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North Newtown streetscape providing lots of shade

North Newtown streetscape providing lots of shade.  This is a normal streetscape for this area.

Compare with a street in Dulwich Hill that actually has many street trees

Compare with a street in Dulwich Hill that actually has many street trees

There is an interesting article in The Conversation written by Prof. Rod Keenan & Benjamin Preston, both from the University of Melbourne.

Some points in the article –

  • Victoria currently has an average of 9 days per year of temperatures above 35C.  No action on greenhouse emissions will likely result in an average of 21 days a year with temperatures above 35C by 2070.
  • “Combine that with increasing urban density, more hard surfaces & less greenery, & a larger, older & more multicultural population, & the potential impacts from heatwaves start to multiply rapidly.”   Think of the development already in Marrickville municipality & the huge amount of development to come.

The Authors suggest two ways to help mitigate this & I think these are applicable Australia-wide –

  1. Increasing the ‘green infrastructure’ by 10%.  Green infrastructure means street trees, parks, green roofs, green walls & retaining water.

I’d suggest 10% is the absolute minimum, but can you imagine the positive change if the Marrickville urban forest was increased by 10%.

The City of Melbourne is planning on increasing their urban forest canopy cover from 22% to 40%. The City of Sydney is aiming to increase their urban forest by 50% by 2030 (just 16-years away) to help lower the urban heat island effect.

  • 2. Education.

“Health awareness programs can promote related benefits such as improved air quality; planners can reduce the red tape involved in planting street trees; local governments can identify priority neighbourhoods for development, protect existing greenery, & implement water-sensitive urban design.” 

“Increasing green infrastructure will also require the use of private space – one major challenge will be to give private landowners the incentive to keep or install greenery & incorporate vegetation into building design.”

Although Sydney has not experienced a true heatwave this summer, it has been very hot.  Melbourne & Adelaide both experienced two heatwaves this January, baking over a number days.  On 16th January, Adelaide was given the title of ‘the hottest city in the world’ with a temperature of 44.2C, still short of the forecasted 46C.

An article on Care2 discusses the American city of Phoenix trying to cope with 100-degree nights.  “The city averages more than 100 days a year with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees. (37.7C)   In 2013, 115 days hit 100 degrees. In 2011, the city set a new record for days over 110 degrees (42.3C) with 33. That’s over one month of the year with scorching highs. This winter has so far been warmer than average.”

Temperatures are rising everywhere.  The urban heat island effect is increasing those temperatures, & importantly, not allowing the temperature to drop after the sun goes down.  Phoenix has “a shade plan for the built environment & also a plan to “frankly just plant more trees.”  See –

We need to start planting now in both private & public spaces if we are to ever hope to be able to cope with projected temperatures.  Sydney’s temperature is expected to be like living in Rockhampton in Subtropical Queensland.  See –

Marrickville Council needs to decide how much to increase the urban forest & set & meet targets to achieve this.  The yearly budget allocation needs to be such to allow this to be achievable.   I have often wondered whether public trees & parks are lower down in the budget & whether these are seen as not as important as grey infrastructure.

Certainly we need to do what we can to keep the trees we have & this means treating them for diseases, fertilizing, mulching & pruning where necessary.

In my opinion, the community needs to help Council keep new trees alive by continuing to water trees once a week when Council has stopped water 12-weeks after planting.  It only takes a few hot days to lose a tree & if we look realistically, the bulk of our street trees are living in very harsh conditions.  Many are either hemmed in by concrete or in visibly dry & compacted soil.

I know there are many who will baulk at the idea of watering a public tree, but it is commonplace in many countries overseas.   The US for example, has a strong community involvement in public trees, whether planting them or looking after them.  Both the US & the UK have community ‘Tree Wardens’ looking after public trees.  These people are not tree experts.  They receive training by their Local Council to do the work they do.

Keeping that tree alive will help reduce your power bills as they help cool the air around your house.  Street trees clean up the air by removing particulate matter from vehicles, so better quality air comes into your home.  They also increase the value of your residence or business amongst many other benefits, so it stands to reason that taking care of the tree outside your property brings significant returns.  Better a living healthy tree, than a dead tree or a sapling that struggles to grow & may take many years to reach a decent size.

Older larger trees are far better at carbon sequestration than smaller trees – another reason why it makes sense to look after them.

You can read the full article here –

Tall shady street trees are the norm in Chippendale

Tall shady street trees are the norm in Chippendale

Canterbury Road - this section is mega-hot on a sunny day.

Canterbury Road – this section is mega-hot on a sunny day.

While there are street trees, this is still a hot street in Marrickville

While there are street trees, this is still a hot street in Marrickville


* Bankstown Council discovered 3 large gums in Greenacre Heights Reserve had holes drilled into them, poisoned & killed.   The Land & Environment Court can fine anyone caught poisoning trees up to $1million.

