The State Government holds the key to Tree Canopy Cover Targets

The City of Unley has long believed the State Government holds the key to Tree Canopy Cover Targets.

 

More to the point the key to tree canopy cover targets lies in the Government’s new DPI Act. This is the new new Act governing development in South Australia.

Thankfully the Government (through the State Planning Commission) has responded positively to our request for them to mandate a minimum 15% tree canopy coverage on all sites with new development. They are prepared to sit down and discuss this with us.

Unley Heat MapThe previous Unley Council held strong and positive views of saving our trees. There can be no doubt the current Council also holds this view. From memory, in our respective election campaigns, we all included trees in our platform.

It is not however just about preserving our trees. It goes further. We do need to increase our tree canopy cover targets.

We are doing our bit on the land we have control over. As you will see shortly when we ask you to look at our proposed budget, we are looking to significantly increase tree plantings in the public domain.

Unfortunately this will exacerbate the recent losses we have experienced in the short term, as I noted in my loss of canopy cover blog of June last year. Long term though, it will improve the canopy cover.

The public domain however, the area Council has direct control over, accounts for only 16% of our City.  Keswick Barracks has 4%. The remaining 80% lies in the control of our private property owners . Our rate payers.

This is where the Government comes in. For us to achieve the canopy cover goals set by them in their 30 year plan, they need to recognise where the focus needs to be.

Council can’t achieve a 30% coverage, even if they planted 100% of the area they control. There has to be controls set on private land, the land controlled by our rate payers.

I am therefore gratified they (the State Government) are prepared to sit and talk with us.

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.