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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.

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.

Drowning in concrete.  This was a hot place to stand.

Drowning in concrete. This was a hot place to stand.

I read a wonder blog post in Resilience called, ‘The Magic of Trees’ written by Sarah Kobos.

I can’t share it all because of copyright, so I encourage you to go & read it. See – http://bit.ly/29d9YeH

She writes about walking & cycling the streets & the impact of street trees; good street trees.

It is a a hot day & Sarah is riding her bicycle along lovely tree-lined streets when…..

Unfortunately, my sanguine attitude evaporated the moment I emerged from the sanctuary of a shaded neighborhood into a treeless, asphalt furnace.  No disrespect to Joan of Arc, but at least if you get burned at the stake, it’s a dry heat.  This was more like being boiled.  And then fried.  If you built a sauna inside a kiln, it would feel something like this street. The only thing worse than biking on a treeless street on a scorching hot day is walking on one.” 

“…..So when you talk about “complete streets” and “active transportation” be sure to mention the importance of canopy trees.  Because in a hot climate, if you don’t have shade, these options are moot.  Everyone with a car is going to drive.  Everyone without a car is going to suffer, or stay home.  And if you’ve never thought about street trees as a social justice issue, an afternoon spent in the summer sun walking to (and waiting for) the bus might just change your mind.”

“….Simply put, trees matter.  And I don’t mean those shrubs people stick in parking lots to fulfill the landscaping requirements of the zoning code.  I mean real trees.  The kind that line sidewalks and create canopies over the street.  The kind that turn inhospitable environments into pleasant places for people.”

This is a superb post & one that I am sure we can all relate to.

With climate change breaking all our meteorological records in Australia, we need street trees more than ever.  It is hard out there without the comfort of our car’s air-conditioning, but it is relatively easy to fix.  We just need more street trees – good street trees with a healthy canopy that shades both the footpath & the street.

We need shade trees near bus stops, outside cafes, public spaces & in shopping strips.  We need shade trees in all places where people walk, where people wait & where people like to sit.

We also need more trees in our gardens, because this will help cool the whole block & ultimately the whole suburb if there are enough trees.  With the cost of electricity having risen once again, a tree or two in the right place in our garden will have a positive impact on our power bills.

Lastly, our parks need more trees & less concrete.  We do need concrete paths so every place is accessible, but I think a number of our parks have too much concrete.

The bottom line is that if we want a cooler environment, then we need to de-pave & plant more trees.  The Sustainable Streets program is doing well in my opinion.  Every street that has more verge gardens & less concrete is cooler, more attractive & nicer to walk along.

The community benefits, the wildlife benefits & so does our collective health.  Heat kills more people than we realise & this will become more of a known issue as our city becomes hotter.  This is why the City of Sydney is increasing their urban forest by 50%.  They know that the urban heat island effect has the potential to kill.

The Inner West Council needs to allocate more in the annual budget that will allow the increase of our urban forest.   You just need to look at the suburbs of Balmain, Birchgrove, Rozelle & Annandale to see what the potential is.  These suburbs are now part of our municipality.  I am sure if the residents who live in these suburbs took the 20-minute drive to where I live they would not be in any doubt that their urban forest is far superior & this is despite their narrower streets & footpaths.

While I feel sad that Marrickville Council is no longer, I am hoping that the amalgamation will bring some equity in terms of the urban forest across the whole of the new local government area. We are entitled to expect that our urban forest too can look like it does in Balmain, Birchgrove, Rozelle & Annandale, although it will take time.

Four Robinia trees to be removed on the corner of Herbert and New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill. By my observations, this is a popular place for people.

Four Robinia trees (and perhaps one power pole) to be removed on the corner of Herbert and New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill. By my observations, this is a popular meeting place for people who were seeking the shade on this warm winter’s day.

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.

Showing the corner from Herbert Street

Showing the corner from Herbert Street.  This is a large space and much good can be done with it to make it a beautiful and useful space for the community.

