What is the Value of the Trees of Unley

Yesterday I focused my blog writing on the extreme emotions around trees. Today I look at the value of the trees of Unley.

As I blogged yesterday trees, and therefore the trees of Unley, are both an asset and yet a liability.

Trees are a considerable asset to the community on many levels. They are an important element of the rich culture heritage of Unley. Our trees compliment the environment. They enhance our enjoyment of open spaces by making them more comfortable and pleasant. Just as importantly they provide a wide range of other benefits. Benefits such as shade, cooling and habitat for wildlife.

Conversely, trees constitute a potential risk to our community. There are several risks to both property and more importantly to person. The older they get the greater the risk. These risks include from both underground and aboveground.

Underground risks include movement causing damage by lifting to paths, roads and to buildings. The movement can create trip hazards in our vast footpath network. Above ground dropping limbs can cause property damage and (as highlighted yesterday) are a risk to personal safety.

Like other assets, such as buildings, trees require considered and ongoing maintenance. As with buildings this maintenance should be designed to maximise the benefits they provide and to minimise risks.

So what is the value of the trees of Unley?

Our Tree Strategy Policy 2016-19 is taking a proactive stand toward maintaining and growing our urban forest.

The core of this is recognising for an urban forest to be sustainable there must be a wide age-distribution of trees to create a cycle of succession.

Council’s urban forest has 26,000 trees. 23,000 of these trees are located in some 450 streets. The remaining 3,000 of these trees are in our parks and gardens.

A recent audit of our trees indicates that 20% of our trees realistically require replacement in the next five to ten years. More urgently 7% of our trees (1,570) will require replacement in the next 5 years.

During this time, we plan to remove 1,924 trees. More importantly we aim to plant 2,806 new trees. Rather than just replace trees we have determined are in need, we have identified opportunities to plant trees where none exist now.

 

Trees bring out emotions at the extremes. Often only at the extremes.

Anyone following the media in Adelaide would be aware that trees bring out emotions at the extremes. Often only at the extremes.

There have been many a local media article identifying these extremes recently. In particular, we see this repeated in Adelaide’s inner suburban areas. We have seen the emotions rise to the extreme at both ends of the scale.

At one extreme, we saw the recent save our tree campaign focused on the Government’s redevelopment of Glenside Hospital. At the other end, we often see people expressing concern for the safety of their kids.

We have seen it regularly in the City of Unley with development applications for removal of significant trees.

One such recent application before Council’s Development Assessment Panel has typified that trees bring out emotions at the extremes. Our Panel considered one such application recently.

On that night the gallery was full of people desperate to save the tree the subject of the application. Emotions ran high on the night. Their energy and their emotions unfortunately resulted in their interrupting the proceedings. One unidentified person then graffitied the front fence of the applicant.

This prompted a storey in the Eastern Courier Messenger and in the Advertiser. The storey, in turn, prompted a significant social media response at the other extreme.

Those responding were overwhelmingly of the view that trees should take second place in the hierarchy to humans. They were just as passionate. Any hint (no matter how slight) of there being a risk was enough to say down with the tree.

Definitely, trees bring out emotions at the extremes. And there seems to be no middle ground. It is either one extreme or the other.

Council’s are often caught in the middle here, unable to be seen in good light. Like an umpire at a sporting event, always wrong according to half the supporters.

 

A Policy to Facilitate Regeneration of our most Valuable Asset.

Council last night endorsed for the purpose of community engagement a draft tree strategy. A strategy designed to regenerate our Urban Forest.

 

Trees-in-UnleyWhen talking what assets Council own and must maintain many would not immediately consider trees.

Trees, which make up our Urban Forest, are however one of our if not our most valuable asset.

Most of us recognise that trees and therefore the Unley Urban Forest provide environmental benefits by way of supporting flora and fauna. They also protect against the urban heat island effect associated with cities, and climate change. And of course they provide an aesthetic contribution to the character of our streets and suburbs, the reason I suggest most coming to Unley are attracted too Unley.

Unley has some 26,000 trees, 22,000 of which are located in our streets.

The trouble is 47% of these trees have a useful life expectancy of less than 20 years. 7% or 1,570 trees will require replacement within the next 5 years. The rate of replacement will need to increase grammatically after this time too. This provides Council some significant challenges. This includes:

  • Mature or ageing trees require increasing resources to manage and sustain.
  • The environmental value reduces
  • Older trees pose an increased element of public risk.
  • Population density increase intruding into the privately owned section of the urban forest
  • Ensuring a mix of species to protect against loss by disease to a specific species (noting we have 5,386 Jacarandas).

Probably the biggest challenge we face however is community expectation and resistance to change. Yes; you and I are one of the challenges and potentially the biggest challenge. If we are to maintain the urban forest of Unley we will have to accept that trees will need removing in order to allow for regeneration of new trees. This will mean some streets will see tree removal and this will likely cause angst among residents. We wont want to see this removal but the price we may likely pay is that a few years further along we may potentially see whole suburbs needing tree replacement at the same time.

The policy is a detailed analysis of how we can manage these challenges and ensure that our Urban Forest is maintained in a healthy state for generations to follow. You will be asked for your input and when the final draft is completed after this consultation we will inform you of the final approved policy.