In the sunshine of Haig Park’s urban pine forest at midday today a small crowd of journalists, camera crew, political staffers and public servants gathered to watch Chief Minister Jon Stanhope and ACT Environment Commissioner Maxine Cooper release the “Report on the Investigation into the Government’s tree management practices and the renewal of Canberra’s Urban Forest”.
Over a year in the making the report makes 12 recommendations, five of which are high priority:
- Replace the proposed urban forest renewal program with integrated tree protection and a focus in tree management and care.
- Establish an ACT tree curator position within TAMS to guide tree protection and management.
- Adopt a co-ordinated, streamlined approach to Canberra’s tree protection and management, including better communication with the NCA and between all ACT Government departments.
- Strengthen communication and community engagement so people don’t have a massive freak out when their tree is earmarked for removal.
- Increase funding for management of Canberra’s urban forest to $4 million pa ongoing and an extra $1 million for the first year to accelerate the program.
“The recommendations we’ve made are about long term changes,” Cooper said.
“At the moment all the policies in trees are found in various documents, so we’d appreciate that being in the one document.”
“We do need a way forward in relation to our aging urban forest,” Stanhope said.
“At this stage the Government is very pleased to recieve the report, we’re very encouraged by the recommendations, we see the good sense in all of them, but we of course will go through the process in terms of determining those we will accept and I’m hopeful my colleagues in the Assembly will accept this. Part of that process to ensure full political and community engagement is that there be a short sharp review by the Standing Committee of the Commissioner’s report, so we’re all singing from the same songsheet in terms of the trees.”
ACT Greens spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur says her party welcome the new emphasis on keeping trees alive as well as removing them.
“That was one of the things the community was clearly saying to me, they wanted the trees preserved. I think this report will lead to better community engagement and to our trees being better preserved in Canberra.
“What we need to see are urban areas be regenerated and well looked after as we get more density, like Haig Park, we need to look after the trees because it’s one thing that makes dense areas work is lots of green areas.”
The report can be found online at the Office of the Commissioner for Sustainability and Environment.