The ACT Government has begun consultation on adapting the Tree Protection Act 2005 to simplify regulation, while also ensuring that the number of trees planted each year grows.
Minister for City Services, Chris Steel, said the government specifically want to know if the community supports introducing an offset system whereby if a tree has to be removed, it will be replaced by one or more new trees.
“Under our existing tree protection laws, thousands of trees are removed on leased land in Canberra and not replaced. We want to hear from the community how we can improve this outcome,” he said.
“However, we have also heard from the community that the system of managing trees on private land can be inflexible and we are seeking feedback on how the legislation and strict criteria can be improved.”
The ACT Government’s Canberra’s Living Infrastructure Plan, released in September, set a target to increase Canberra’s tree canopy cover from 21% to 30%.
The Conservation Council ACT Region warned against lowering the criteria for protecting the Territory’s trees in a bid to make the legislation more “flexible”.
Executive director Helen Oakey said it is important large established trees are not removed, only to be replaced with smaller trees that won’t necessarily deliver the same habitat or canopy cover.
“Given the longer hotter summers that we are already experiencing, it’s too early to be removing large trees or lowering the criteria for their protection.
“The Discussion Paper hints that the criteria to remove trees are too restrictive, yet in 2018-19, nearly 70% of all applications made under the Tree Protection Act to remove, prune or lop protected trees were approved,” she said.
The ACT Greens welcomed the consultation, describing it as an ideal opportunity to improve protection of trees in the ‘bush capital’.
“It’s unacceptable, at a time of extreme heat, that numbers of trees in the bush capital are decreasing,” Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur said.
Visit yoursay.act.gov.au for more. Consultation closes 8 December.