Time for Willoughby LGA to Rethink its Urban Forest
It’s time to rethink and revalue trees as an essential part of urban infrastructure – this was the main message last week from the inaugural Rethinking the Urban Forest conference in Sydney.
We are already seeing the impact of population growth on our cities and suburbs with increased demand for housing, jobs and transport systems. Energy consumption will increase as the temperature rises due to climate change. Larger, more crowded cities mean less space for the trees, parks, bushland and other open spaces which constitute our ‘green infrastructure’.
Yet ‘green infrastructure’ will be critical to alleviate these pressures as trees filter air pollution, shield homes and buildings from the sun, decrease energy consumption, provide habitat for urban wildlife, shade us as we walk and play and generally make our suburbs and streets more appealing places to work and raise families.
It’s time that the community and governments at all levels begin to value the benefits as well as the costs of urban trees. Green infrastructure needs to be considered in the same way as other forms of infrastructure and integrated into our planning at every level.
WEPA wrote recently to Willoughby City Council urging it to include Urban Tree Canopy strategies in its draft Green City strategy. In particular, we are keen to see the inclusion in the WCC plan of strategies to:
- strengthen the current policy to protect trees, particularly mature, native trees which shade and cool our suburbs to provide habitat for local wildlife
- educate the public on the importance of maintaining the tree canopy for local biodiversity and to combat the impacts of climate change
- fight to preserve natural areas such as Flat Rock Gully at risk of destruction by RMS bull-dozers
- update the WCC Natural Heritage Register to identify trees and other natural resources outside bushland reserves and to promote their greater protection
- vigorously prosecute those who deliberately ring-bark and poison trees and
- choose suitable native plants for street plantings, in preference to exotics, to encourage local biodiversity and the protection of our natural environment.
Rather than see trees as liabilities we must start to take real notice of the wider economic, social and environmental benefits of our green infrastructure.