Showing the corner from New Canterbury Road. Again you can see how wide this section is.

Showing the corner from New Canterbury Road. Again you can see how wide this section is.

Looking behind and up New Canterbury Road. No street trees, so the opportunity for trees on the corner becomes even more visually obvious.

Looking behind and up New Canterbury Road. No street trees, so the opportunity for trees on the corner becomes even more visually obvious.

 

Ascrete road surface in Cecilia Street Marrickville.  I've never inderstood why Marrickville Council has not planted a tree in this island in this very wide intersection or in the very large area of footpath in partially visible in the foreground.

Ascrete road surface in Cecilia Street Marrickville. 

Something interesting is happening in Cecilia Street Marrickville, a short street off Petersham Road directly opposite the Marrickville Town Hall. Marrickville Council has covered the road surface with ‘Ascrete,’ a solar reflecting road surface with the aim to reduce the urban heat island effect in this street.

Monash University, working through Marrickville Council’s ‘Water Sensitive Cities’ partnership, took temperature measurements over one-week in January 2016. The City Of Sydney & Canada Bay Council are also trialing the product.

Ascrete road surface - a closer look

Ascrete road surface  – a closer look

Climate stations were still attached to poles on both sides of the road when I last went a couple of weeks ago.

“Resealing Cecilia Street with Ascrete pavement cost approximately $90 per m² (finished product, for a project sized 810m²).” http://bit.ly/1XW2dZu

As a road surface it looks good. If the product is deemed effective, it will be a positive approach to combating the urban heat island effect. We have so many hard surfaces in Marrickville municipality, with much of them being roads.  It is well known that dark surfaces & asphalt roads collect & retain heat. Any surface that reflects heat & does not retain it will help keep our environment cooler & livable.

One of two climate stations in Cecilia Street Marrickville

One of two climate stations in Cecilia Street Marrickville

In 2015 Marrickville Council created new verge gardens on both sides of Dickson Street Newtown.  Recently these were planted on a community planting day.  It looks great.

In 2015 Marrickville Council created new verge gardens on both sides of Dickson Street Newtown. They were planted on a community planting day. It looks great, even though this photo was taken before the plants went into the ground.

Verge gardens are becoming really popular in many places around the world because they not only have the potential to add significant beauty to the streetscape, but they help lower the urban heat island effect.

Climate change is causing local councils & planners to have a concerted look on how to adapt to the changes climate change will bring & how to keep cities livable. Heat events are of serious concern because they can result in hundreds of deaths.

Cities (this includes the suburbs in a city) can be hot places because of the volume of hard surfaces that literally absorb heat from sunlight & trap it within the hard surfaces keeping it there overnight.

Thankfully Marrickville Council is promoting verge gardens. They actively encourage the community to take charge of their own, as well as creating new verge gardens everywhere where they need to replace the concrete footpath. This is excellent & already the changes in some streetscapes around the municipality are showing the positive impact on Council’s initiative.

City of Sydney Council has embraced verge gardens with fervour.   An increasing number of street corners have been reclaimed from the road & given over to verge gardens. Reclaiming the road slows traffic, assists pedestrians & allows the beautification of the streetscape. Depaving hard surfaces is a major part of lowering the heat island effect across the municipality.

So I was surprised & disappointed when I read of the destruction of a verge garden by the Town of Cambridge Council in Western Australia. The verge garden is large at 250-square-metres & is in the suburb of Wembley, about 5kms from Perth CBD.

The couple had created an eco-friendly verge garden on a corner over a period of 13-years following the Council’s guidelines. According to the article, their neighbour complained to the council about this verge garden on many occasions.

The verge garden contained “more than 3000 plants & represented more than $50,000 in labour and materials costs.”  This is quite substantial.

This is the second time the Town of Cambridge Council has destroyed this particular verge garden. Three years ago they destroyed $12,000 worth of irrigation on the verge. The photo in the article shows a bare patch of land left behind. Even when you see the photos it is hard to believe that any local council would do this.

