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

Michael Weaver 11 September 2019 25
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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25 Responses to One person’s mission to reshape Canberra’s canopy by planting 100,000 trees
Christine Lakers Christine Lakers 5:31 pm 30 Sep 19

If only this brilliant altruism could be repeated Australia wide. Government at all levels must see the value and support this initiative.

Alexander Ryan-Jones Alexander Ryan-Jones 7:19 am 11 Sep 19

Sign this wannabe-druid up! :D

Margot Sirr Margot Sirr 11:42 pm 09 Sep 19

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

Liz Lyell Liz Lyell 2:27 am 09 Sep 19

What to replace the ones that were torn out for the light rail, what a good idea.

Babs Mabbs Babs Mabbs 2:18 am 09 Sep 19

Wonderful, especially if it’s native trees that provide food for our wildlife.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 11:55 am 09 Sep 19

    Actually many exotic trees are very attractive to native animals. Possums and wattle birds LOVE my apricot tree for instance. I put love in capitals, because of all my fruit trees the apricot tree seems to have a wide range of visitors. The wattle birds eat the nectar (I do have native plants for them as well, but they like the apricot just as much), and later the birds and animals will be after the fruit. The possums also eat the leaves. Trees need to be considered for several reasons. Yes, for native creatures, but also for its fire resistance, and shading in summer and lack of shading in winter; especially if they are near houses. Deciduous trees can have many advantages in urban areas. Smaller natives can be planted around them. Maybe some could be fruit trees and then all could enjoy them.

    Babs Mabbs Babs Mabbs 5:43 pm 09 Sep 19

    Julie Macklin it’s a complex issue. Our wildlife eat what’s available and adapt. In the case of Chinese elm, rosellas love them but are spreading the seeds and the trees are coming up like weeds.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 7:08 pm 09 Sep 19

    Babs Mabbs Chinese elms. I'm not disbelieving you, but I walk in the bush a lot and I have never seen Chinese elms growing wild. Other exotics yes, although rarely in weed proportion, usually just the odd one here and there, with more around creeks. I don't have a problem with this. I like the diversity and they are trees.

    Babs Mabbs Babs Mabbs 6:04 am 10 Sep 19

    Julie Macklin Give it time. That’s how weed trees work. Slowly spreading, until no other plants can grow under them. I like deciduous trees too and they are important in a cold climate like ours. But great care needs to be taken with the selection and that doesn’t always happen, even at Government level.

    Christine Lakers Christine Lakers 5:11 pm 30 Sep 19

    Babs Mabbs Absolutely. Imperative -a cross section of trees,shrubs grasses indigenous to the area - otherwise wildlfe is not supported.

Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 12:03 am 09 Sep 19

If anyone wants oak trees to plant, there are masses of self sown oak trees available to be dug up in Narrabundah. Off Matina Street, opposite intersection with Bungonia Street. Walk towards the woodland beside Canberra Avenue. Masses of self sown oak trees there.

    Christine Lakers Christine Lakers 5:14 pm 30 Sep 19

    Julie oaksdoNotsupprtwildlife. Plants needto beindigent to thearea.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 6:00 pm 30 Sep 19

    Christine Lakers Trees need to work in an urban setting and suit their placement, and in cooler climates such as Canberra often deciduous trees work best, as because they are deciduous, they let in sunlight in winter. Large native, non deciduous trees, such as eucalyptus, work when they are far enough away from buildings and things that benefit from sunlight. They can be planted on the south side of buildings for instance, but not on the north side. On the north side it should be deciduous trees to let in sunlight. Oak trees let through sunlight in winter, as they drop their leaves, and are very good at reducing energy use in houses, as compared to a gum tree blocking the sun and pushing up energy bills in houses. (Pines are worse.) In fact, I would not have any trees that shade my house on the north side, even deciduous trees, as the sun is my house's energy source. For energy efficient solar houses, large natives on the north side would be a disaster; blocking sunlight to the house, and perhaps making the house less efficient than a conventional house. It is too simplistic to say that native is best. The location must be considered, as well as other factors.

Selina Hardwicke Selina Hardwicke 7:06 pm 08 Sep 19

Murray McKay show Yvette

Kalo Arepo Kalo Arepo 5:03 pm 08 Sep 19

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

Kate Dawson Kate Dawson 11:30 am 08 Sep 19

Congratulations Edwina!

Spiral Spiral 10:33 am 08 Sep 19

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

Reneé Nelson Reneé Nelson 9:10 am 08 Sep 19

Good to see they are not just considering natives and are looking at wicking bed etc.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:25 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.

Kristi Stinson Kristi Stinson 8:07 am 08 Sep 19

What a great idea. I’ll keep an eye out- love to be involved.

Wayne Lutter Wayne Lutter 7:44 am 08 Sep 19

That’s it plant another fire corridor in Canberra, as if there isn’t enough now

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 10:29 am 08 Sep 19

    Not all trees have the same fire risk. If this is a problem, keep away from pines, eucalyptus and the like. This lists some better trees to plant where there is a fire risk.

    Trevor Watson Trevor Watson 5:01 pm 09 Sep 19

    Can I have a eucalyptus to replace the crabapple I have as a street tree.

Elspeth Shannon Rollason Elspeth Shannon Rollason 7:29 am 08 Sep 19

Look out for grants from the ACT gov’t

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