Building on the back of their one million trees in the ACT announcement, the Canberra Liberals have promised every child starting kindergarten a voucher to buy a tree from any Canberra nursery.
But as Labor hits back at the Liberals’ uncosted policy, the battle has shifted to how much it costs to plant a tree in the ACT.
Opposition leader Alistair Coe put the figure at $10 to $20 a tree, while Minister for City Services Chris Steel costed the policy at $380 a tree.
Under Labor’s costing, the $380 figure includes five years of watering, maintenance, preparation for planting the trees, digging the hole and even letterbox drops informing the public about the plan.
On the other hand, the Liberals’ policy did not cover costs including maintenance or planting.
The types and ages of the trees in the Liberals’ planting policy are also unknown, with young ‘tube stock’ trees being considerably cheaper than their aged counterparts.
Trees can range anywhere from $3 to well over $100, according to City Services.
At the Heritage Nursery in Yarralumla, most tree species were priced between $40 and $200. A knee-high turkey oaktree costs $35, while a slightly larger chestnut leafed oak was $50.
Deciduous trees like different varieties of maples could cost hundreds of dollars, while flowering cherry trees were almost $300. Small bottlebrush varieties were around the $20 mark, while small eucalypts and banksias were under $20.
When asked about the discrepancy on Monday (8 June), Mr Coe told reporters that the Labor Party had conflated the figures to discredit the Liberals’ policy.
“Obviously the Labor Party is not supportive of planting one million trees over the next decade. There are many ways that we can deliver this policy, there is ample opportunity for planting trees in the ACT,” he said.
“For them to try and concoct an outrageous price is pretty typical, they are going to be critical, they are going to be sceptical.”
But Minister Steel said the price cited by the Liberals would only purchase vulnerable trees that would see seedlings fail in their thousands.
“$10 to $20 per tree will see ‘tube stocks’ planted in an urban environment and will be trampled and will not reach maturity in a street environment,” he said.
“This Liberal policy completely disregards the preparation [and] the ongoing water cost that is required. We need to put the facts on the table, it costs $380 to plant a tree because of the maintenance costs required, because of the ground preparation.”
Vouchers would be in the vicinity of $20, Mr Coe said, professing that he would be surprised if parents did not take up the scheme.
“It is a modest commitment in terms of the cost, but a very important one because the benefits that come from planting a tree are, of course, generational,” he said.
“This will add to the number of trees in the ACT, but importantly also brings real educational benefits for a child, learning about that planting process, learning about the benefits of planting trees and that joy of watching it grow up as the child does.”
Mr Coe told reporters that giving vouchers to parents and children to help reach the one million tree targets, instead of ensuring the maintenance through City Services, would increase community interest and knowledge about the environment
“The environment is not just a government responsibility, looking after the environment is everyone’s responsibility,” he said.