Keeping Unley Leafy for Generations to Come. A new Tree Strategy

The current Unley Council, like it’s predecessors, is very keen on keeping Unley leafy for generations to come. Accordingly, we are looking to update our tree strategy.

Keeping Unley leafy for future generations


To achieve this we have developed a new “draft” tree strategy. A draft strategy, giving you an opportunity to examine it and provide input into a final draft. The consultation has commenced. We will receive feedback up until 11 May.

I encourage everyone, whether a tree lover or a tree hater to examine the draft.

We are looking to increase our tree canopy cover from the current 26% to 31% by 2045. This matches the State Governments objectives of 30% of the greater metropolitan area having tree canopy.

The strategy identifies a need to consider greening in/on:

  • the open space controlled by Council
  • in our streets
  • on land owned by State or Federal Government
  • on Private land.


Council recognises that we are not able to achieve this without your participation. This is because 80% of the area of the City of Unley is under private ownership.


In other words, keeping Unley leafy for generations to come will require not just council maximising planting on its own land, but finding ways of encouraging you to do the same. The strategy highlights the reasons for this.

14,000 standard size trees (trees with a diameter of 8 metres) will need to be planted in the next 26 years to achieve the goals. This large target equates to an average of 540 new trees planted per year. As outlined in the strategy, it is recognised that with limited public space, a large number of these trees will need to be planted on private land.

We therefore need to know how you feel about you and your neighbours contributing to this goal by retaining and planting new trees on your respective properties. Your input into how we might encourage you to do this will be appreciated.

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.