Loss of canopy cover in the City of Unley blamed on Council.

The public debate, fuelled from within Council, on the loss of canopy cover in the City of Unley has been blamed on the Council.

We have had a loss of cover in recent years from 26% of the Council area covered with trees to 21%. A reduction of 20% of the original cover.

The sharp drop has been attributed to the loss of trees on private land. In other words, removal of trees by our rate payers is having an alarming impact on our tree stock. This is then causing a loss of canopy cover, a significant loss.

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It is true that we have lost trees on private land. It is nowhere near as significant however in my opinion as those we have removed ourselves. Council that is. Our street trees and our park trees.

Yes! Council is to blame for the loss of canopy cover. But it is however, for a very different reason.

I ask everyone to stop and take a deep breath. I ask us all to remain calm and put things into perspective. In other words, let us stop the hysteria that something is painfully wrong in Unley.

In 2016 Council implemented a 2nd Generation tree program as part of it’s 2016-19 tree strategy. This policy targeted the renewal of 2,000 trees in 5 years. We knew at the time that this would see a significant loss of canopy cover in the short term.

The aim behind the policy was to avoid too many trees all reaching end of life in a small-time frame. The loss of canopy cover would be catastrophic if that could occur.

I am asking our administration for a report on the progress of the 2016-19 tree strategy.

In the report I want to know not just how many trees we have removed and how many we have replaced them with. I am asking them to calculate what the loss of canopy cover is. How much canopy the fledgling trees are providing is the follow on question. More to the point I am asking them what the potential cover of the replacement trees will be when they mature and when we can expect that.

So! Before we panic, let’s be certain of what is happening. The loss should only be temporary and the direct result of our policy.

If the loss is not acceptable let us cut back the program and/or stop it. Otherwise let us accept there will be a short term pain in order to achieve the long term gain.

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.

 

Update on Goodwood Oval Port Jackson Fig Tree

This blog is an update for all who are interested in the Goodwood Oval Port Jackson Fig Tree.

 

This updates my previous blogs from December last year and earlier this month.

Goodwood Oval Port Jackson Fig TreeThis morning I had further discussions with our Arborist and our Sustainable Landscape Specialist. We discussed both long term and short term actions. We need to not only protect the tree which has at least another 20 years life left in it but ensure reasonably the safety of the public (you and me).

Of immediate need is to provide better protection for the public. Our staff pre-empted a request by me to change the barrier to a mesh barrier rather than the single strand barrier currently in position. I have asked also that we sign post the area as an added dissuasion to public accessing the area beneath the crown of the tree. Expect this within the next week.

A long term solution could be as far away as at least August. We need to determine what risks remain with various options that may be considered. Restricting or maybe even preventing access under the Port Jackson is being debated as we speak.

It is likely, as I reported previously, that the benches and Bar B Que will need to be relocated elsewhere in the Oval precinct. Finding a suitable shaded spot may prove a challenge however so whatever we wind up proposing will probably need to have artificial  shade included. As Goodwood Oval is community land a public consultation will become part of the process.

This as always will be time consuming.

It is currently unfunded but I will be ensuring that we include a satisfactory budget during our current budget considerations for next year in readiness for a decision after consultation.

The Goodwood Oval Port Jackson Fig Tree is a much loved tree and very much part of the amenity of the Oval precinct.

 

Mixed Message for our Moreton Bay Fig

Late last year I blogged on the limb failure of the Moreton Bay Fig tree (or should I say Port Jackson Fig) located in the north west quadrant of Goodwood Oval. This blog is the latest on what we have found about the trees health and its future.

 

Goodwood Oval Morton Bay Fig Tree

Goodwood Oval Morton Bay Fig Tree

I visited the site with Council’s arborist this morning and he confirms the original assessments as it being in good health. It’s health in fact is typical of the species and its age. He and the independent arborist that carried out specific tests on the tree I reported in my last blog both conclude that we do have some management issues going forward to protect this lovely tree.

The Port Jackson (as we should get used to calling it) is a significant tree. So much so it is included in Council’s Development Plan Significant Tree Register. This provides it some pretty basic protections.

The specialised inspection has revealed that while in good general health it has been compromised. Foliage colour, size and density are all normal and there are no signs of pests or disease within the crown.

The limb failure has been diagnosed as the result of fungal degeneration and there is more present. These failures have resulted in a large void and altered wind dynamic. The trees overall integrity is not compromised but it has been assessed as there being a moderate risk of further limb failure particularly before regrowth stabilises the tree long term. I have had the regrowth pointed out to me.

Thankfully the risk has not been diagnosed as high as this would probably see a recommendation for its removal. Having said that a medium risk is sufficient for us to take action to minimise risk to all those who use Goodwood Oval and in particular the kids who climb the tree.

Pruning options are limited so we are likely to consider repositioning the permanent seats and the bar b que to another area. This will challenge us as any repositioning of this facility will require shade. Our arborist and I discussed some options but we will need to give this some more thought before going out for your thoughts and opinions.