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.