24 April 2020

Where 4,000 trees will be planted this autumn in new stimulus package

| Ian Bushnell
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City Services Minister Chris Steel

City Services Minister Chris Steel plants an ornamental pear tree in Harrison on Thursday to launch the program. Photo: Supplied.

The ACT Government will plant more than 4,000 trees across 87 Canberra suburbs this autumn as part of a $3 million refresh that will also support local businesses and create jobs during the COVID-19-induced economic downturn.

The tree planting and public spaces upgrade stimulus package adds to $25 million in infrastructure spending already announced.

The newer suburbs of Gungahlin where cover is low will receive the lion’s share of new trees, followed by Tuggeranong; Woden and Weston Creek; Molonglo; Belconnen; and the older, more established suburbs of Central Canberra.

Gungahlin will get 1452 new trees; Tuggeranong 841; Woden and Weston Creek 845, Coombs and Wright 32; Belconnen 571; and Central Canberra 368, more than doubling the planned autumn planting target of 1,500.

City Services Minister Chris Steel, who planted a tree in Harrison to launch the program, said there would be more than this going in the ground in the spring, which will make 2020 the largest tree-planting year this century.

“Suburbs with low canopy cover are our immediate focus, and we’ll be planting a combination of native, evergreen exotic and exotic deciduous trees to ensure our urban forest remains diverse and resilient,” he said.

A new, 10-strong team has also been created to trim the backlog of tree maintenance requests and help care for the urban forest, mainly focusing on the established southside plantings where some trees have died and need to be removed and replaced, as well as branches cut.

There will also be mulching and extra watering to reinvigorate areas with significant established trees such as City Hill and Ainslie Avenue.

Mr Steel said the stimulus need was an opportunity to enhance Canberra’s tree canopy and support the government’s target of 30 per cent cover across the city.

”It’s an opportunity to help deal with our very hot summers by planting more trees and cooling the city, particularly in areas with low canopy cover,” he said.

”This is going to be a legacy from the pandemic that is going to be a very positive one in years to come.”

The stimulus package will also refresh up to 30 playgrounds, involving the installation of extra softfall, and repair of equipment and repainting. An $800,000 contract has recently been awarded to RAM Constructions to undertake the work.

The government committed in last year’s Budget to planting 17,000 trees over four years but the ACT Greens say this will still not be enough to keep up with tree losses of 3,000 a year, particularly from climate change.

The Greens said last month that Canberra needed 40,000 new trees to restore the urban forest, with MLA Caroline Le Couteur also calling for stronger legislation to protect existing trees, and ensure there is enough room for trees on development sites.

Mr Steel said on Thursday that further plans for the urban forest would be guided by an upcoming community consultation about how the ACT could reach the 30 per cent tree canopy cover target.

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George Watling2:00 pm 26 Apr 20

I agree with Acton.

The greens and their labor buddies have presided over the largest and most extensive vegetation removal and suburban densification program in the history of the garden city.

Since they came to power tens of thousands of trees have been removed from our streets, parks, and open spaces and they have developed plans to stick 70,000 new homes in existing suburbs.

Where we live a whole street has been given over to ‘bulldoze the lot and concrete to the boundary’ cowboy developers. 800m2 blocks with gardens have been split into 400m2 blocks. The new townhouses, multi unit dwellings, and dual occupancies the developers have built fill the blocks. The few meters left between the buildings and the their colourbond fences are concreted or paved. There are no lawns, gardens, or shade trees.

Together these properties make a perfect heat island. On a 32 degree summers day all their un-shaded bituman driveways and grey concrete patios will reach 77 degrees and 64 degrees. This in-turn will force the occupants of those townhouses, multi unit dwellings, and dual occupancies to run their Air Conditioners on higher settings for longer.

The greens and labor claim squeezing tens of thousands of more people into existing suburbs will save some pristine wilderness some where outside the city limits and drive down green house gas emissions when the sad fact is that suburban densification here in Canberra and elsewhere (Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne) leads to:
a) increased local summer time temperatures,
b) increased green house gas emissions,
c) reduced habitat and food sources for local wildlife,
d) decreased quality of life for everyone in the densification zone as green gardens and opens spaces disappear and already stretched and underfunded local facilitates and infrastructure buckle under the weight of so many more additional households.

George Watling10:18 pm 25 Apr 20

More trees are what we need. Research from industry organisations and universities clearly shows that trees in suburbs:
– increase property values
– improve mental well being
– reduce air conditioning costs
– protects us from extreme temperatures, dehydration, heat stress and heat stroke on hot summer days and during heat waves,
– improve air quality
– reduce run off and erosion,
– protect people and property from high winds and storm damage,
– increase the life of paths, roads, and buildings by blocking out damaging UV rays.

The reason why our once extensive tree canopy has shrunk is because of the ACT Government’s urban densification policy favouring apartments, smaller blocks and narrower streets.
More apartments = less parks, gardens and shady street trees = more suburban heat = more use of air conditioners.
The MIA Greens bear responsibility because they are part of this destructive, wasteful and negligent ACT Labor Govt.

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