The ACT Greens wants to see more bush in the Capital, urging the ACT Government to plant thousands of extra trees in Canberra to help mitigate the threat of climate change.
ACT Greens’ Planning Spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur referenced a seven-year-old report that said 40,000 more trees were needed to fill the gap and replace dying trees, a number that is expected to be much higher in 2020.
“At a time of climate emergency, the decisions we make today will have huge ramifications for the Canberra of the future,” she said.
“If we want to maintain a liveable Canberra, then we need many thousands more trees planted now – this is not a ‘wait and see’ scenario.”
The ACT Government has recently funded 17,000 new trees in streets and parks across Canberra over the next four years, but the Greens say more urgent action is needed during a time of a climate emergency.
“While the Greens welcome the Government’s planting efforts to date, we need many thousand more trees planted if the Government is to deliver for the ‘Bush Capital’,” Ms Le Couteur said.
Canberra’s Living Infrastructure Plan – launched in November 2019 by Climate Change Minister Shane Rattenbury – saw the ACT Government commit to providing a 30 per cent tree canopy cover target by 2045.
However, recent figures have pointed to a decline of 3,000 trees in parks and suburbs every year.
“We are seeing older suburbs lose their tree canopies as bigger houses replace modest older homes on bigger blocks. Elsewhere, newer suburbs are being built without room for deep-rooted shade trees,” Ms Le Couteur said.
“Unfortunately, this problem is not limited to residential areas. Local shopping centres with few established trees, like those at Mawson shops, can also reach extreme temperatures in summer.”
To protect against the removal of more trees, Ms Le Couteur wants stronger laws in the ACT to increase the Government’s action on climate change.
“The challenge is complex – we need stronger tree protection legislation to better protect existing trees, and we also need to make room for trees during redevelopment,” she said.
“I called for a review of the legislation in 2017. Unfortunately, that review is only underway now. Now that we have a 30 per cent tree canopy cover target, we need to see this included in the legislation to make sure it happens.”
One the same day the Greens pushed for more foliage, the ACT Government announced that it would be putting on two additional water trucks and increasing the frequency at which trees were being watered.
Minister for City Services Chris Steel said it was important that the newly planted trees be given the best opportunity to survive after the recent drought.
“With the Government planting an additional 17,000 trees, we need to make sure that these survive during their first five years of being planted,” he said.
“Despite good rainfall this month, the ground is often so dry the rain runs straight off the surface and a lot of the moisture never makes it down to the tree roots.”
The Government’s tree watering contractors – who have been active all summer watering 22,000 trees under five years old – will now water trees every four weeks, as opposed to six, until the end of Autumn.
Minister Steel also reiterated the role Canberrans can play to help keep trees healthy after the drought, encouraging residents to trap water and look out for trees that need extra assistance.
“We are encouraging Canberrans to water any struggling street trees nearby by pouring on a bucket of tank water, or greywater from the shower,” Minister Steel said.
Those who park illegally under trees on public land will also be targeted, Minister Steel said.
“Parking under trees can damage the root system, compacting the earth and reducing the tree’s ability to take water and nutrients from the soil,” he said.
Members of the community with suggestions on which trees could benefit from being on the extra watering program can visit Fix My Street with the location of a tree requiring extra attention.