Death by a Thousand Cuts

Sydney Red GumImage: Sydney Red Gum.  Photo: Meredith Foley

Trees and plants make a good city great
They keep our urban areas cool and make us healthier, happier, safer and more productive. They improve the air we breathe, reduce stress, help to minimise the incidence of extreme weather and mitigate the impacts of climate change. They can even boost the economy. These are just some of the reasons why green space is so important.
202020 Vision

202020 cant see forestMost of us would agree with the above about the benefits of trees and green spaces in our community.  However, it is clear that there are forces at work which are chipping away at tree canopy and open space across Sydney.  We consider Willoughby City Council area to be an established part of the ‘leafy north shore’ but it was among 6 local council areas which have seen the highest percentage loss in their tree canopy in the past seven years, according to research submitted to the Greater Sydney Commission by urban greening initiative 202020 Vision.

The reasons are not hard to find – many trees were lost due to complying development laws which permit the removal of trees under eight metres and the notorious 10/50 rule, which was introduced to mitigate bushfire risk but has clearly been abused around our suburbs. It has now been modified but remains a threat as does the removal of trees for infilling and greater densifications as required by the State Government.

What can be done?  Submissions have gone to the Greater Sydney Commission and Willoughby Council calling for protection of existing tree canopy and for environmentally sustainable guidelines to be embedded as part of the district planning process.

WEPA is also an active member of the SOS Green Spaces campaign which is seeking to build a network to save critical urban ecosystems.  After twelve months of research and consultation, an SOS Green Spaces Battle Map, which charts over 80 areas in Sydney under threat, has been launched.  This interactive map features pictures, videos and information on each and every threatened patch so that local communities can share information and support each other in preventing tree clearance and impingements on bushland and green spaces.

What can you do? The majority of Sydney-siders don’t want their neighbourhoods denuded of functioning ecosystems for a host of reasons, from their impact on property prices to their importance for the mental and physical health of families. Make your concerns known to Premier Berejiklian and Minister for the Environment Gabrielle Upton. For a guide to letter writing see


Kelsey Munro, ‘Sydney’s greenest suburbs becoming not so green environmentalists warn’, Sydney Morning Herald, 22 April 2017
Peter Hannam, ‘Nothing’s safe: More than 70 of Sydney’s green spaces at risk, survey finds’, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 March 2017


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