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Planted in about 1860, this is a very important tree for Sydney.  I am pleased Metro kept new infrastructure away from this tree.

Looking at the front entrance from the side.

The new entrance to Marrickville Metro from the front.

Last post I said I would post some photos of the landscaping work being done at the Victoria Road entrance of Marrickville Metro.

I love that infrastructure was kept away from the magnificent heritage fig tree planted around 1860.  It is an extremely important tree for Marrickville & for Sydney.

I also love that the bench seats do not include a bar to prevent people from lying down.  I loathe defensive architecture & the negative message it sends.

Facing Mill house, on the right there is now a lovely small school vegetable garden for local St Pius’ Catholic Primary School & also what appears to be an outdoor classroom area.  From memory this area contained a few trees, so to me it looks entirely different.  However, it is a nice & useful green space.

I do like that extensive verge gardens have been created down Victoria Street & more gardens behind the temporary fence.

Metro has obviously tried.  It is just a pity that the main entrance area is so visually harsh & is also a heat sink.  I think they may come to regret this in the years to come.

The fence is temporary. What concerns me is that lack of shade for dogs.

The dog tie-up area in this location is connecting all dogs to the one pole & although water bowls have been kindly provided, I think the dogs will bake if left here for more than the shortest time.  I also think there is a high risk they will get tangled up with each other, which may cause conflict with some dogs who feel anxious or who have a need for personal space.

It is interesting to notice how the community feel a sense of ownership of what is essentially private property.  My guess is Metro want the community to feel connected to this shopping centre, which is why they have the community library.   Something else that is important is that Metro is a place visited weekly by a large chunk of the community, so how it looks has an impact on how we feel & for many, whether we return or not.

There is the well-known research that found that spending increased by a whopping 11% in leafy shopping strips, so it behoves shop keepers & shopping malls to retain trees & lobby for more trees & greenery outside their shops & in public spaces within the shopping strip.   People like trees & tend to linger in green spaces.  If they linger, they tend to spend more.

The area outside the main entrance has been the focus of much conversation on Facebook & many people have initiated conversation with me wanting to talk about what has been done here.  No-one mentioned the school garden, the chess area, the verge gardens or the tree removal, so I was surprised to see all the other work.  Unfortunately, I do not know how many mature trees were removed.  What people talked to me about concerned the entrance area & their emotions were strongly on the negative side.

Having looked at the work I think Metro did not succeed with the front entrance, but have done well in the other sections.    For me I remember when Metro wanted to remove many of the Figs & other street trees surrounding the centre.  I am so glad this has not happened & think it is a major boon for both the community & the wildlife.

Despite that this is a large shopping mall, the streetscape around the centre is quite unique for Marrickville.  I personally enjoy walking here & find the trees beautiful.  Metro could have so easily made the whole periphery look like the front entrance.

I do think Metro realises the community’s love for the leafy outlook of the shopping centre & their love for the trees.  They had a mission to rejuvenate this area & they incorporated aspects that were inclusive to the local school & to anyone in the community who wants to play chess & sit in the shade of the Fig tree.  There are good points & not so good points.  I have included quite a few photos so you can make up your own mind & so that the good work they have done is not overshadowed by the front entrance.

I think the black block is to become a water feature.  The shade is from the veteran Fig tree.

Giant chess.  What I do like is that not everything in this area is concrete.  Paths are permeable or are raised wooden paths.

St Pius’ Catholic Primary School’s vegetable garden.

Outdoor classroom behind the vegetable garden.

New gardens behind the temporary fence.  I may be wrong, but I think there were mature trees here.

New verge gardens are a nice addition to the streetscape.  Maybe they will stop trolley dumping.

 

The view of housing development on Canal Road Alexandria.

A little further along Canal Road Alexandria – housing.

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.

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. Missed opportunity and I bet this work cost a lot.

