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Corner of Canterbury Road and Herbert Street Dulwich Hill – an unusual opportunity by Council to make a truly green and inviting space for the community in this location. A missed opportunity and I bet this work cost a lot.

New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill.   Plenty of room for street trees here

A while ago a reader wrote & asked what I thought of the NSW government’s plan to plant 5-million new trees across Sydney by 2030.  I was surprised that I had missed such a great commitment from the government & pleased that finally, something was happening to address Sydney’s canopy.

The issue is back in the news today, so I thought I would write about it for the people like me who missed this news.

Climate change is coming with a vengeance.  You just have to feel today’s temperature at a record-breaking 35-degrees for the third time this week in mid-Autumn to know something is going on & every year it gets hotter. Even the trees are getting confused putting on a second flowering when they are supposed to be shedding their leaves.

The ‘Five Million Trees’ initiative will cost $37.5-million over four years & will increase Sydney’s existing tree canopy from 16.8% to 40% over the next 12-years.  The former Marrickville LGA’s canopy was documented as “poor” by 202020 Vision at 16.3%.  Leichardt LGA was documented as 20.3%, & Ashfield as 19.8%.  

You just have to cross Parramatta Road to Leichhardt & Annandale to see a massive difference in the canopy compared to Marrickville, Tempe, Sydenham & St Peters.  The suburbs of Petersham, Camperdown & Stanmore fare much better & to my mind, have a much nicer streetscape because of the street trees. Even then, the comparison to streetscapes in the former Leichhardt LGA makes these suburbs look tree poor.  Dulwich Hill is somewhere in the middle depending on where you are.

Taking our canopy from 16.3% to 40% by 2030 will mean a substantial increase in livability for residents, though I do have concerns about how this will be managed with the coming over-development for Marrickville & Dulwich Hill.

Development generally means losing mature trees & token trees as a replacement.  Let’s hope the government forces developers to leave space for big canopy trees & not take the route of removing trees in one place & saying it is okay to plant trees somewhere else.  This is a terribly poor result for the community & especially wildlife.

This would be a good time to force developers to set their high-rise buildings back 4-5 metres to allow trees to be planted at the street front instead of building right to the footpath.  Trees in the front of set-back buildings could look so much better & be much healthier for the residents of these buildings.  I would be happy to give developers extra height to allow space at the front for trees & to avoid the tunnel effect of overbearing buildings.

380,000 trees will need to be planted by local councils across Sydney every year for 12-years to achieve the target & to minimize the urban heat island effect. 

I would love to know how many new trees Inner West Council will need to plant every year to meet this target. The improved canopy cover is expected to reduce temperatures when the sun is at its hottest by approximately 5-degrees Celsius.  That doesn’t sound much, but stand under a shady tree on a hot summer’s day & you will instantly notice how much cooler & pleasant this is. We will have people being neighbourly again & not trapped inside with the air-conditioning. This will be a good thing for community relations.

In 2017 the Inner West Council said they planted 1,000 trees across the municipality.  While I am pleased for any new tree planted, I thought that was a low number for what was, until recently, three municipalities.  They did not say where the trees were planted, so we have no idea whether each former municipality got one-third each or Balmain & Leichhardt lucked out with the largest number of new trees planted. Who knows?  You can’t blame anyone for wondering these things when there is poor information given.

I estimate that the Inner West Council will be required to plant more than three times that number every year from now on.  Perhaps, this will encourage council to include the community in tree planting, as happens elsewhere across the globe.  If the residents help plant the trees, there is a lesser chance that these will be vandalized.

The community will come to understand why trees are necessary & how these new street trees will improve their quality of life, their health, the value of their home & lessen their power bills.

You just have to see the work done by Blacktown City Council’s Cool Streets project to see how their community went from choosing small stature street trees to choosing a mixture of medium to tall trees.  They made the huge change because they learnt about the benefits to their health & their wallet.  Of course, there is always a chance of a roaming vandal, but hopefully, these people get caught up in the tree education and decide to vandalise inanimate objects (or their own home) instead of public trees.

The NSW government also plans to give away 15,000 trees to people who are building homes in new land release areas in Western Sydney.  This is a very good thing, but I wonder where they will find space to plant them. Having seen new estates, the blocks are almost all covered by the building’s footprint.   There also needs to be means to check that these trees have actually been planted.

Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said, “Planting this many trees across Sydney is equivalent to taking about 355,000 cars off the road each year.”

The ‘Five Million Trees’ initiative is part of the NSW Government’s Open Spaces package at a cost of $290 million.

  • $100-million will be to secure green space,
  • $20-million will be to build & renovate up to 200 playgrounds.
  • $30-million will be to create 81 school ovals & playgrounds for public use during school holidays.   I have concerns about using playgrounds as public green space. I may write about this on another occasion.

Marrickville streetscape. There was more concrete behind me.

Young street trees & landscaping outside the old seagrass factory in Stanmore that has recently been developed into housing.

The Conversation – “an independent source of information, analysis & commentary from the university & research sector” has published yet another fabulous article, this time about trees.  The article was written by Gregory Moore – Doctor of Botany, University of Melbourne & published 30th January 2012.

