This blog post is in relation to a notice of motion I submitted at the last Council meeting. A notice of motion means that it will come up for debate at our next meeting and this is on the 23rd of September 2014. The motion is…
“That in order to mitigate the Urban Heat Island effect and to provide considerable environmental benefits, City Officers investigate options to increase the City’s tree canopy coverage from the current 13.2% to 20% by 2025.”
(Jacobs, B., Mikhailovich, N., and Delaney, C. (2014) Benchmarking Australia’s Urban Tree Canopy: An i-Tree Assessment, prepared for Horticulture Australia Limited by the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney.)
Whilst a focus on trees was once only the domain of the environmentalists, research has proven that more trees provide economic benefits to communities as well as public health benefits and crime prevention.
Economic Benefits – Planting trees doesn’t just make cents, it makes serious dollars.
West Australian research has shown that tree lined streets add approximately $16,889 to house values. This is hardly surprising as surely everyone agrees that the picture on the left looks more appealing than the one on the right.
Source: Littleollie’s Fotothing (left) & ABC TV (right)
‘No Trees, No Future’ written by Trees & Design Action Group, and supported by English Heritage, state that trees can increase property values by 7-15 per cent. Also that recent research from New York showed that investing $1 per annum in trees can return $5 in quantifiable benefits.
In addition is it proven that tree lined streets better protect bitumen: “Bitumen is a super-cooled liquid like glass and in the hot Australian sun the solvents contained in it are evaporated over time. This leads to the surface crumbling and the need for replacement. Shade from trees that overhang roads and playgrounds can significantly extend the life of bitumen by a factor of 2-3 times that of the exposed useful life expectancy.” Over the years, this will literally save ratepayers millions of dollars!
Trees also provide economic benefits in their cooling effects. “Vegetation provides a natural cooling effect through evapotranspiration and absorptive and reflective processes. Trees are of particular importance as they can also provide shade. As vegetation and trees are removed from the landscape, their natural cooling effect is lost.” (Curtin Uni research: Cool Communities) A tree lined street will help pay for your air-conditioning! “Think of them as leafy, misty fans for our cities.”
It is also proven that trees improve the walkability of the area. “Trees and landscaping in the street are critical in creating an environment that people want to walk in, especially for recreation.” (Victoria Walks).
And walkability is good for business.
There is plenty of irrefutable research showing that the urban heat island effect is real and that we need to do something about it. The heat island effect is when buildings, footpaths and infrastructure absorb the sun’s heat and then radiate it back out. Planting more trees is only one, albeit vital, component of what needs to occur to combat this problem.
There is also plenty of research showing that mature tree lined streets reduce traffic speeds. This is because “Urban street trees create vertical walls framing streets, and a defined edge, helping motorists guide their movement and assess their speed.” This is obviously beneficial for other road users, pedestrians and cyclists.
In addition there is scientific proof that trees make us happier.
It’s hard to believe, but there is research showing that “greener neighbourhoods have significantly fewer crimes than non-vegetated areas. And this effect held true even after the researchers controlled for socioeconomic factors”.
It’s taken me a long time to compile this information, and I really don’t think I need to explain why trees are good for the environment. Let’s leaf it as being good for our fauna, good for the air we breathe, good for creating rain fall, good for water run-off & pollutant removal.
The key point to my motion is ‘20% by 2025’. I am hoping that this will become an over-arching strategic objective of the City’s, and if this were to happen then it will have a flow on effect to a number of areas. For instance, ‘20% by 2025’ is a pretty hefty target when you consider how long it takes for a sapling to develop a meaningful canopy. In addition, whilst the City staff plant more trees on public land, developers and urban infill will unfortunately be reducing the number of trees on private land. That said, I believe ‘20% by 2025’ is an achievable target and if set as a strategy then the City staff will do their upmost to achieve it, and this is where the flow on effects will kick in. Currently half our street trees are cut back because of power lines – instigating the undergrounding of power will allow street trees to expand their canopy. Currently we have requests for Council to cut down trees on public land for reasons such as magpie carolling in them at night time to the shade they cast on solar panels – if the City is aiming at a ‘20% by 2025’ then we simply won’t be able to entertain the cutting down, or the cutting back, of healthy mature trees. In essence, the way business is currently done within the City will have to be reviewed and practices which are accepted will be challenged.
The only negative to all of this is the cost to implement it, however I say there is a far greater cost in not doing it; and I hope you agree.
For those of you who want to know more, there is a plethora of information espousing the benefits of trees, some are below:
*** As a follow up, the below is how the vote ultimately went at Council: ***