8 June 2020

Canberra Liberals promise one million trees to save the bush capital

| Dominic Giannini
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Alistair Coe

The Canberra Liberals have announced that they plan to plant one million trees across the Territory over the next decade. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

The Canberra Liberals have promised to plant one million trees over the next decade and ensure that every Canberran is within a 10-minute walk of green space if they are elected in October.

Opposition leader Alistair Coe has lambasted the Government for threatening Canberra’s status as the bush capital, saying the number of street and community trees has dropped by 3,000 each year, and the tree canopy has fallen from 30 per cent to 21 per cent.

“We will future-proof the bush capital to ensure a sustainable future for all Canberrans with these real and practical measures,” Mr Coe said.

“The devastating bushfire season and coronavirus has reminded us how precious our natural environment is for the health and wellbeing of local communities.”

Although the policy has not been completely costed, Mr Coe said each tree will come with a $10-20 price tag, but that some of the money would be reallocated from existing funds.

“Even at the ACT Government’s own nursery, there is capacity for this sort of program. In addition to that, we would of course work with the other private nurseys in the ACT and community groups that do a great job,” he said.

“The cost of this program can be born out of many existing allocations, including the operations of the Yarralumla Nursery.”

When asked if residents are more focused on economic recovery and returning to work, Shadow Minister for Planning Mark Parton said the two are not mutually exclusive.

“There is a suggestion that because of the COVID crisis this stuff is going to be less important to people, but I think the opposite is the case,” he said.

“What we have seen in the last few months is that people have spent a lot of time at home, but they have also spent a lot of time out in the green space that is available in the community.

“I think [green spaces] have become more important during the COVID crisis.”

The ACT Government announced in February that it is currently planting an extra 17,000 trees in Canberra and has committed to reaching a 30 per cent canopy cover by 2045.

Canberra Liberals planting trees

Canberra Liberals’ leader Alistair Coe (centre), says Canberra’s heritage as the bush capital is under threat. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

The Government hit back at the Liberals, calling the policy a “half-baked announcement”.

“Already, Canberrans have access to over 500 playgrounds and 880 individual irrigated sportsgrounds,” an ACT Government spokesperson said.

“Fifty per cent of Canberrans live within 500 metres of a nature reserve, and many more live near one of our parks, playgrounds or sports grounds.

“The Government is also providing new public parks throughout Canberra with consultation underway on providing green spaces as part of the new CIT Woden campus.”

Mr Parton singled out the town centres in Gungahlin and Woden as not having adequate access to recreational green areas but said the main concern was that new developments would ignore the environmental needs of Canberrans.

“It is a fact of life that we have many more Canberrans living in apartments now than we had five years ago and in five years’ time there will be many more again,” he said

“The Labor-Greens Government planning vision is for 70 per cent of new dwellings to be urban infill. You walk around new suburbs now and you work out where all of those new dwellings are going to go.

“As we move forward as a city, I think it is abundantly clear that we will have a stack of places that are not within a 10-minute walk of green spaces. It is desperately important that those people have spaces to recreate.”

Mr Parton said the policy would be fully costed before the election, as will any further policy announcements from the Canberra Liberals.

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HiddenDragon6:03 pm 07 Jun 20

“We will future-proof the bush capital to ensure a sustainable future for all Canberrans with these real and practical measures,” Mr Coe said.

That might be better achieved by planning policies which require sustainable vegetation (not a bit of token garnish which expires shortly after a building is completed and occupied) to be incorporated in all new developments, particularly higher density ones.

A few struggling saplings in a distant park (or a sad little park-ette) is not going to do much to counter the heat island effect of the sorts of developments which are increasingly common in Canberra.

Likewise, an obsession with protecting trees (even when overly large and dangerous) on single-dwelling blocks, does not compensate for loss of canopy (if it ever existed) in high density development areas – as current practices demonstrate.

This proposal might be a start, but something more balanced and comprehensive is needed.

The requisition of Garran playing fields and primary school oval without community consultation or consent proves that the ACT Greens/Labor party regards all of Canberra’s green spaces as potential building sites.

Oh my complaining about something that is a non event.

What part of temporary don’t you understand? And don’t start with the conspiracy theories that they have built a temporary field hospital just as a way of getting their hands on the land (which they own) as a way of giving it to developers latter on.

As for consultation, again you do realise why it was built and why it was built so fast. Time was of the essence, so hardly possible to go through months and years of community consultation. And frankly where the temporary hospital has been placed is 100% the correct area being so close to the cities main hospital.

If that land is not returned to ovals once the hospital is gone I will eat my hat.

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