Urgent action needed to restore Canberra’s tree canopy

Canberra Tree Canopy

Across the ACT, there are over 768,000 trees on public land. However, mature trees are being cut down at an increasing rate, while juvenile trees are either dying or going missing. As a result, the urban forest is declining by around 3,000 trees per year– and current rates of replanting are insufficient to save it.

In the 2017/18 financial year, only 1,450 new street trees were planted by the City Services Directorate as part of its annual tree planting program. During this period, two in five Canberra suburbs had canopy coverage of less than 20 per cent, while only four out of 60 suburbs had coverage of more than 30 per cent.

According to ACT Greens crossbencher, Caroline Le Couteur, who obtained the data, the government needs to plant an extra 7,000 trees annually to help restore the city’s canopy.

“It’s unacceptable, at a time of rising temperatures in the bush capital, that Canberra should see numbers of trees decreasing. The last report on this issue, from seven years ago, showed that our streets and parks needed 40,000 trees to fill the gaps and replace dying trees, and unfortunately that number would be much higher now,” Ms Le Couteur said.

The data was released after Canberra experienced its longest ever run of days above 40 degrees in January 2019. The heatwave prompted an ACT Legislative Assembly inquiry into Canberra’s declining nature, in which a lack of investment in the urban forest was cited as a key factor.

“Failure to commit appropriate funding to renew and enhance Canberra’s living infrastructure is perhaps the most serious threat,” said the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects’ submission into the inquiry.

It cited a 2017 study from AECOM, which found increasing tree canopy by just 8% (from 20% to 28%) led to a four-degree reduction in air temperature and a 14-degree reduction in surface temperature. It also found that a 10% increase in tree canopy resulted in property values rising by an average of $50,000.

Environment Minister Mick Gentleman also supported more tree planting in the government’s submission, which said that investing in natural assets was the most efficient and economical way of combatting climate change.

“With urban intensification, vegetation in the form of canopy trees and watered grass in the public realm is increasingly the city’s air conditioner,” he said.

Moonee Valley’s urban forest plan shortlisted for global prize


The City of Moonee Valley in Melbourne has been shortlisted for a major international award, thanks to an ambitious plan to plant 30% more trees by 2040.

Known as the Wellbeing City Awards, the is divided into four categories: Community, Economy & Opportunity, Public Health and Sustainable Environment. Moonee Valley is competing in the Sustainable Environment category, which promotes the idea of recognising city-led action on “urban wellbeing”.

The city was nominated by a panel of esteemed judges, including entrepreneur Arianna Huffington and architect Daniel Libeskind. It’s the only Australian city in a field of 16 global contenders that incudes Los Angeles, Milan, Lisbon and Avia.

“We’re very excited to be part of this award, particularly as we are the only nomination from Australia,” says Moonee Valley mayor Narelle Sharpe. “It certainly makes it a bit more special, considering there were 100 applications.”

The plan to increase Moonee Valley’s tree canopy is the result of more than two years of community consultation and was endorsed before the award nomination.

“The main area that kept cropping up was ‘a healthy city’,” says Cr Sharpe of feedback from residents, adding that the extra trees will provide cooling and shade, plus a more pleasant environment for people to socialise, live and shop.

While the mayor would like to increase tree canopies across the whole of Moonee Valley, she says the primary area of focus will be the areas along the Maribyrnong River.

As part of the urban forest plan, the council has endorsed moves to protect existing trees, as well as planting new ones. This will be made possible using processes similar to heritage overlay, however residents have also been encouraged to nominate trees worthy of protection.

“People are really getting behind it,” says Cr Sharpe. “[We] had one gentleman who was upset that his tree hadn’t been nominated and it was on his property.”

Winners of the Wellbeing City Awards will be announced at an event in Montreal, Canada in April 2019.

Aussie street trees keep cities cool and power bills down

Aussie Street trees

Australian summers can be devastatingly hot. As the mercury continues to rise this season, an urban greening movement is campaigning for more trees to cool the country.

