11 September 2019

One person's mission to reshape Canberra's canopy by planting 100,000 trees

| Michael Weaver
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The Climate Factory

Founder of The Climate Factory, Edwina Robinson, far right, with Jesse Murphy, Jennifer Tonna and Tulitha King. Photos: Supplied.

Canberra has long taken great pride in the canopy of trees which adorn the capital.

Now, one person’s mission to plant more than 100,000 trees and shrubs in the Canberra region by 2025 is taking form, adding to the lush landscape.

Edwina Robinson is the founder of The Climate Factory, a social enterprise set up this year to plant micro-forests in urban areas. Ms Robinson says these forests will help our community thrive in a hotter and drier future.

Indeed, the ACT Government proclaims to be doing its best to address Canberra’s dwindling canopy by planting 17,000 more trees across the city over the next four years, with the focus on areas with low canopy cover and where trees are ageing.

An Urban Forest Strategy will also be developed within 12 months, which will set out a pathway to meet canopy targets and build the resilience of Canberra’s canopy.

Edwina Robinson is taking trees into her own hands.

“I think the important thing is that we start planting now because obviously trees take a long time to grow,” Ms Robinson told Region Media.

“By planting trees, we buy time while our governments and our energy, transport and industrial sectors sort themselves out. We can’t go on as business as usual. There’s no point in making profits in an unliveable world.”

To establish the micro-forests, Ms Robinson is running a crowdfunding campaign to harness support from the community. She has spoken to the ACT Government and has put a proposal to the Downer Community Association to do a pilot project of 2000 trees and shrubs. There is also a similar proposal in the suburb of Wright.

The proposal for a micro forest at Downer.

If that is successful, the plan is to create more micro-forests in other parts of Canberra and beyond.

Ms Robinson said the micro-forests will not only absorb carbon and cool the environment, but provide a habitat for wildlife and for the community to get involved in planting. She also has a model where a small-scale micro forest can be planted in people’s backyards.

A micro-forest would include 500 square metres of dense planting and may provide other amenities like wicking beds, timber bird boxes, seats and/or nature play spaces.

“If we can create these micro-climates and little parks, we hope people will spend more time there rather than coming straight home and turning the air conditioning on.

“Last summer, it was often too hot to sleep. I’ve heard from people in apartments that face west who just feel the brunt of the sun and there’s no cross ventilation where the buildings are all clumped together.

“What I’m hoping to do is empower people to feel like they are making a difference and that we can create a brighter future together.”

Ms Robinson has experience in a similar project to attract small birds and pollinators back into Canberra in her role as an executive officer with SEE-Change, a Canberra grassroots sustainability organisation formed in 2008.

With trees like the silver birch and Japanese maple becoming less suited to Canberra’s climate, Ms Robinson says we need to look at towns such as Dubbo, Gilgandra and Scone as examples of what needs to be planted here. Oak trees and the crepe myrtle are plants that can cope with hotter, drier conditions but still handle frosts.

ACT Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur welcomed the initiative, saying street and park trees in our established suburbs are declining by around 3000 a year.

“It’s great to see committed people in the Canberra community taking matters into their own hands and getting more trees planted,” Ms Le Couteur said.

“We also need trees to protect biodiversity and birdlife, such as the Brown Treecreeper and Swift Parrot, which are considered vulnerable in the ACT.

“I wish Edwina all the best for getting The Climate Factory underway.”

The Climate Factory volunteers planting trees. Their mission is to plant more than 100,000 trees in the ACT.

Ms Robinson is putting a list together of people who can help and will also run a crowdfunding campaign in October to hopefully raise $20,000 and potentially match that with ACT Government funding. She is also looking for corporate funding.

“It’s fantastic to see so many people supportive of this initiative. If we can grow this, it could be replicated throughout Canberra, and elsewhere in other towns and cities.

“Planting and watching something grow is empowering. Plant one tree and watch it flower, plant a forest and watch it thrive.”

You can find out more on The Climate Factory website or Facebook page.

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Edwina I am thrilled by this project. It is hands on practical climate change and will also protect us from fires with the use of fire Retardent trees which also provide positive aspects for our bird life I would love to be an active part of this project to cool our environment . Margot Sirr

Capital Retro7:47 am 10 Sep 19

This is exactly what Tony Abbott wanted to do; practical and effective too.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-02-02/abbott-unveils-climate-change-policy/318256

Unfortunately for Australia it wasn’t sexy enough for the rent seeking warmists.

As long as they don’t plant inappropriate trees too close to houses or roads where they could create hazards.

I just have had 2 giant casuarinas removed by the government as they were too close to my house and were creating infra-structure problems.

My neighbors have giant gum trees too close to their houses and panic every time there are strong winds as this type of tree has a history of collapsing onto houses or fences

A great initiative. One that our government should provide more support for.

Capital Retro8:25 am 08 Sep 19

“With trees like the silver birch and Japanese maple becoming less suited to Canberra’s climate…..”

That is not correct. Both these varieties thrive in Canberra as long as they are planted deeply, drained correctly and watered regularly, until they become established.

Overall, this is an initiative to be applauded. It takes up where the arboretum has failed – the latter place having too many themes and not enough trees.

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