The article says the verge was water-wise & maintained on a weekly basis by a professional gardener. The verge garden was appreciated by passersby & the local community – until a new neighbour moved in.

The neighbour “explained to us very clearly that he didn’t like native plants & that we must remove them. We explained it was our verge & he was entitled to do what he wished with his. At that time we did not realise how determined this man was.”

The Town of Cambridge said, “The Town supports beautification of verges & water wise initiatives however, in this case, due to ongoing complaints & for safety reasons, the Town had no option but to act. A minimalist approach was taken in removing items to make the verge safe, & we believe the outcome is a compromise situation which should be acceptable to the resident, whilst protecting the safety of the public.”

Have a look at the photos & read the article. Then make up your own mind just how dangerous to the public this verge garden was. You can read the article & see a number of photos here – http://bit.ly/1R1eBVD

Personally, I think this was an outrageous act of the council to destroy this verge garden. If there actually were any components that were dangerous to the public, then the residents should have been given official notification to remove these hazards within a specific time-frame. That would have been the reasonable response. What was not reasonable was for the council to destroy the garden leaving a patch of bare dirt behind.

It must have been devastating for the residents & also would have sent a loud message out to the rest of the Wembley municipality not to bother creating verge gardens when the council responds like this. Understandably the residents whose verge garden it was will not be trying again. The dustbowl created by the council will remain.

I guarantee Perth will be pushing for verge gardens to become the norm as climate change accelerates. They are already experiencing problems with heat & water.

Yesterday I read this post from John Carey Mayor of the City of Vincent in Perth – There has been a lot of controversy about some local governments forcing the removal of garden verges. At the City of Vincent we love that residents green their verges & want more of it!  Our Council has created the Adopt A Verge program – we will dig up your verge, mulch it & provide you native garden vouchers.  It’s all about cooling and greening our streets – and making them more people friendly.  The program has been so popular we have a waiting list – but we aim to put more funds in. Join us!”

That this post has had nearly 2,000 likes & 275 shares at the time of writing shows how keen the community are about verge gardens.

This is a vastly different attitude & Mayor Carey should be applauded for his enthusiasm & support of verge gardens. Kudos also to the City of Vincent’s method of encouraging & supporting the community to start verge gardens. This kind of initiative is what changes the culture from one that is anti-nature to one that embraces a greener environment that benefits all. Verge gardens make our streets cooler, add beauty when there was often none before. They bring in wildlife & birdsong & create places where people like to meet. They also provide soft learning opportunities for local schools.

Verge gardens are a no-brainer. Hopefully the program of creating more verge gardens carries on if Marrickville Council does have to amalgamate with Ashfield & Leichhardt Councils.

Photo of a verge garden by Mayor John Carey City of Vincent Council Perth Western Australia.  Used with thanks.

Photo of a verge garden by Mayor John Carey City of Vincent Council, Perth Western Australia. Used with thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marrickville streetscape.  There was more concrete behind me.

Marrickville streetscape – photo taken last week. There was more concrete behind me.

The news has been very tree-orientated in the last few days with Greg Hunt the Federal Environment Minister announcing that the government will have a vision for improved urban tree coverage within 18-months. See – http://bit.ly/1KvzEuO

The federal government’s plan for cities is to increase the urban canopy every decade to 2050 to “reduce heat within city environments and improve health outcomes.”

“Green cities — cities with high levels of trees, foliage and green spaces — provide enormous benefits to their residents. Increasing urban canopy coverage decreases heat, which improves health and quality of life.”

Finally the urban canopy is being acknowledged as a health issue!  Recent research has found an increase in respiratory & cardiac illness with more fatal cardiac arrests in areas with a poor canopy. Add increased depression & obesity & you have an unhealthy, unhappy community, which ultimately has a cost on all of the community.