The space behind the above photo in Herbert Street Dulwich Hill. I am glad it is grass and not concrete, but what would be wrong with planting a couple of shade trees here and adding some benches. It could be a useful space for the community.

Marrickville Town Hall Forecourt today – ugly and hot.  Not an attractive meeting place for the community.  This cost $575,000

Alex Trevallion Plaza in Marrickville Road – speaks for itself.

Alex Trevallion Plaza. Two of the skinny gum trees died, so instead of replacing them, Council filled the holes with bitumen. Message: we cannot expect this place to look better for a long time.

New entrance to Marrickville Metro. I will post photos of their other landscaping work next post.  Numerous mature trees, a grassy knoll and plumbago hedge on three sides of seating was also removed.  It has been suggested that C stands for Concrete.

The crack is significant.

The crack is significant.  

Inner West Council has given notice that they intend to remove a Narrow-leafed red ironbark (Eucalyptus crebra) opposite 6 Tramway Avenue Tempe.

Tramway is a lovely street with lots of street trees.  The tree to be removed is the one with the sign.  I am glad that Council are replacing with another in this location.

Tramway is a lovely street with lots of street trees. The tree to be removed is the one with the sign. I am glad that Council are replacing with another in this location.

Council gives the following reasons for removal –

  • “Tree has significant crack in the main trunk causing it to be structurally unsound.
  • The tree poses an unacceptable level of risk to the public and property.”

Council says they will replace with a Red Iron Bark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon) as part of the 2017 Street Tree Planting Program between May & September.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 3rd March 2017. 

 

 

Brittle gum in Stafford Street Stanmore.

Sydney blue gum in Stafford Street Stanmore.  It looks like a sick tree with a poor canopy.  Unfortunately the canopy does not show well in this photo.  A tree behind makes it look fuller than it is.  

You can see the damage in the trunk of the Brittle Gum.

You can see the damage in the trunk of the Sydney blue gum.

Inner West Council has given notice that they intend to remove two public trees in Stanmore.

Tree number 1:  a Sydney Blue Gum (Eucalyptus saligna) outside 13 Stafford Street Stanmore.

Council gives the follow reasons for removal –

  • “Tree has previously had several major branch failures which have resulted in weakened structural integrity.
  • The tree poses an unacceptable level of risk to the public and property.”

Council says they will replace with a Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia) in the 2017 Street Tree Planting Program between May & September.

I agree this tree needs to go.   While I like Jacarandas, I think it is a shame to replace a big native tree species with an exotic.

The deadline for any submissions is Friday 3rd March 2017.

Tree number 2: a Brittle Gum (Eucalyptus mannifera) outside 62 Percival Road Stanmore.

Council gives the follow reasons for removal –

  • “Tree has poor vitality and significant canopy dieback
  • Major open wound to trunk with decay and loss of structural wood.
  • The tree poses an unacceptable level of risk to the public and property.”

Council says they will replace with a Spotted Gum (Corymbia maculata) during the 2017 Street Tree Planting Program between May & September.

I agree this tree needs to go & think it is good that Council is replacing a native with a native.

The deadline for any submissions is Friday 10th March 2017.

Brittle gum in Percival Road.

Brittle gum in Percival Road.  Not much canopy left.

The trunk of the Brittle gum in Percival Road.

The trunk of the Brittle gum in Percival Road.

Here it is.  It blends in with the other close trees, which is optimal for wildlife.

Here it is. It blends in with the other close trees, which is optimal for wildlife.

Last December I posted about two new habitat trees in Mackey Park Marrickville next to the Cooks River.  See – http://bit.ly/2lvRKKn

The Inner West Council said they had created three new habitat trees, but I was unable to find the third tree.  Well I found it.  It is one of the poplars close to the Rowers Club on the river side of the shared pathway.

I hope Council plants at least three new trees in this park to make up for the canopy loss of the others.  There is room.

Photo of street tree pruning done just two weeks ago by Ausgrid in Walenore Avenue Newtown.  Photo by Chris O'Dell used with thanks.