* 12 residents are considering legal action against Hills Shire Council for severely cutting back 15 Tallowood trees in Gooden Reserve.

* 10 mature healthy trees will be removed from Glenmore Road Public School in Woollahra LGA for the erection of a hall & a shed as part of the Federal Government’s Building the Education Revolution program upsetting residents.  One particularly large tree will be chopped down for a garden shed.

* An amazing story where the community in West Sacramento trying to save a massive old Butternut tree may take the issue to court.  The tree has a girth measuring 6.7 metres (22 feet) & lives in the “ideal spot for a sewer pump …” Unbelievable.

fern fronds

* Not trees, but I wanted to share anyway. 50 healthy adult Canadian geese were taken from Rapid City’s Canyon Lake Park by the Game Fish & Parks Department & euthanized.  The Canada geese are migratory birds that fly to Canyon Lake.  The Game Fish & Parks Department estimates that between 300-500 Canadian geese call Canyon Lake home this time of year. The number surges around Christmas to the thousands, which is too many for some.

So at a large & beautiful lake, people come with food to feed the geese. The geese think this is great & they come to the mowed shoreline & waggle up to the people who have come to feed them.  Then the geese poop on the grass & cement paths. The people get mad. “I can’t have poop on my shoe!” The authorities come in & start culling the geese. To be fair, the authorities have had a 10 year ban on feeding the geese & even had a $5 fine if caught, but for some reason, this hasn’t deterred people.

* The Urban Forestry Administration for Washington DC has called for community assistance to water street trees during the country’s heat wave. While UFA crews are watering all 3,500 new trees we planted this year, we are calling on District residents & businesses to help water street trees close to their homes & offices. Together, we can ensure that these taxpayer-funded assets provide their full environmental, economic, & social benefits for years to come.  It takes less than 10 minutes a week to fill the free slow-drip watering device provided by the city to any individual who adopts street trees through UFA’s Canopy Keepers program. Washington DC has 140,000 trees around the city.

Gum nuts

* A date for your diary – The 2nd Walk Against Warming will take place on –

  • Sunday 15 August 2010 starting at 12 noon
  • Meet at Belmore Park (next to Central Station).

Together, we will remind government that we’re doing our bit on climate change. We’re working hard to reduce greenhouse pollution. We’re saving water & energy. We’re buying greenpower. We’re forming climate action groups. It’s time for the government to do their bit.

* The UK Environment Secretary said, If any organism has demonstrated an ability to multi-task, it’s trees. She added that in some parts of inner London, it was calculated that each tree was deemed to be worth as much as £78,000 in terms of its benefits. The Woodland Trust is also launching the More Trees More Good campaign & plan to plant 20 million native trees across the UK every year for the next 50 years.

* Stunningly imaginative, the Memorial Plaza design at Ground Zero NYC intends to use harvested stormwater for 400 Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor) & Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) trees in suspended pavement system. The paving of the plaza will rest on a series of pre-cast concrete tables that “suspend” the Plaza over troughs of planting soil that run the full width of the Plaza. 

The suspended paving system will allow the soil to remain uncompacted, since the paving that people walk on is separated from the planting soil below.

* The National Highway Authority of India plans to chop down 16,000 trees, some over 100-years old, along the picturesque two-lane roadway between Thalapady & Kundapur to make it a four-lane stretch.

* Andy Kenney a senior lecturer on urban forestry at the University of Toronto & one of his former students has launched a program called Neighbourwoods to train citizens how to do tree inventories in their neighbourhood. “We wanted to see if we could get volunteers to engage in urban forestry beyond tree planting.

* New Orleans has a policy of allowing street trees to grow regardless of cracking to footpaths & road surfaces. To see what they allow their trees to become click on the link.

* The Washington DC Tree Act protects trees with a circumference of 55 inches or more classifying them as Special Trees. Fines for damaging or removing a tree of this size is a minimum of US$5,500. I mention this because they protect trees that would be classified as ordinary.

* Detroit USA is reinventing itself now that half the population has gone leaving behind 33,000 empty lots & vacant houses.  Like in no other city in the world, urban farming has taken root in Detroit, not just as a hobby or a sideline but as part of a model for a wholesale revitalisation of a major city. Some farms are the product of hardy individualists or non-profit community groups. Others, like Hantz Farms, are backed by millions of dollars and aim to build the world’s biggest urban farm right in the middle of the city.

* The US is covering car parks with solar panels, not only to protect the cars from the sun, but to use the space to create clean energy.  I predict this will be commonplace before long.

Camelia in full bloom

A selection of new garden beds in Robert Street Marrickville

We came across new footpath work in Robert Street Marrickville yesterday.  Marrickville Council has replaced the footpaths & created large garden beds around street trees planted on verges.   It’s happening in other streets so it appears to be a new trend.  I sincerely hope so.

