Greens put heat on government to grow tree targets in new planning rules

Ian Bushnell 30 January 2020 70
Canberra's inner suburbs

Canberra’s inner suburbs benefit from its cooling tree canopies. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Proposed new residential planning rules to ensure a minimum level tree coverage and green spaces are a step in the right direction but do not go far enough to protect Canberra fully from its warming climate, according to the ACT Greens.

The government released Draft Territory Plan Variation 369 – Living Infrastructure in Residential Zones for public comment in response to Canberra’s Living Infrastructure Plan, which committed it to targets of a 30 per cent tree canopy cover and 30 per cent surface permeability by 2045. At present, Canberra’s overall tree canopy sits at 19 per cent.

But the Greens say their analysis of DV369 indicates it will not achieve these targets, with the tree canopy requirement for multi-unit developments only 15 per cent.

ACT Greens planning spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur warned Canberra risked a loss of livability and amenity as the climate warmed, saying the CSIRO’s heat island map showed new suburbs were hotter than older ones because there were not enough trees.

Older suburbs were also at risk from knockdown rebuilds, whether single dwellings or multi-unit developments.

Ms Le Couteur said DV369, which applied only to residential land, should cover the entire built environment to include business, commercial and industrial areas.

“It needs to cover all of Canberra,” she said.

Ms Le Coutier also criticised the zone-by-zone approach taken by the government, saying the 30 per cent tree canopy requirement should be part of the estate development code.

“The government’s proposed planning rules are not good enough to ensure a suitable future tree canopy. They aren’t consistent with the tree canopy targets. We’re calling for improvements to ensure Canberra has sufficient trees in the future,” Ms Le Couteur said.

Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Shane Rattenbury is concerned that without a higher level for multi-unit sites, heat islands will be generated.

“Those large density sites need to allow more space for trees on the ground or incorporate green building features such as living walls or roofs that can be important in breaking down that heat effect,” he told ABC Radio.

“It’s important we get these targets in place because Canberra’s future is a hotter, dryer future.”

Ms Le Couteur said the government needed to provide more detail about how green walls and roofs would be treated under the Living Infrastructure Plan, so developers could more easily comply with the requirements.

The Greens will be making a submission and Ms Le Couteur is confident of achieving a better outcome than that proposed.

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70 Responses to Greens put heat on government to grow tree targets in new planning rules
George Watling George Watling 3:45 pm 27 Apr 20

Regarding gum trees fire risks and cooling effects all the ‘common sense’ views posted here are wrong.
+ It’s been proven by Australian scientist that
– gum trees in suburban streets are not a fire risk
– exotic trees are the true fire risks
– gums can provide substantially more shade then exotics
In a 2019 RiotACT article titled ‘Native trees best suited to beat Canberra’s intensifying heat, says report’ Associate Professor Cris Brack from the ANU’s Fenner University’s Fenner School of Environment and Society clearly states that eucalypts trees in streetscapes are ‘not a fire risk’.
In a 2013 study undertaken by researchers from the University of Technology Sydney it was demonstrated that:
– the dried leaves of exotics catch fire much more quickly than the dry leaves of gum trees,
– green leaves on gum trees are no more combustible then green leaves on non-Aussie exotics like oaks, ash trees, and maples.
In a 2016 CSIRO Victorian field study that compared the shading and cooling effects of gums to maples CSIRO scientists found that the maples included in study could not provide the same amount shade as the gums included in the study.
While the gums in the study were able to block 86% of the solar radiation hitting their canopies from hitting the ground the maples were only able to block between 70% and 33% of the solar radiation hitting their canopies from hitting the ground.
The title of the 2013 UTS study is the ‘Differences in Leaf Flammability, Leaf Traits and Flammability-Trait Relationships between Native and Exotic Plant Species of Dry Sclerophyll Forest’. It was published on 18 November 2013.
The 2016 CSIRO study’s title is ‘Greening the West – spatially optimised tree plantings to minimise urban heat island effects’. It was published in July 2016.

Spiral Spiral 9:29 pm 04 Feb 20

Reply to Julie Macklin.
I agree, the growth in house size is a significant issue contributing to the decrease in plant coverage in residential areas, especially tree coverage.

However it was very predictable that the reduction in block sizes would make the situation much worse.

Perhaps if the Greens feel so strongly about this issue they should make it one of the conditions for their support of Labor next election that the government department responsible for approving house plans takes a stronger stance on what percentage of a block can be occupied by a house.

It would be very interesting to see the Greens publish a table of how big a house they would be willing to allow to be built on the typical block sizes in our newer suburbs.

Surely in the interests of openness and honesty they will have no qualms about providing that information in the lead up to the next election.

Briony Young Briony Young 3:03 pm 03 Feb 20

Don’t plant eucalypts...

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:34 pm 02 Feb 20

More trees on sellable/developable land would mean less revenue for developers and, in turn, for an eternally cash-hungry ACT Government – and that’s just not going to happen.