Dr. Tony Matthews, Griffith University urban and environmental planner and 202020 Vision advocate knows that street trees play a vital role in reducing heat. Without trees, heat is absorbed by hard surfaces like concrete and radiated back into the air. This is commonly known as the “urban heat island effect”. That’s why he’s working with 202020 Vision – a group that includes some of Australia’s leading green space experts – to make urban spaces at least 20% greener by 2020.

However, it’s not just the cooling benefits that make street trees so vital. As Dr. Matthews explained, trees benefit resident’s health and can even boost their bank balances by reducing power bills.

“People in areas with less greenery and more housing density; their bills are going to go up,” Dr Matthews said. “So, the people who can least afford higher electricity bills ending up paying for them.”

Plus, communities with more shade from trees were more walkable, Dr Matthews said. Green spaces encouraged people to get outdoors and, in turn, contributed to social cohesion.

As for how to reach the goal of increasing Australia’s greenery by 20% by 2020, Dr Matthews said local councils had a major role to play in ensuring that trees were integral to new developments.

“Councils, through their planning [schemes], need to start insisting on tree cover and tree provision,” he said. “Once a housing estate is finished it’s up to the council to maintain and pay for trees and green space … councils are reluctant to do that [at the moment] because of the cost.”

While the cost of tree planting and maintenance may be high, the huge savings in health and wellbeing far outweigh the price, according to occupational heat stress consultant, Matt Brearley.

“There’s a lot of people exposed to the urban environment. It’s extremely important to mitigate that outdoor heat for those outdoor workers,” said Mr Brearley. “We need cooler environments in our urban settings, so workers don’t suffer heat stress.”

“A cooler environment allows a bigger window for the public to do what they want to do, whether it’s working or walking”, he added.

Lyndal Plant, an urban forester, said Australians were also prepared to pay more (3.73% to be precise) for houses on leafy streets, and even more in cities where tree cover is scarce.

“In my study, for every dollar invested in the planting and maintenance of street trees there would be a return of at least two dollars”, she said.

Canberra’s City Renewal Precinct set for a green makeover

Canberra Green makeover

Canberra’s City Renewal Authority has unveiled new plans for a greener and more people-friendly inner city. As part of its new sustainability strategy, released late in 2018, the authority has set some lofty targets to include more trees and green spaces, more energy and water efficient buildings, and a more diverse mix of housing in the City Renewal Precinct by 2025. It also aims to get people more active by making it easier to walk and cycle there.

The targets include:

  • Improving housing options for families by increasing the number of three-bedroom apartments.
  • Increasing active travel by targeting a “Walk Score” of 90+ by providing accessible community and commercial services within a 10-minute walk from anywhere in the precinct.
  • Improving energy efficiency from new buildings, with non-residential buildings to have energy performance at least 25% above code.
  • Reducing potable water demand in new developments by half, plus replacing 30% of public water with re-used storm water.
  • Minimising car ownership within the precinct by increasing electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
  • Achieving 30% tree canopy cover within the precinct, with increased greening of urban and open spaces between buildings.

Malcolm Snow, Chief Executive Officer, said the 2025 targets were designed to make Canberra more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable – and to meet the high expectations of the community.

“We share with the community a desire to create welcoming, inclusive places that value social connectedness, community health and wellbeing. Places that allow people to connect with nature, and with each other, in their everyday lives,” he said.

“Social and environmental sustainability are vital elements of our program as we implement the design-led and people-focused renewal of our city precinct.”

The strategy will be led by the authority and rolled out with support from other government agencies, private companies and community groups.

“We will implement the targets through our own capital works and land release programs and also work with developers and community groups to promote best-practice sustainability initiatives throughout the precinct”, Mr Snow said.

“We will also collaborate with the private sector wherever possible to encourage the uptake and application of sustainable development practices in new development projects.

“Achieving sustainable development will require collective urban leadership – everyone has a role to play to help create the city we all want to live in and our children to live in.”