Photo of street tree pruning done just two weeks ago by Ausgrid in Walenore Avenue Newtown. Photo by Chris O’Dell used with thanks.

It is wonderful to see the push to have power companies take responsibility & pay for the damage they do to street trees is starting to gain momentum.  It means that there is cultural change happening & this is always good.

“A decision by the newly formed inner west Sydney Council to lobby Ausgrid to replace damaged trees is attracting plenty of interest here in the Southern Highlands.”

Wingecarribee Council Deputy Mayor Ian Scandrett “believes Endeavour Energy should contribute to selected replacement of the main trees which have been disfigured.   However, he’s also open to the idea of directing those contributions towards putting wires underground in our streets to preserve avenues of trees.”   

Hornsby Shire Council is also tackling the issue of street tree pruning for powerlines this time with Ausgrid.

In a January 2017 media release titled, ‘Council’s push to move powerlines underground,’ “At December’s meeting Council approved a mayoral minute seeking a discussion with electricity provider Ausgrid about ways to gradually place the power supply underground.  Council will also investigate ways to ensure all new subdivisions and high density developments include underground cabling.”

 “That pruning transforms the trees into stunted shadows of their real potential.  Imagine what we can do to our streetscapes if we have unlimited ability to plant trees and allow them to grow to their full scale.  We will have beautiful avenues of trees that will make our Bushland Shire an even more attractive place to live.” ~ ” Mayor Steve Russell, Hornsby Shire Council.

I agree 100 per cent.  Imagine also the ability to cool our streets & neighbourhoods if street trees were able to grow to their full potential.  It would mean that the urban heat island effect would be less dangerous, that people are less likely to die during heatwaves, that it would be nice to walk to wherever we are going & for those who do not have cars, walking would be a nicer experience than it currently is.

Those trees would be able to deliver more amenity in terms of beauty, shade, reduced cooling costs, & as the research keeps telling us, better public health.

Trees capture air-pollution & particulate from vehicles.  Particulate matter (that black stuff on your window sills) has been found to –

  • increase the incidence of respiratory illnesses such as asthma,
  • increase the incidence of heart disease and increase the incidence of fatal heart attacks &
  • increase incidence of dementia.

If these are not reason enough why street trees should be a priority, I don’t know what can be.

One of my Perth friends told me that powerlines are going underground, which was new to me.  I googled & found this published in January 2014, which shows how far behind we are.

For over a decade, Western Power has been undertaking an extensive program to put powerlines underground throughout Western Australia. Around 18 per cent of the overhead distribution network existing at the start of the program in 1996 is now underground, including 54 per cent of the Perth metropolitan area.”

“The recognised benefits of putting power underground include fewer blackouts during inclement weather, enhanced visual appearance, improved property values, reduced street tree pruning requirement and brighter, safer streets with the new lighting system.”

About 98% of the works are done by directional drilling. ….  The extensive use of directional drilling helps minimise the impact on residents and keeps reinstatement costs low.”  There is more information on how it is done & who pays for what in this interesting articlehttp://bit.ly/2kE43oH

I received the following in an email from a local resident last week –

“We desperately need a great urban canopy to cool our streets, footpaths and suburbs.   For visual amenity, for wildlife, to encourage walking, to cool cars for those of us without driveways/undercover car parking.  Putting power cables underground means we can have the trees we want looking great and providing the canopy we need.”

Inner West Council, please add putting powerlines underground in your negotiations with Ausgrid.   Although a slow process, underground cables will allow this municipality to be transformed into a greener municipality which would be healthier for all, including the wildlife.

January 2017 tree pruning by Ausgrid in Renwick Street Marrickville.  This is one of multiple examples on this street.

January 2017 tree pruning by Ausgrid in Renwick Street Marrickville. This is one of multiple examples on this street.

 

Ausgrid pruning of street trees in Fotheringham Street Enmore last week.   Photo by Catherine Bakker‎ and used with thanks.

