Urban planner Sebastian Pfautsch “nearly fell out of his chair” when he mapped the $17 million proposal by Royal Sydney Golf Club in Rose Bay to remove what he estimates are 5.4 hectares of paperbarks, hoop pines and Moreton Bay figs. Many of the 569 trees potentially on the chopping block – if Woollahra Council approves the plan – are healthy mature trees with large canopies that are expected to live for another 50 years.

“That’s a complete small urban forest – gone. I cannot fathom the scale of the tree removal, in times where we are trying so hard to green the city,” Dr Pfautsch, a senior lecturer in Urban Studies from Western Sydney University, said. “Replacing a mature tree that provides 300 square metres of shade, food and habitat with an advanced tree that has three square metres of shade is just not going to work,” he said. “We don’t just need to replace individual trees, but the canopy cover they provide.”

While councils were largely responsible for managing trees on a site-by-site basis, NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Rob Stokes, said he expected any application to remove trees “would see a greater number of trees planted in their place.” But more needs to be done to protect existing trees or transplant them, Dr Pfautsch said. “We don’t have the time; it is hot now and we can’t wait until 2120 for new trees to grow.”

His research showed streets in Parramatta, Cumberland and Campbelltown with a 30% canopy experienced fewer days of heatwaves and could be 10 degrees cooler. Urban forests cool local neighbourhoods and act as buffers against wind. With climate change, it’s unclear whether newly planted trees will ever grow as much as those planted when the weather was not as hot and dry.

A spokesperson for Woollahra Council said it was “premature” to say the trees would be removed because the club’s development application was still under consideration. The council has requested further information and engaged a consulting arborist to provide advice. More than 100 objections to the DA have been submitted, and a Facebook site Save The Trees Rose Bay is campaigning against the proposal.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/environment/sustainability/rose-bay-golf-course-proposal-would-remove-entire-urban-forest-planner-20200701-p557zs.html

Royal Sydney Golf Club.