In the end, money will win out – and the Government will simply double down on the already over-the-top regime for protecting trees of arbitrary size on established blocks. That, in turn, will have the perverse effect of discouraging tree plantings by people who don’t eventually want to be stuck with a problem tree.

Alan Hocking Alan Hocking 5:00 pm 02 Feb 20

Where is the water going to come from and who pays for it.

Deref Deref 3:59 pm 02 Feb 20

What incredible hypocrisy! The Greens have allowed development of urban wastelands where blocks are too small and houses to big to have room for a potplant, let alone a few actual trees.

Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 12:15 pm 02 Feb 20

If blocks are full of house then the streets need to be full of trees, not just one in front of each block but 3. Same with townhouses and units. Fill up all around with trees, at least half deciduous for winter sun. And all the reserves.

Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 11:55 am 02 Feb 20

Some of you people are ridiculous. Half complaining about eucalypts dropping leaves, others wanting only natives, someone wanting no public transport on Northbourne because trees were cut down.

Alex Elliott Alex Elliott 9:43 am 02 Feb 20

The Greens should tell the government to stop chopping down trees in the first place. On average Canberra has a net loss of 3000 a year due to being cut down for construction and much less being replaced than were removed.

Acton Acton 6:57 am 02 Feb 20

Have the so called Greens only now worked out that fewer trees mean hotter temperatures? Duh. Why have the Greens been supporting Labor/Geocon apartmentalisation and densification of Canberra. Greens means hypocrisy.

Nell Feneck Nell Feneck 6:35 am 02 Feb 20

Plant those gum trees everywhere

Carl Ostermann Carl Ostermann 9:47 pm 01 Feb 20

I think the Greens need to go and learn about nature a lot more than they are dreaming about now. You cannot beat nature... I am sorry! In a drought, the trees drop their branches and over time, you have a pile of kindling a metre high which will light up by a landing light! Naughty Greenies

Jim Jim Jim Jim 9:41 pm 01 Feb 20

What do you expect when you sell half sized blocks of land? No space for trees because there’s no space for gardens.

Dave Willcox Dave Willcox 6:54 pm 01 Feb 20

Do the greens still have a say

Angela Thomas Angela Thomas 6:21 pm 01 Feb 20

We have a couple of weedy eucslypts in our front yard (in the wrong place not planted by us) and we have a couple of working chain saws which will have them down as part of our fire plan in an emergency. We will deal with the tree police afterwards.

Frank Trapani Frank Trapani 5:39 pm 01 Feb 20

Any tree are better than no trees at all..except for gumtree. Greens seems to be highly qualified specialist in creating heat.. Look what has happened to the current situation of bushfires...I am not an expert in botanical gardens but, going by the quickness and devastating fires spreads I think that gumtrees once ignited their oily leafs are of no help at all to the containment of fire reduction. By the way, just to go back to the point. Why's it so important to plant trees in some areas but, not in other areas? It used to be beautiful to walk or to drive alongside the Northbourne Ave. all the old trees have been taken out and have been replaced by dead grass and E-Trams...Didn't hear much objections from the Greens during those replacements..Perhaps a little bit of Corporate earnings blocked such initiatives??

    Carl Ostermann Carl Ostermann 10:09 am 04 Feb 20

    Back in the sixties, you could walk down the centre of Northbourne Ave and eat plums straight off the trees and be shaded as you go.

    Frank Trapani Frank Trapani 12:52 pm 04 Feb 20

    Carl Ostermann, and now, it's dry grass and no one can bloody eat...Ba....ds.😂

Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 3:08 pm 01 Feb 20

Bring on the trees! The more the better

Peter Major Peter Major 1:53 pm 01 Feb 20

In 2003 we had the Green corridors perfectly exploited by the fire.

Think of the fire threat befor choosing trees, think of weather impacts on trees and their proximity to buildings and people.

Don't just think they look pretty

    John Sykes John Sykes 2:14 pm 01 Feb 20

    Peter Major while weather impacts and buildings needed to be considered. As long as we have well developed fire breaks, the rewards of having trees throughout the city outweigh the risks.

    Saying that , I have one tree thats wrecks my view I would mind replacing with something shorter.

    Peter Major Peter Major 6:26 pm 01 Feb 20

    John Sykes 10km fire breaks mate as thats how far fires are spotting

    John Sykes John Sykes 7:09 pm 01 Feb 20

    Lets not bulldoze all the trees just because we might have a fire.

    Peter Major Peter Major 7:53 pm 01 Feb 20

    John Sykes who said bulldoze, but select type and location. There will be fires and storms just pick the right vegetarian.

Robyn Plany Robyn Plany 1:05 pm 01 Feb 20

I live in the bush

Robyn Plany Robyn Plany 1:05 pm 01 Feb 20

gum trees are not good for suburbs, high winds branches drop, not enough water they explode with the heat

    Nell Feneck Nell Feneck 6:34 am 02 Feb 20

    Robyn Plany suburbs are not good for gum trees

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