Ausgrid pruning of street trees in Fotheringham Street Enmore last week. Photo by Catherine Bakker‎ and used with thanks.

More Ausgrid pruning of street trees in Fotheringham Street Enmore last week.  Photo by Catherine Bakker‎ and used with thanks.

More Ausgrid pruning of street trees in Fotheringham Street Enmore last week. Photo by Catherine Bakker‎ and used with thanks.

The Inner West Council said in a press release dated 18th January 2017 that they are negotiating with power company Ausgrid to pay the costs of removing trees damaged by Ausgrid’s pruning & the planting of replacement trees.

The press release says  –

  • Council are “targeting the replanting of trees damaged by tree trimming in many inner west streets.”
  • “Council officers have been working with Ausgrid officers to nominate selected trees that should be replaced.”
  • “Ausgrid has agreed to assess and mostly likely approve the removal of these trees.”

While I am glad that Council are negotiating to have Ausgrid pay for the removal & replacement of the trees they have decimated by their pruning, I have some trepidation wondering just how many of our street trees will need to be removed.   If you look at the state of the street trees around the former Marrickville municipality, you will see that the numbers will not be insignificant.

Ausgrid have created an unnecessary loss of the urban forest & one which will have an negative impact on the community in terms of heat, pollution, stormwater management & the mental/physical health of the community, not to mention the cost to wildlife who possibly lose their homes & food source.

There has been a lot of research published recently that found that street trees provide numerous benefits to human health.  The lack of a good urban forest causes problems such as increased obesity, more respiratory & heart disease, more fatal heart attacks & the latest, more incidence of dementia.  Also, a poor urban forest is known to increase unhappiness & depression in the community & poorer learning in children.

Therefore, it is not a small impact to the community by Ausgrid when they pruned our street trees to such a degree that council thinks the trees will never recover & need to be removed.  It takes years for trees to grow to a point where they are providing viable benefits to the community, so all the health problems listed above are another impact caused by Ausgrid.

There are other tree losses that are not covered by this negotiation with Ausgrid by Council.  Just in my block one mature tree in a front garden was removed because Ausgrid removed one whole side of the tree leaving an unsightly half a tree behind. It is not only street trees that have been negatively impacted.

I applaud the Inner West Council for pursuing this action with Ausgrid.
Council is also looking at an aerial bundle cabling program, which is wonderful.  Take a look at the streets in the Botany area to see what the difference can mean to street trees.  Ausgrid will not need to prune so harshly if there is aerial bundle cabling installed.  It is a much better option than ordinary powerlines, though not as good as installing powerlines underground.  The last option is more expensive, but should be a condition for all new developments in my opinion.

Council in lobbying Ausgrid to develop an Inner West Guideline for tree pruning “sympathetic to our urban metropolitan environment – an area that is not fire prone.”

This is also a great move by Council.
Further in the press release – “The recent discussions with Ausgrid comes after Council late last year received a commitment from Ausgrid that their tree trimming contractors will continue to reduce the cutback they carry out on local street trees to achieve a safe clearance from power lines.  New contractors are now being directed to cut a reduced clearance of just 1 metre from low voltage wires, plus up to 0.5 metre for regrowth for a maximum of 1.5 metres in total resulting in a much improved result for local street trees than previous more radical pruning.”

Then why are Ausgrid, just in the last week, pruning way below the telecommunications cable?  The photos I posted in this post of trees in Fotherington Street Enmore & Renwick Street Marrickville are January 2017 examples of the new improved pruning from Ausgrid.  Sorry, but this was not the norm when Energy Australia did the street tree pruning.

The street trees in Renwick Street Marrickville were pruned last week.

The street trees in Renwick Street Marrickville were pruned by Ausgrid last week.  This is not “trimming.”

More examples of street tree pruning by Ausgrid in street trees in Renwick Street Marrickville

More examples of street tree pruning by Ausgrid in street trees in Renwick Street Marrickville.  