The first time I saw this done was earlier this year in Ivanhoe Street Marrickville South & I was impressed.  The garden beds are twice as large in Robert Street because the footpaths are wider.

As well as the street trees on the verge, Robert Street has beautiful old Brush Box trees that were planted on the sides of the road around 80 years ago. Council has created garden beds on the verge next to many of these trees, which will allow these trees to be able to get a good drink when it rains.  These trees have suffered decades of bitumen almost to their trunks so they should respond well & live longer now they have better access to water.  Council have planted native grasses & Pig Face (I think) & in a year or so, they should look very pretty.

Unfortunately, works like these can cost many thousands of dollars (a tiled footpath outside a small group of shops can cost $60,000) so I would imagine that it would be a slow process creating these types of footpaths as the norm throughout the LGA.  However, it’s worth waiting for.

It is good that by creating these garden beds, the amount of cement coverage has lessened. Not only will the trees get more water & the streets look greener, but the street should be cooler during summer as well.

Is less cement an issue? I think it is & so do many experts.  Urban areas are much hotter than non-urban areas because cement & building surfaces can trap heat from the sun.  This is called the ‘heat island effect.’

The flying foxes that left Queensland to come & live in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens for the past 20 years or so have made their home there because the air temperature is to their liking.  The walls of the tall city buildings, roads, cement surfaces & roofs of the CBD have raised the air temperature & created a climate suitable for the bats. In the city it is called the urban canyon effect because the walls of tall buildings form canyons that capture & hold heat.

Air temperatures can be up to 12 degrees hotter in cemented areas during summer. I have read up to 50 degrees hotter, but this is probably in desert areas.  Much like a car parked in the sun with the windows closed, environments can become heat boxes keeping night temperatures warmer. A 2005 study showed urban air temperatures being up to 12 degrees warmer at night during summer than in rural areas.

Apart from the obvious increase use of power needed to cool houses & the associated costs, the heat island effect also impacts on air quality & health as it causes smog & ground level ozone. Ground level ozone causes respiratory problems like asthma, coughing & lung damage. It can also cause chest pain & heart problems.  This is why research shows that living within 500 metres of a main road can cause significant health problems.  See –

Ground level ozone is also a factor in global warming.  The heat island effect can raise the temperature so much that it causes heat events where heat waves are exacerbated. These events can cause death, particularly in children, the ill & the elderly.

There is also another issue with the heat island effect & that is storm water runoff.  If the runoff is heated by pavements, gutters & roofs, it may be very warm by the time it reaches rivers, ponds & lakes & we have a few in Marrickville LGA.  This hot water can cause death to fish & other water life as well as increase the growth of blue-green algae that sucks all oxygen out of the water causing more fish death.

This is a very basic outline of the heat island effect & I will be writing about it in more depth in a later post. However, I hope what is written so far is enough to understand why our society’s love for cement is a problem.  Cement is easier, but it comes with it’s own problems & these problems follow us into our homes.

A couple of examples in Robert Street Marrickvillewhere residents created gardens to protect street trees. To me, they look great & are far better than bitumen up to the trunk.

It is my belief that we need to plant many more trees across Marrickville LGA.  We need larger trees that create shade, both on private property & as street trees. Street trees that grow straight upwards & have a canopy of no more than 2-3 metres are not a ‘shade tree.’  We also need less cement & bitumen, more gardens & pockets of green space outside of formal parks to keep the heat down, for our mental & physical health & for the health of the planet.

Sydney is getting bigger & bigger & with this urban sprawl comes more cement, more hard surfaces & fewer trees.  My fear is that, if climate change does happen in the way the scientific experts predict (& being a prediction, it has a 50% chance of being worse than what they think will occur), that we & our governing authorities will realise just how important trees & green spaces are, but the weather will be too hot & water in short supply that whatever is planted will have trouble surviving.  Bleak I know, but I have read a lot on this subject & none of it is heartening.

So getting back on subject, what Marrickville Council is doing when they are replacing footpaths is terrific & sensible action for the future.  It will allow people to get used to less cement & hopefully encourage them to be actively involved in the garden beds outside their property.