Unless there is a change of culture, I believe these problems will only increase with the current trend of high-rise housing with little or no green space or access to peaceful green space, as many of our parks are being transformed into entertainment areas.  Therefore, an Australia-wide initiative driven by the federal government to increase the urban forest canopy can only be applauded. We can have high-rise & green space. Green walls & green roofs can be incorporated into new designs just as easily as a pool for example.

The federal government’s announcement might be alarming for those state governments which are removing trees at a fierce rate in the push for development.  In Sydney alone 400 trees, many of them large Fig trees that are iconic to Sydney are being removed in Randwick for the eastern suburbs light rail project. This is despite Randwick Council saying that the light rail line can travel the same route without removing the trees. A whopping 760 trees will be removed along the entire light rail route.

The NSW government’s response to criticism about the tree loss has been that eight new trees will be planted for every tree removed. Sounds good, but I will watch with interest at what species of tree is planted, how many survive & what the canopy looks like in a decade. I highly doubt the canopy will ever look like it did in the beginning of December 2015.

Even closer to Marrickville LGA is Sydney Park at St Peters where 350 trees are being removed to establish a construction depot for the WestConnex Motorway.  See – http://bit.ly/1OpHg63.  It seems that trees & green spaces are fair game for development, even when there are other options. Bushland at Wolli Creek is also threatened for WestConnex. The most expedient & cheapest way is to remove trees, yet the impact of doing so has far reaching consequences on both the community & the wildlife.

Then there is the 10/50 Code that allows for any tree to be removed within 10-metres of a home & remove underlying vegetation within 50-metres of a home without seeking approval because of bushfire risk. The North Shore & Pittwater areas of Sydney have been losing trees like they have no meaning.  The 10/50 Code offers a giant loophole for landowners to remove trees for any reason they like & according to Lane Cove Council, bushfire risk in the area is minimal. Still their urban forest has been decimated.

Globally 2015 was the hottest year since records started. 2011 to 2015 have been the hottest 5-year period world-wide since records started.  Sydney is expected to be like living in Rockhampton in subtropical Queensland by the turn of the century. See – http://bit.ly/1DM40tk Therefore, what is planted also needs to be taken into consideration if local councils want the trees to survive more than a few years.

Part of greening our cities, which also includes suburbs, requires a culture-shift of the community itself. Many areas of Sydney are defined by their trees – the North Shore, Pittwater, Eastwood area & Sutherland Shire as examples. Then there are suburbs with few trees, both public & private.

I took this photo in Bexley today.  This was one of a number of other street trees pruned like this.

I took this photo today in Bexley. This street tree has negligible amenity, except for the person who pruned it.  It adds no benefit to the wider community or to managing climate change

I think it may be a battle for a while until the prevailing attitude towards trees changes. To change public perception of trees, the government will need to embark on a strong multi-media education program. Twice in the past week I passed individuals in Marrickville who were casually pruning street trees into small stumps with no canopy.   That they do this in broad daylight shows that they believe that it is their right to do so & that they have little care or no conception that the street tree belongs to the whole community.

With luck, tree vandalism will become a rare occurrence, street trees will be planted in better conditions & the community will embrace the care of the tree by watering it while it is establishing & also during dry periods.

What will be wonderful in my opinion is that large canopy trees will become the norm because it is these trees that provide the most benefit & utility in cooling the streets & also in carbon sequestration.  It is also these types of trees that the federal government is talking about. I will be very pleased to see spindly street trees only used in spaces where there is no room for anything larger.

I will also enjoy the resultant beauty along our streetscapes when trees become more of a feature than buildings & where landscaping is used more often than concrete. Green walls & green roofs will be wonderful as well.

Lastly, greening our suburbs will bring wildlife in & support wildlife already here. Instead of the constant noise of traffic & planes, we will listen to white noise of bird song during the day & crickets & frogs at dusk. I know this to be true because the simple addition of some native trees & an under-storey has brought much wildlife to out place, whereas it was almost bereft when we moved in.