This poor tree has been vandalised at least three times since the tree was planted in 2015.   Council did put up a small sign saying that it had been vandalised, but this was not a deterrent.

This poor tree has been vandalised at least three times since the tree was planted in 2015. Council did put up a small sign saying that it had been vandalised, but this was not a deterrent.

The Inner West Council planted a street tree in a pocket of grass in Myrtle Street Marrickville.  A tree was much needed at this location because it is bare & dare I say ugly.

I was very happy they planted at this location.  Then the tree had several branches snapped off.   The tree grew more branches & the tree was vandalised again.  I started to doubt that this was a random act.

The tree’s desire to live was strong, so it grew some more & started to look strong & lush.

I went by the tree today & its leaves are dry & crisp.  Its thin branches are still alive showing that whatever was done to this poor tree happened recently.

Unfortunately, this tree is dying.  To me it appears that some sort of chemical was fed to it to make sure this determined tree would not rise up again.

It is beyond my comprehension why people rob the community & the wildlife of street trees.   One tree may not matter much, but we have an urban forest classified as ‘poor’ in terms of percentage of canopy cover.  We need trees just to break even in terms of the norm in Sydney.  We also need trees for good public health & we desperately need trees in terms of climate change.

We need more trees in Marrickville & throughout the old Marrickville municipality.  We need bigger, more shade-producing trees.

2016 was the third year in a row of record-breaking heat.  “The average global temperature last year [2016] reached about 1.1°C above the pre-industrial era, which has brought us extremely close to the 1.5°C target established at the historical December 2015 Paris climate summit.”

1.1°C may not seem much, but you only have to have been in Sydney this past month to experience what a heatwave feels like.  Heatwaves & extreme weather events are all part of this global rise in temperature.  The Arctic is the warmest on record, sea ice is melting at alarming speed, coral reefs are bleaching, the oceans are heating up….  There is more, but you get the picture.

Now here is where is gets really interesting.   “Australia is especially at risk as we are 8°C hotter than the world average” http://bit.ly/2kfCKAD

We cannot keep relying on air-conditioning.  One day there will be too many of us using too much power for the system to cope with & we won’t be able to turn on the air-con.  Then people will die.  Perhaps thousands of people.  Death in numbers like this has happened many times before.

We won’t be able to easily acclimatise to the heat either.   The following is part of a summary of research titled, ‘Limitations to Thermoregulation and Acclimatization Challenge Human Adaptation to Global Warming’ published in 2015.   They knew then that it will be difficult for the human race to adapt.   Thousands of us are likely to die in each heatwave event.  That will be a devastating experience for many.

Human thermoregulation and acclimatization are core components of the human coping mechanism for withstanding variations in environmental heat exposure. Amidst growing recognition that curtailing global warming to less than two degrees is becoming increasing improbable, human survival will require increasing reliance on these mechanisms. The projected several fold increase in extreme heat events suggests we need to recalibrate health protection policies and ratchet up adaptation efforts.”   You can read the whole paper here for free – http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/12/7/8034

I hope the Inner West Council plant another tree at this location.   Tree vandals cannot be the deciders on how the rest of the community live, their health, the level of pollution they live with, their ability to have a beautiful suburb, how cool their streets are or whether the wildlife can have habitat & food.  The culture must change.  The streets belong to all.

As I post this I am listening to the weather forecast on the TV news.  They are forecasting a heatwave two days from now on Tuesday.   That will be the third heatwave for Sydney in 2017 & it is only January.

Two branches left after pruning by Ausgrid

Two branches left after pruning by Ausgrid

I found a very interesting article on the practice of tree topping in American newspaper the Richmond Register called, ‘Topping Trees is a Bad Practice.’  See – http://bit.ly/2ifhA5e

It is especially interesting in terms of the topping of street trees done by power company Ausgrid, as mentioned in the City of Sydney Council Minute I posted here last week.