Greg Moore Senior Research Associate of Burnley College, University of Melbourne was Principal of Burnley from 1988 to 2007, & Head of the School of Resource Management at the University from 2002 to 2007.  With a general interest in horticultural plant science, revegetation & ecology, Greg is particularly interested in arboriculture. He was inaugural president of the International Society of Arboriculture, Australian Chapter, & has been a member of the National Trust’s Register of Significant Trees since 1988 & chair since 1996. He has served the Board of Greening Australia (Victoria) since 1988 & chaired Treenet since 2005. He is on the board of Sustainable Gardening Australia & is a trustee of the Trust for Nature. He has written two books, contributed to three others & has published over 120 scientific papers & articles.”

‘The Conversation’ allows this article to be republished so here it is in full.  The use of bold is my emphasis.

For a great return on investment, try trees

Perhaps it is a pity that so many Australians think of our parks, gardens, streetscapes & urban landscapes only in terms of their aesthetics. While green spaces are beautiful & decorative, these attributes can mask the many functions vegetation serves in cities, to the point where its economic, social & environmental benefits are overlooked. Yes, trees are beautiful; but more than that, they save our cities a lot of money.

Cities are biodiversity hot spots because of the variety of habitats available in public & private open space, including front & back yards. Urban landscapes & trees have been wonderful but silent assets in our cities for decades & even centuries.

One of the many mature Fig trees in Johnson Park Dulwich Hill. They & other mature trees in this park are a real asset to this community.

They are major urban infrastructure assets. I often hear it said that; “There are better things to use water on than plants and gardens”, but I challenge you to name them. What else delivers so many benefits immediately: benefits that last centuries into the future, which prolong healthy lives & make cities both sustainable & livable?

At a time of climate change, it is worrying that both private and public open spaces are threatened by urban renewal & development that puts at risk long-term sustainability. In many of these developments there is insufficient open space – public or private – to plant large trees, & the opportunities for vegetation to ameliorate the heat island effect, lower wind speed, provide shade & reduce energy use are lost. This affects the economic viability of such developments, as well as its long term environmental sustainability. http://www.epa.gov/hiri/

The shade provided by trees drops temperatures by up to 8°C: there is real economic value in that. Shade can reduce air conditioner use by 12-15%, which also decreases carbon emissions from our largely brown-coal-generated electricity.

When 11 million trees were planted in the Los Angeles basin, it saved US$50 million per annum on air conditioning bills. Large trees were removed from school grounds in the name of safety after the Black Saturday fires, without thought of the shade they provided. Consequently, large shade sails had to be provided to protect students from excessive summer sun.  http://bit.ly/AwLn4P

It is more difficult to place a value on reduced wind speeds (up to 10%) due to the presence of vegetation, or on protection that trees provide from hail. However, we do know that under climate change winds will be stronger & that severe storms will be more prevalent. Indeed, Victoria has already suffered the effects of several major wind & hail storm events over the past few years. http://bit.ly/sCl4kM

Urban vegetation also removes atmospheric pollutants. It was calculated that the vegetation of New York provided US$10 million of benefit in pollution removal in 1994.  http://nrs.fs.fed.us/units/urban/local resources/downloads/Tree_Air_Qual.pdf  Sadly there are few similar studies for Australian cities. However in the only study of its kind, economists found that each Adelaide street tree provides a minimum annual benefit of $200 per year & that it was an under-estimate of the real value.   http://bit.ly/x5qRKd

Vegetation also holds & absorbs water during more intense rainfall events – unlike concrete & paved surfaces. The economic value of reducing localised flooding could be substantial.

Vegetated landscapes, especially those containing trees, improve human heath, extend life spans, reduce violence & vandalism, and lower blood pressure. http://www.treenet.org/images/stories/symposia/2009PDFs/2009%20people%20and%20trees%20providing%20benefits%20overcoming%20impediments%20dr%20jane%20tarran.pdf

Vegetation humidifies the air, easing breathing & reducing the need for medication in those with respiratory difficulties. In reducing the urban heat island effect, trees can also substantially reduce the excess deaths that occur, predominantly among the elderly, during heat waves. It is often forgotten that the fires of Black Saturday killed 172 people, but the heat wave surrounding it was responsible for 374 deaths. http://bit.ly/zkz1K9

Petersham is lucky to have such a lovely streetscape.

There is ample evidence that treed landscapes foster both active & passive recreation. Green & leafy environments will be one of the vital strategic tools in dealing with children lacking exercise & becoming obese, encouraging an ageing population to exercise & curbing ever-increasing health costs. The human health benefits can save society a truck-load on medical & social infrastructure costs.

Melbourne is one of Victoria’s biodiversity hot spots. The parks, gardens, streets & front and backyards provide a very diverse range of plant species that generate a myriad of habitats & niches for wildlife. High density urban developments & inner city renewal make it virtually impossible to grow trees in places that were once green & leafy. We rarely ever see the real costs of such developments.

In the past decade tree populations in many Australian cities have declined, particularly with the loss of private open space. While the costs, damage & nuisance values attributed to trees are widely known, the benefits they provide are often subtle & under-appreciated.

Urban vegetation provides economic & ecological services to society. They are assets which warrant the expenditure of resources such as labour, energy & water. Such expenditure is not wasted: trees & urban landscapes provide far more economically & ecologically than they use. In any comprehensive & fair calculation urban trees & landscapes are worth more than they cost.

* data-tracker http://theconversation.edu.au/content/5050/tracker

This article was originally published at http://theconversation.edu.au  Read the original article – http://theconversation.edu.au/for-a-great-return-on-investment-try-trees-5050

Landscaping with young trees has been used to block off a road connecting with Ewart Street Dulwich Hill. It always looks good. Unfortunately one tree has been lost.

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