I recently came across a video segment from the program Stateline on ABC from March 2010 where they discussed the dollar value of trees.  This video discusses the following & more:

  • The loss of Adelaide’s street & park trees for lack of water
  • Melbourne has decided to water their street & park trees
  • A real estate agent talking about how both street trees & trees on the property increase the value of the property
  • How much trees are actually worth
  • What it will be like to live in an area that has few or no trees
  • Councils used to irrigate street trees
  • Residents used to give trees both on their property & in front of their property regular watering
  • The cost of watering trees to save their life far outweighs the cost of losing a tree through lack of water
  • How the fact that a tree is not a native somehow gives permission for it to be cut down
  • Trees can be worth as much as $100,000
  • Trees are assets & investments which appreciate over time

roots of a big, beautiful Fig

In Melbourne, they are talking about how their 100-year-old trees are “an extremely valuable asset” while Marrickville Council talks about our older trees as “senescent” & past their time.  You may remember earlier this year Marrickville Council put up a plan before the Councillors to remove many of the old trees over the next 5 years.  The designated amount was 1,000 trees to be removed per year for 5 years targeting senescent trees.  Thankfully the Councillors did not accept this Tree Strategy Issues Paper, but it was a close call & a revised Paper will be returning for consideration soon.

This video is 7 minutes duration.  I whole-heartedly recommend watching it.  If you do, check out the hole in one of the larger trees right at the end.  I have seen a

Pine tree in Brighton le Sands

tree like that closer to home along the beachfront at Brighton-le-Sands.  A few of the tall pines had substantial holes in their trunks. Rather than chopping them down, Rockdale Council had the rot treated & the hole cemented allowing the tree to remain stable & continue to live for the benefit of the community.  I would imagine those trees are heritage listed.

When I was a child, it was quite common for a Tree Surgeon (as Arborists were called then), to be employed to save trees on private property. I remember watching them scrapping out the hole, using chemicals to stop the disease & filling the hole with cement, just like a dentist fills dental caries.  I saw trees bolted together if they had a split in their trunk & other such things that seem to be out of vogue today.  Nowadays, the simplest intervention seems to be to cut the tree down saying “everything has to die.”  True, but many tree species live far longer than what we are led to believe.  Melbourne is proof of this.

As we have been in a long & protracted drought that is not over yet, trees dying from lack of water is going to become a significant issue, especially if the culture changes & trees are truly recognised as significant green assets.  We may yet return to the days where Councils water the public trees & property owners take care of the trees on their property as well as the tree out front.  I have my fingers

lovely Fig in Enmore Park

crossed.  Already around the municipality there are trees dying.  Some of them were stunners that now stand brown & present a danger of falling, damaging property & perhaps a risk to life.  I find it sad as many of these tree deaths could have been averted if they had been watered.

Another article in the same vein that may be of interest says Adelaide City Council is considering putting a dollar value on its trees following in the footsteps of Melbourne.  This may lead to developers being required to compensate for the trees they say they need to chop down by planting trees to that dollar value.  So if trees are valued at $100,000, they will be required to plant trees to that value.  I’m hoping it may bring business to those tree companies who are skilled at large tree relocation.  Relocation costs may actually be cheaper than paying for the trees that would be lost if chopped down.

The Stateline video & a transcript of the main points can be accessed by clicking on the following link-

This beautiful tree-lined walk along the Cooks River offers respite from the city's hectic life. The tall trees which make this section special.

Yesterday I saw Marrickville workers planting street trees outside the small shopping strip in Illawarra Road Marrickville, opposite the Greek Bakery.

I was surprised because I had been told that Council doesn’t plant trees in summer.  Not only were the Council workers planting trees on the footpath, but also the whole footpath had been repaved with good-looking tiles.  This previously rundown area now looks improved & the shopkeepers are very happy having told me this themselves.  It will also be a nicer view for the café patrons across the road.

The trees themselves have been planted into large holes covered with good-looking grates.  I have not seen this type of grate before.

New-style grate covers with sapling on Illawarra Road

The Council workers told me they have recently planted other street trees along Illawarra Road, up towards the lights at Warren Road & the other small shopping strip next door to Woolworths.  Give it a few years & this drab, unimaginative, tired-looking section might look leafy & inviting.  Much depends on whether the trees are allowed to develop a canopy or are kept stunted.

As Illawarra Road is used as a through-road, these new works & street trees may give passers-by a more favourable impression of Marrickville.  I have heard this section of Illawarra Road be described as the ‘gateway to Marrickville,’ especially as this is what you see when you leave the railway station.

For those of you who have wondered what lies underneath...

I also have to eat Humble Pie because when, looking around at the tiles, kerb, concrete & bitumen that surrounded the new trees, I asked the Council workers how they will get water, they told me that the Council will water them until they get established.  After that, they are on their own.  “How will Council water them?” I asked, imagining a man carrying a watering can.  Well, Council has a water truck.  Another surprise.

I have mentioned the lack of this water truck a number times on this site wishing that Marrickville Council would invest in one.  So munch, munch, I’m eating humble-pie, but happily so.  There are two questions I get asked often about trees in this LGA & one of them is “why doesn’t Council water the trees?”  Well, I am pleased to report that they do.

Happy New Year to you all & to everyone at Marrickville Council.  May 2010 be a good year for all of you all.   J



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