  • “Topping involves the drastic removal or cutting back of large branches in mature trees leaving stubs. Topping can make a tree hazardous and reduce its life.”
  • Removing much of the tree canopy upsets the crown-to-root ratio and can cause serious interruption of the tree’s food supply as well as exposing the bark to the sun. For example: a 20-year-old tree has developed 20-years-worth of leaf surface area, therefore that much area is needed to feed the 20-years-worth of branches, trunks and roots that have developed.”
  • “Large branch stubs left from topping seldom close or callus. Nutrients are no longer transported to large stubs and that part of the tree becomes unable to seal off the injury. This leaves stubs vulnerable to insect invasion and fungal decay. Once decay has begun in a branch stub, it may spread into the main trunk, ultimately killing the tree.”
  • “Topping removes all existing buds that would ordinarily produce normal sturdy branches and instead stimulates regrowth that is dense and upright just below the pruning cut. The growth that results from topping is not well integrated into the wood of the tree. Because of the weak connections, these branches are more vulnerable to breaking.”

We know there is another way because Energy Australia managed our street trees for many decades with a pruning cycle of 7-8 years, while now Ausgrid has a pruning cycle of every 18-months.

Food for thought.

This sign was installed  by Marrickville Council.

This sign was installed by Marrickville Council.

A resident said with some sarcasm that they were glad Ausgrid at least left some canopy over the street.  (Marrickville)

A resident said with some sarcasm that they were glad Ausgrid at least left some canopy over the street. (Marrickville)

Today I was sent this Minute of the City of Sydney Council dated 24th October 2016.  This council document makes wonderful reading for those of us who have been greatly concerned & angered by the pruning practices of our street trees by power company Ausgrid.   It also gives our opinions legitimacy.  I thank Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney for this Minute.

Bold is my emphasis. For the original document see –  http://bit.ly/2iEjxEw

 COUNCIL

24 OCTOBER 2016

ITEM 3.2. FILE NO:

To Council:

AUSGRID TREE PRUNING S051491

MINUTE BY THE LORD MAYOR

The City’s urban canopy helps make our city liveable for our residents and workers. Street trees benefit the community’s health, remove pollutants from the air, create shade in the hot summer months and enhance general wellbeing. In densely populated areas, trees can also provide privacy.

There are currently around 81,000 trees in the City of Sydney area. Our last canopy measurement in 2013 found that the Local Government Area (LGA) has a 17.1 per cent canopy cover. This is up from just over 15 per cent in 2008.

Over the past 11 years, more than 11,431 street trees have been planted throughout the local area as part of our commitment in Sustainable Sydney 2030 to increase the local area’s green canopy by 50 per cent to 23.5 per cent in total.

Street trees need to be pruned occasionally to maintain the security of the overhead electricity wires. However, I share the concerns of residents about the disgraceful way in which Ausgrid’s contractors mutilate trees.

The methods breach the Australian Standard for the Pruning of Amenity Trees. Of particular concern is:

  • the ‘pruning’ is excessive and unnecessary and, far from being based on a risk management approach, it is simply “one size fits all”;
  • Ausgrid’s approach takes no account of tree species and growth rates, formative pruning that may have been carried out by local authorities, tree location, maintenance regime or risk of failure;
  • Ausgrid contractors effectively use ‘lopping’, the removal of branches to a designated clearance and not to a branch collar or other growth point. This is described as an ‘unacceptable practice’ in the Australian Standard for the Pruning of Amenity Trees; and
  • lopping is more expensive than a more environmentally sensitive approach would be. The harder a tree is cut the faster the regrowth. So the practice implemented by Ausgrid increases the cost of pruning as the trees require more frequent visits. The approach not only fails in terms of the environment and urban amenity, but economically.

