrade project’s target.
A busy café is on this corner. People buy something from the café & take it outside. The café itself, does not seem to get relief from the afternoon sun. In Sydney winter really only started yesterday after a summer-like autumn that broke all previous temperature records. It was cold today, but still hot enough outside for people to be actively seeking shade.
This idea that we need deciduous trees for the winter months belongs to the pre-climate change past. Even the shops are despairing because of record low sales of winter clothing.
In my opinion there is room for five decent sized trees
speed spread out over this site, plus landscaping works that incorporate the current seating. Anything less means that Council knows the area is hot, but is not willing to take steps to mitigate the heat & make it an attractive & useful space for the community. Such a shame.
The deadline for submissions is Monday 1st June 2016.
Marrickville Council has fliers all over the place inviting interested members of the community to attend a workshop that asks the very important question – “How can we make our local environment the best it could be?”
They say, “bring your ideas & all ideas are the right ideas.” Council will provide a free vegetarian lunch.
And, “This event is a must for people who love to breathe clean air, grow food, plant trees, see clean streets, get to know people, connect with community, watch birds and help nature grow & thrive in Marrickville now & into the future. Importantly, this event is for people that are ready to do something & to do it with others.”
For me it is easy.
- Marrickville Council could follow City of Sydney’s example & double the urban forest within a decade, though City of Sydney Council are planning to achieve this by 2020 & the results are already noticeable.
- Again follow the City of Sydney’s example & reclaim as many street corners as possible, allowing that space to be greened up & also serve as informal & attractive meeting places. This kind of intervention slows down traffic, as well as adding beauty to the streetscape.
- More de-paving & more verge gardens. This program is already having a positive impact throughout the municipality.
- More green walls, even if it is a simple vine that grows up a side wall cooling the area & preventing graffiti tagging.
- More native trees to fill in the ‘urban biodiversity mosaic, Council’s map of areas of biodiversity across the municipality, instead of mainly planting for wildlife only along biodiversity corridors such as the Greenway & the Cooks River. Unfortunately, areas that support wildlife are sparse, except for along the Cooks River & the railway lines.
- No loss of our park space for any reason. We have the least green space of any municipality in Australia, so keeping it must be a top priority.
- Fresh water available for birds with every bubbler & in parks. It happens in neighbouring municipalities, why not ours?
- Complete The Greenway, though I did read recently that the NSW government is going to financially contribute with the councils to make it happen. See – http://bit.ly/1rHJMxC
- Insist that new high-rise developments move back from the street to prevent a canyon effect & to allow tall street trees to be planted. It is better for those living in these units to look out onto green & importantly, better for their health as those street trees will help capture particulate matter, protect air quality & lessen the development of respiratory illness & fatal heart attacks. This is vitally important in my opinion. I’ve written about this public health issue on a number of occasions. See – http://bit.ly/1qfKvVz Also, more footpath area outside these developments leaves more room for landscaping & seating if there is a café or restaurant included on the ground level. Plus, it provides more room for pedestrians. Targeting new development to produce better looking streets is a no-brainer in my opinion. Otherwise we will be stuck for the next 50-years with the mistakes of today.
WHEN: Sunday 22nd May 2016.
WHERE: Tom Foster Community Centre at 11-13 Darley Street Newtown.
TIME: 12.30 – 4.30pm
RSVP: By Tuesday 17th May 2016.
To RSVP & for more information see – http://bit.ly/1QxT1F8
I have looked in passing at this green arbor along Moorefields Road Kingsgrove often while driving past, but recently decided to stop & have a closer look.
A vine has been grown over a trellis structure to create a very interesting archway into an unnamed pocket park at the end of Rolestone Avenue, which ends in a cul-de-sac. The vine covered arbor makes this green space peaceful because the main road is buffered by the vines & your attention is taken elsewhere. Most vines bloom, so this would be very nice while happening.
The arbor would also provide habitat & safety for wildlife.
I have not seen anything like this green entrance in a public space & like it a lot. It is a clever idea by Rockdale Council & one that I could see used successfully elsewhere, especially where heavy traffic is an issue.
In June 2015 I went to look at the works by Marrickville Council in Kays Avenue East laneway in Dulwich Hill. The lane travels between Kays Avenue East to Albermarle Street along the railway line.
I visited again recently to see the completed works & the planting done by the community. It looks good & is a big improvement from what was here before.
I love the curved path & the rain gardens, which have already been put to use with the recent wet weather. We all benefit whenever these kinds of spaces are greened up. One day I hope that this kind of environment is the norm around the inner west.