18th June 2020


Assembly support on trees welcome

The Conservation Council ACT Region has welcomed the shared focus from Members of the Legislative Assembly on Canberra’s urban forest and trees today, as it reflects the community’s desire to see a healthy urban forest across the Territory. 

The debate was in response to a motion from Elizabeth Lee, Shadow Environment Minister, to support the planting of one million trees in the ACT over the next decade. 

“For Canberra to thrive in the future, high-quality urban greenspace with extended tree cover must be a focus, particularly as a preventive tool against the impacts of climate change, as summers become longer and hotter,” said Helen Oakey, Executive Director. 

“The community does rate our tree cover as an integral part of our city. “Street and Park Trees” were identified as the number two issue in the Better Suburbs community consultation process held in 2018, which recommended a 30% canopy by 2030.

“Streets with a good tree canopy offer more shade which encourages people to be outside and utilise active travel such as cycling and walking in summer. They also play a role in reducing air pollution, and, in combination with porous surfaces, slowing water flows into stormwater drains.

“It’s important that in the bush capital, planting across the city takes account of species selection, and includes a diverse mix of native trees and shrubs in urban parks to support connectivity and habitat for wildlife and pollinators. 

“In addition, species should be selected for their climate resilience; young trees in particular are very vulnerable to long hot periods without rain, and we have already seen tree losses across the city as a result of extended dry periods.

“The ACT has set a target to increase tree canopy to 30% by 2045. To achieve this, we need a substantial investment in tree planting, as well as ongoing maintenance regimes, and strong community engagement. A 2019 Budget announcement of 17,000 trees over 4 years was a good start, but the investment will need to be significantly ramped up to meet that 2045 target.

“The community is keen to step up and support different types of revegetation, as evidenced by the Adopt-A-Park Community Grants Program. We also need to continue community education about the value and environmental services that our urban forest supports. 

“In addition, it will be important that criteria under the Tree Protection Act, currently under review, are not lowered in a bid to make the legislation more “flexible”. 

“When trees pose risks to the community, we should aim to manage those risks through actions such as landscaping and tree management, rather than just removing established and mature trees. Replacing a large, established tree with one or more smaller trees won’t necessarily deliver the same habitat or canopy cover benefits, and mature trees deliver important habitat benefits for wildlife.

“In the lead up to the ACT Election, it’s great that there is such clear will across the Assembly to make our urban forest a priority,” said Ms Oakey