Ausgrid’s mutilation of trees is controversial throughout the areas in which it occurs. On 12 October 2016, the Member for Summer Hill, Jo Haylen MP, moved a motion in the NSW Parliament calling on the Baird Government to hold an urgent parliamentary inquiry into “the butchering of trees across the inner west” by Ausgrid contractors. The motion followed a public meeting in Haberfield the previous month that was attended by over 100 people in response to Ausgrid pruning in that suburb.

When questioned about their approach, Ausgrid makes spurious claims to justify the extensive pruning, such as the risk of children climbing trees and getting electrocuted. I have seen no evidence to support this claim. On 13 October 2016, the Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich MP, asked a number of questions in State parliament about Ausgrid’s pruning practices and the claims they have made to justify them. I look forward to the responses.

Lopping in the City’s LGA stopped in mid-2016 after representations from the City but continues in the inner west and north shore. We remain concerned that the Ausgrid pruning program for 2017 in the City may include destructive practices, such as lopping in the absence of a formal commitment not to.

Ultimately, the solution is to place power lines underground, something I have been calling for as Lord Mayor and as State MP since 2001. Underground power lines would remove the need to mutilate street trees and provide future generations with a permanent legacy of greater energy reliability, improved safety and a better urban environment. It will bring us into step with other Australian capitals, and major international cities such as London New York, Paris and Rome.

I will write to the Premier requesting that he begin this important work as soon as possible. I will also write to the President of Local Government NSW (LGNSW), Councillor Keith Rhoades, urging LGNSW to run a state-wide campaign on this issue, given it affects communities across our State.

To avoid further mutilation of trees by Ausgrid contractors in the interim, I will seek a formal commitment from Ausgrid that their contractors will use best practice – as defined by the City of Sydney in conjunction with other Councils and major industry associations – when pruning trees, and abide by the Australian Standard for the Pruning of Amenity Trees. This would rule out destructive practices, such as lopping.

I will also urge the Premier to insist that contract conditions attached to the recent leasing of 50.4 per cent of the Ausgrid network includes clear conditions for the successful lessee that tree pruning must be in accordance with best practice and follow the Australian Standard for the Pruning of Amenity Trees.

RECOMMENDATION

It is resolved that Council:
(A) note the destructive tree pruning practices used by Ausgrid contractors which:

  1. (i)  are excessive, unnecessary, and not based on a risk management approach, but simply “one size fits all”;
  2. (ii)  take no account of tree species and growth rates, formative pruning that may have been carried out by local authorities, tree location, maintenance regime or risk of failure;
  3. (iii)  effectively use ‘lopping’ which is described as an ‘unacceptable practice’ in the Australian Standard for the Pruning of Amenity Trees, increasing the cost of pruning as the trees require more frequent visits and thus failing not only in terms of the environment and urban amenity, but economically; and

 (iv) is not based on evidence, but on spurious claims, such as the risk of children climbing trees and being electrocuted;

  1. (B)  note that the best way to avoid tree mutilation while providing greater energy reliability, improved safety and a better urban environment is to place power lines underground;
  2. (C)  request the Lord Mayor write to the Premier seeking a commitment that:
    1. (i)  power lines in NSW will be placed underground as a matter of urgency; and
    2. (ii)  the contract for the leasing of 50.4 per cent of the Ausgrid network include conditions that pruning of trees across the network be in accordance with best practice and compliant with the Australian Standard for the Pruning of Amenity Trees;
  3. (D)  request the Lord Mayor write to Ausgrid seeking a written assurance that any pruning of trees be in accordance with best practise, [sic] compliant with the Australian Standard for the Pruning of Amenity Trees (which requires pruning be undertaken by third parties with Arboriculture qualifications – not ‘tree loppers’); and
  4. (E)  request the Lord Mayor write to the President of Local Government NSW, Councillor Keith Rhoades, asking Local Government NSW to run a state-wide campaign about compliance of electricity networks with the Australian Standard for the Pruning of Amenity Trees.

COUNCILLOR CLOVER MOORE  – Lord Mayor”

Here is your urban forest - on the ground.

Here is your urban forest – on the ground.  

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