We have to change as individuals & as communities. Local Councils need to change as well. Much needs to be tossed out of current tree policies if they do not support increasing the canopy or the tree species chosen & placement does little to lower the urban heat island effect.  I suspect local councils will rapidly get on board with federal government directives, but I fear some in the community may find it hard to embrace an environment full of trees. We all have much to gain from a greener environment, from large canopy trees, to areas of under-storey filled with shrubs & plants & grasses & from being able to walk around without dashing from patch of shade to patch of shade.

Climate change will demand that everyone cooperates with the greening of our cities or we will suffer, cause our community to suffer & make it unlivable for future generations.

 

I have received a number of emails about the Frampton Street car park in Marrickville from residents concerned at the heat it generates and the general ugliness.

The Frampton Street car park in Marrickville is a perfect generator of the urban heat island effect.

The City of Sydney Council is trialing light-coloured pavement in parts of Chippendale, including a 600-square-metre section of Myrtle Street that included the road surface.  The aim is to reduce the urban heat island effect as part of an overall aim to reduce carbon emissions by 70% & increasing the tree canopy by 50% by 2030.  How fantastic is this!  It is disappointing that Marrickville Council has not done similarly to state a target for increasing the tree canopy in their recent Street Tree Master Plan.

Albedo or white-coloured surfaces have been shown to be effective at reflecting heat.  The traditional red roofs of Australia actually absorb & trap heat making our houses hotter.  The current design trend for black roofs is a dreadful move, as the heat trapped in these houses radiates back at night, raising the temperature of whatever surrounds it. This could be the house next door.

We have black roads, often dark footpaths, dark paving, dark walls, dark roofs, few street trees & poor canopy cover & much of the ground covered in concrete or bitumen surfaces.  All these hard surfaces create a heat sink, which then releases heat at night when it is supposed to be cooler.

Cities & built up suburbs are up to 8 degrees warmer than rural areas.  A few degrees might not sound much to someone who likes summer temperatures, but the urban heat island effect does kill people.  Around 200 people die of heat every year in Melbourne. Their 2013 road toll was 242, so heat-related death is something to take seriously.

The City of Sydney Council has installed temperature & humidity meters in Chippendale & Redfern.  They have also installed a Pyranometer, which measures the strength of the sun.  They will be monitoring how shade trees & pavement-colour affect the temperature.

Any interested person can look at their data collection from these sites here –http://adms.ajenti.com.au/Dashboard/Global/28

New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill - wide footpaths and no overhead power lines.

New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill – wide footpaths and no overhead power lines.

Imagine these planted out. It can look very beautiful.

Imagine these planted out. It could look very beautiful.  The consistency & size of gardens looks better to my eyes, even without plants.  

Marrickville Council created some new verge gardens in Albion Street Marrickville & they look wonderful. They are uniform in size & placed regularly along the street. They also provided a decent amount of room for the street trees. I imagine that once planted these gardens will look terrific & increase livability in this street.

The benefits of verge gardens are vast & the benefits change with the type of plants used. At the very least verge gardens mean less concrete, which means a lowering of the urban heat island effect.  Heat collected by concrete during the day releases somewhat during the night & this keeps nighttime temperatures higher than normal. We all know how hard it is to sleep on a hot night. Managing the urban heat island effect can mean lower power bills.

Cooler streets also result in a nicer environment to be in, whether it be in your house, in the front garden or walking the footpath.

Verge gardens that are native or contain some native plants have a profound benefit to wildlife as food & shelter is available for birds, butterflies, other insects & lizards. Native plants at regular intervals provides a corridor of food, which is extremely important if you want birds & other wildlife to be part of your environment.

Without exaggeration the birdlife increased ten-fold after we created our verge garden. Not all the plants are native, but most are. The other 10% were chosen because they would not be stolen & because they were bee attracting. It went from Currawongs & Indian Mynas being the dominant species to many different species of native birds, including little birds, visiting everyday. It sounds different now & can be quite raucous when a flock arrives to eat.