To view the City Renewal Authority’s sustainability strategy visit: cityrenewalcbr.com.au

Darwin to increase tree canopy in response to Cyclone Marcus

Darwin to increase tree canopy in response to Cyclone Marcus

Darwin Council has set a lofty long-term goal to cover half of the CBD in natural tree canopy by 2030. The plan comes in response to a report into the aftermath of Cyclone Marcus, which claimed more than 10,000 trees in early 2018.

The report, prepared by the Tree Re-establishment Committee (TRAC), focuses on developing an urban forest management plan, and is supported by Darwin Lord Mayor Kon Vatskalis.

“We want to plant as many trees as possible, create a canopy over the streets and cool down the city,” he said.

“(TRAC) had the look at the report from the cyclone … they also had a look at reports in other places where trees caused destruction and looked at which ones fell down and which ones stayed up,” he said, adding that TRAC also returned a list of 194 trees that were suitable to the local environment.

While the Mayor advised that major plans would start rolling out in early 2019, members of the local community have already embarked on replanting projects to breathe new life back into Darwin. In November 2018, one key location in each of Darwin’s council wards was targeted for a ‘replanting day’, with several replanting days scheduled since.

“The community planting days are a great way for the community to come together and help council get areas that were severely affected by Cyclone Marcus started on their recovery and bring areas back to life with new trees” said Lord Mayor Vatskalis.

He also said that, while efforts would continue well into the future, the replanting projects were a wonderful start and would allow Darwin residents to get a better understanding and appreciation of the extent of Cyclone Marcus’ damage.

“Replanting will be ongoing for many years to establish a diverse and resilient urban forest. I encourage local residents of all ages to come along and help rejuvenate these spaces.”




Swinburne trials world-first urban forest management project

The sensors in the instrumented trees at CERES provide constant, real-time watering data.

Swinburne trials world-first urban forest management project

A new pilot program led by Swinburne is using water-sensor technology to better manage urban forests in Melbourne.

Dr Scott Rayburg, Swinburne Water Resources Engineering senior lecturer, and his team have joined forces with ICT International and RMIT University to install $31,000 worth of tree water sensors at CERES Community Environment Park – a not-for-profit sustainability centre located in the inner-city suburb of East Brunswick.

The sensors are designed to create stronger, healthier urban forests. They also enable park managers and members of the community to track the progress of trees via online platforms that provide real-time data on water use and water stress.

During the pilot, data will be collected via sensors attached to the trees. It will be used to determine the most suitable species for current and future climates. It will also allow forest managers to determine how much water to apply to their trees, and when.

Dr. Rayburg says, “The project is transformational. Instead of trees dying at 80 years of age because they are spending their whole lives in water stress, they’ll live to be two or three or maybe even four hundred years old. That matters because when we lose a tree in an urban landscape we lose habitat, we lose cooling, we lose a part of ourselves, and people have a really visceral connection to trees.”

He also notes that this project is the first of its kind in the world, saying “These sensors have previously been used in agriculture and plant biology, but never before in an urban forest management setting.”

The sensors are the first stage in this pioneering project, which plans to go one step further with an app that allows the trees to ‘talk’.

“The City of Melbourne has a platform called Urban Forest Visual that allows people to send an email to a tree and then somebody from the City of Melbourne responds to the email,” Dr Rayburg says. “This has been really popular, which demonstrates the desire people have to interact with nature, even in cities.”

“We want to take this to the next level; instead of a person responding, we want the tree to respond.”

The proposed app will allow members of the community to contact a tree and ask how it’s going. Using the real time watering data, the tree will send back an instant response which might confirm its feeling healthy, or even ask for some water.

The hope is that the app will get more people engaged with Melbourne’s urban forest and tree health, taking some pressure off local councils.

Main image: The sensors in the instrumented trees (as pictured) at CERES provide constant, real-time watering data.

Source: http://www.swinburne.edu.au/news/latest-news/2018/10/swinburne-trials-first-smart-urban-forest-management-system-.php

Did you know Melbourne has an entire map dedicated to urban trees?

