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.
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.