Other benefits of verge gardens include a softening of the landscape, which is very good for the human spirit.  The trees & plants collect particulate matter from passing traffic & therefore improve the air quality.  Verge gardens help to collect storm water & filter this water through the ground cleaning it before it enters the Cooks River. I remember reading in a Council document that the drains in Marrickville LGA have reached capacity, so any water that is collected naturally via the ground helps lessen the load of our drains & prevent flooding.

Well-tended verge gardens raise property values in that street because of the beauty they add. They also reduce graffiti & increase safety because of passive surveillance of people out in the street.

To me it is wonderful to walk along a street with verge gardens. It can look great, provide interest to the eye & I am always looking for beauty. It’s a way to learn about plants, what they are & what works well.  It’s also a way to connect with nature without going to the park.

Verge gardens can improve your mood to & from work, be a nice route to take your dog for a walk & it is always a great way to meet your neighbours.  People are always happy to talk about gardens & plants.  I know that the community, not just one’s neighbours, appreciates good verge gardens.

The footpaths of Marrickville LGA could be utterly transformed in ten years or so & we as a whole community would be much better off for this work.

Azaleas

Azaleas

Another section

Another section 

 

New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill - wide footpaths & no overhead power lines.

New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill – wide footpaths & no overhead power lines.

New Canterbury Road on the side of the powerlines.  Hot!

New Canterbury Road on the side of the powerlines. Hot!

Today is International Day of Forests. 

Forests occupy one third of the Earth’s land area.  13-million-hectares of forest are destroyed annually accounting for 12-20% of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.  Half of the world’s forests have been lost in less than 100-years, which is quite shocking in my opinion.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry says, “Australia has 149 million hectares of forest. Of this, 147 million hectares is native forest, dominated by eucalypt (79%) and acacia (7%) forest types, and 1.82 million hectares is plantations. With an estimated 4% of the world’s forests, Australia has the world’s sixth-largest forest estate and the fourth-largest area of forest in nature conservation reserves.

“As much land has been cleared in the last 50 years in Australia as was cleared in the previous 150 years. For the year of 1990, land clearing in Australia totaled more than half of that which was cleared in Brazilian Amazonia. Land cleared in Australia in 1994 was equal to that which was cleared in the previous five years. (This included 640,000 hectares of virgin bushland.)”  http://bit.ly/1dfpfZ3

Here are some of the points covered in United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s statement for 2014.

  • “Forests are the lungs of our planet.  They cover one third of all land area and are home to 80 per cent of terrestrial biodiversity. 
  • It is estimated that 1.6 billion people depend on forests for food, fuel, shelter and income. 
  • The World Health Organization estimates that between 65 and 80 per cent of people rely on medicines derived from forests as their primary form of health care. [Again, a quite shocking statistic].
  • Forested catchments supply three quarters of freshwater, which is essential for agriculture, industry, energy supply and domestic use.
  • The International Day of Forests is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of all types of forests and trees to our economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being.  However, awareness must be coupled with concrete action.”  For the full speech see –

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2014/sgsm15706.doc.htm

‘The Conversation’ has just published an interesting article on the Federal Government’s plan to delist around 74,000 hectares from Tasmania’s World Heritage.  It seems appropriate to include in this post. – http://bit.ly/1dsykbD

An earlier article from this month says, “a key advisor to the World Heritage Committee has flagged concerns with the Federal Government’s plan to delist 74,000 hectares of Tasmania’s World Heritage Area.”  This is worth reading too. – http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-13/heritage-area-reduction-plan-concerns-world-heritage-committee/5318182

I can find no mention of the urban forest or of any planting events across Australia, though there must be at least some schools participating somewhere.  To me this is a missed opportunity to educate & enthuse the community regarding the importance, as well as the benefits of urban trees.  Even one tree planted with celebration would be better than ignoring the day completely.

