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Canberra
Thursday, January 28, 2021

Canberra’s urban tree canopy to sprout

The ACT Government has announced they will seek to cover 30% of Canberra’s urban areas with tree canopy in the next 25 years, planting over 450,000 trees to accomplish this goal.

The draft Urban Forest Strategy 2020-2045 was released for public consultation yesterday, outlining the protection, maintenance, education, conservation, community partnerships and planting required to achieve the goal.

The planting of 25,000 trees by 2023 has been funded by the ACT Government as part of the first stage of the planting program.

Tree canopy currently covers around 21% of Canberra’s urban area.

The Urban Forest Strategy will provide a pathway to achieve the ACT’s target of 30% canopy cover by 2045 while also setting out what will need to be done to ensure Canberra’s urban forest remains resilient to a changing climate and to help cool our city.

Minister for City Services, Chris Steel said many of Canberra’s large historic tree plantings are reaching the end of their life.

“To grow our urban forest, we will plant more trees and more diverse and resilient species.

“We’ll also need to ensure new trees receive great care and ongoing maintenance in order to thrive and take a ‘whole-of-forest’ approach to managing our canopy,” he said.

Mr Steel also noted that changes are required to the existing legal framework to help grow and manage a living urban forest.

“The complexity of our legislative framework means that three trees within five metres of each other may be subject to different laws and different requirements.

“At times the same tree can be protected under one law and removed under another. We need to reform our system to a more integrated living infrastructure planning approach,” he said.

Shadow Minister for the Environment Elizabeth Lee said the ACT Government is “on the back foot” with respect to caring for Canberra’s trees.

In early June, the Canberra Liberals made an election promise to plant and care for one million trees over the next decade should they form government following the October election.

They also announced a “green space guarantee” – a promise that Canberrans, regardless of where they live, will have access to green space within a 10-minute walk from home.

The Canberra Liberals have previously pointed out that in 19 years the ACT Government have overseen the number of street and community trees going backward by approximately 3,000 trees each year, while tree canopy has fallen from 30% to 21%.

“They have had 19 years (in government); if they truly cared about trees they would not have allowed the tree canopy in Canberra to drop to 21%,” Ms Lee said.

“There’s no doubt that with the election less than three months away they have cottoned on to the fact that Canberrans value trees.”

When the Canberra Liberals announced their million-tree scheme they did so without proper costings. Ms Lee said they will be released before polling day.

“We have said that we will be engaging with community groups, environmental groups, with schools, and we want to ensure that we listen to the experts in planting the right species of tree in the right location to ensure that they are sustainable for the long term.”

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