Melbourne urban trees

Did you know Melbourne has an entire map dedicated to urban trees?

Contrary to many major cities, Melbourne is home to a vast array of street trees. The urban jungle that is the Melbourne CBD is lined with an actual jungle of sorts, with leafy trees and green parks populating the inner city. If you’ve ever been enchanted by Melbourne’s street trees and wondered where you can learn more about them, prepare to be captivated by an online map that’s dedicated to the city’s trees.

The Urban Forest Visual is an interactive, online map that marks every single tree in Melbourne’s key urban areas. As well as naming the genus each tree belongs to, the map also lists details about each tree’s overall health and life expectancy. For example, the map shows many healthy London plane trees located near the State Library of Victoria. However, a few blocks down at the ‘Paris end’ of Collins Street, the London plane trees aren’t fairing as well.

You can use the map to look up tree data for the whole of the Melbourne CBD, as well as surrounding suburbs including Carlton, Docklands, Kensington, Parkville, Flemington and South Yarra. You can filter the map depending on whether you want to see street trees or park trees – and you can even email individual trees if you need to report something.

If you’re keen to see what the future holds for street trees in Melbourne, you can access a detailed tree planting schedule via the website. Each Urban Forest Precinct Plan includes a map showing when urban forest planting will occur in each street over the next 10 years. The tree planting roadmap shows when each street will be planted and what the scope of planting will be. In some streets, tree planting might be limited, while other streets may include intensive planting as part of a redevelopment project. Detail about the factors considered to develop the planting schedule is included in each local Precinct Plan.

Check out the tree planting schedule and find out everything you’ve always wanted to know about your favourite Melbourne street trees by visiting the Urban Forest Visual website.


Source: https://www.timeout.com/melbourne/news/fyi-theres-a-whole-map-of-melbourne-dedicated-to-the-citys-trees-100418

Designs for new urban park – Melbourne’s first since 1980

Designs for new urban park – Melbourne

Landscape Architects, Oculus, have designed a new urban park for Melbourne’s CBD. The proposed park, which would be Melbourne’s first new public space since the City Square in 1980, spans 1,900 square meters. It is designed to occupy the western side of Market Street in Melbourne, including 1,300 meters of space which is currently used for car parking.

The park comes as part of an agreement between the City of Melbourne and the developer of the adjoining Collins Arch – a 164 metre twin tower, colloquially named “Pantscraper”. The proposal for Pantscraper was initially rejected by the state planning minister in 2014 because it breeched rules about overshading Melbourne’s famous Yarra River. However, it was later approved when the height was reduced – and the addition of this new park was negotiated.

The City of Melbourne is currently seeking public feedback on the park, which will feature a series of large, open lawn spaces on both the Market and Collins Street sides. It will include a modern terrace with water play elements and a paved plaza on Market Street, which could be used for public events. It will also include improved pedestrian access to the tram stop on Collins Street, plus a dedicated bike lane of the eastern side of Market Street.

Claire Martin, associate director of Oculus, said the park would be an “important addition” to the Melbourne CBD. “The introduction of an open green space will help extend the urban forest for public enjoyment,” she said.

“The park design is distinctly Melbourne, drawing on the materiality and history of the surrounding CBD streets and heritage buildings, incorporating elements of bluestone and sandstone”.

“The park will feature a number of environmental and biophilic elements, including an extensive tree canopy of varying heights woven throughout the space which will help to mitigate heat, the evaporative cooling benefits of the adjacent water wall, and use of local materials and place-based references”, Claire added.

“Perennial borders been incorporated to increase biodiversity in the city, utilizing where possible locally indigenous plants that were in the area prior to settlement.”

The council’s Future Melbourne Committee unanimously endorsed the plans at a meeting on 18 September. Community consultation closes on 10 October. If approved, the park will be developed by Cbus Property and handed back to the City of Melbourne for public use once complete.

Source: https://architectureau.com/articles/oculus-designs-melbournes-first-new-urban-park-in-decades/

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