Last week someone on Twitter shared with me that 8-10 newly planted street trees had been planted on one day in Newtown – then poisoned overnight.

While this kind of behaviour is not the norm, tree vandalism happens frequently enough to be of concern.  Not only does it waste significant amounts of rate-payers money, it also often prevents replacement trees being planted as quite understandably, Councils do not want to waste more money planting replacement trees when there is a high chance they will be poisoned again.  They also have a budget for street tree planting & when the money runs out, no more trees can be planted until the following year.  The vandal wins & the community loses.

I speak to many people when they see me photographing street trees.  An alarming number have negative opinions of the tree outside their home or the trees in their street.  The most common complaint is leaf litter or litter from dropping seeds.  When I try to discuss the benefits this tree brings them, including the increased value to their property, I usually get greeted with sneers & a dismissal of the tree.  Most would happily lose the tree if they could.

To me this is a kind of emergency in Marrickville municipality.  It means that trees get poisoned or undermined in a range of ways & this is likely to prevent Council successfully increasing the urban forest.  If our urban forest does not increase significantly, I believe we will be in real trouble in the years ahead.

Australia is breaking weather records like crazy over recent years & the temperature is increasing.  Without a decent urban forest we are going to have problems with heat, heat stress & the health impacts from heat stress.

In 2009, 374 Victorians died as a result of a heatwave.  http://bit.ly/1l6B2eN

The death rate from heatwaves is higher than our worst bushfires & every year they cause more deaths in Australia than any other type of natural disaster.  Extreme heat events are responsible for more deaths annually than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.http://bit.ly/1g47YBt   An astounding 52,000 people died as a result of the 2003 European heatwave.

A Climate Council report called ‘Australian Heatwaves: Hotter, Longer, Earlier and More Often,’ released in February 2014 found the following –

  1.    “Hot days, hot nights and heatwaves are one of the most direct consequences of climate change.
  2.   Heatwaves have increased across Australia.
  3.    Climate change is making many extreme events worse in terms of their impacts on people, property, communities and the environment. This highlights the need to take rapid, effective action on climate change.
  4.  Record hot days and heatwaves are expected to increase in the future.”

All those hard surfaces will retain the day’s heat & radiate it back out at night keeping the nighttime temperature high.  This impacts on how we sleep & for some, if they can sleep.  Air-conditioning will need to be used more just to be comfortable, resulting in more carbon output.  There are many in our community who cannot afford to have air-conditioning installed.

Trees keep the streets & our homes cool for free if they have a decent sized canopy & are planted in the right places around our homes.  All we need to do is plant them, water them & nurture them.  The rewards for us are manifold & I am not even considering the wildlife, who I believe have an equal stake in the environment as we do.

If Councils do not start to seriously educate the community on the value of trees we may find ourselves in a situation trying to increase the urban forest in times when it is much harder & more costly to keep a tree alive.

World days like the International Day of Forests are a perfect opportunity to educate in a way that is non-threatening & can include an element of community building, pride building & fun.  The question in my mind is why is this not happening?  Even the UN has relegated the day to an awareness-raising event.  It will fly by on social media supported by ‘shares’ by people who like trees, but how many trees will be planted as part of this event?

While I love that a resident  planted this space, someone vandalised the tree.  This is not uncommon to see around Marrickville municipality.

While I love that a resident planted this space, someone vandalised the tree. This is not uncommon to see around Marrickville municipality.

You can tell by the aged stakes & canvas ties that this tree is at least a year old.  It takes years for a tree to reach a decent size & start providing real benefits to the environment.

You can tell by the aged stakes & canvas ties that this tree is at least a year old. It takes years for a tree to reach a decent size & start providing real benefits to the environment.

This is a very common sight across Marrickville LGA.  I think trees are amazing to survive these conditions.

This is a very common sight across Marrickville LGA. I think trees are amazing to survive these conditions.

 

 

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