Franklin Street, Manuka… Significant tree in between buildings. Photo by Paul Costigan

WE love our trees in Canberra. The ACT government’s decisions on trees are often contradictory and not in the context of long-term strategies for the bush capital. It continues to make a mess of the legacy it inherited.

Paul Costigan.

There are endless tales of strange decision-making about trees.

There’s that large tree caught between buildings alongside the Manuka Cinema. The owner wishes the tree gone so she can redevelop the whole site. The Significant Tree Police say “no”. Locals have mixed feelings.

Nearby, a large old pine in bad condition on the border between two heritage buildings is so dangerous that insurance companies will no longer cover it for any damage. The owners would replace it with more friendly trees if allowed. Significant Tree Police say “no”. What are they thinking?

Gosse Street, Kingston… gums to go for development. Photo by Paul Costigan

Behind the Greek Church in Kingston a line of magnificent gums are being sacrificed for a development. Significance is not an issue?

In Downer on the corner of Antill and Northbourne, significant and cherished well-established gums were sacrificed for storage space for the tram works.

In the centre of Downer, a townhouse estate was left with a large gum in the centre with threatening branches looming over rooftops. Despite calls for action, this significant tree must be left alone. Really?

Along Limestone Avenue there are gums in very bad condition. They have struggled through many dry summers on the middle strip with no watering. There are many threatening branches reaching out over traffic.

Car parks used to have ample trees to make them less ugly. When older car parks are removed the tree canopy is reduced. For instance, when the Dickson car park makes way for a new supermarket, 70 trees will no longer add to the suburban ambience.

This government is doing whatever it takes to reduce the number of trees within the Section 72 (Parklands) site. It has 600 plus with many well established and very significant. Any “significance” is being ignored for the sake of the government’s unwanted development proposals to infill this site.

Manuka tree… waiting to do significant damage. Photo by Paul Costigan

At West Basin the significance of established trees and biodiversity is consistently diminished in the haste to sell and concrete over for an apartment suburb along the heritage foreshore. This lakeside proposal remains one of many dumb developments being forced through by the ACT’s Labor/Greens government.

Early this year the government announced with great enthusiasm that there was money for new trees in Weston Creek. Residents commented that many more looked like being removed for development.

Meanwhile, Campbell residents want inappropriate zoning changed so that developments do not continue to reduce the trees, birds and biodiversity across this once green-rich suburb.

What has replaced the former grand tree-lined entrance to Canberra along Northbourne? My assessment of the trees and landscape design alongside the new trams will appear in 2019. Also coming soon will be a look at the success or otherwise of the 2004 design for the National Arboretum in Canberra. Was the hundred forests design the right choice for this now parched location?

Particular ministers and supporters have said those who are concerned about the stewardship of the city’s greenery and biodiversity are “people living in the past”. This is correct. It is intelligent to care for the past, being our urban forests, while looking to plan through good integrated design to lessen the effects of climate change. You can live with the past while looking intelligently to the future simultaneously. The ACT government should try it.

This government and its planning bureaucrats remain out of step with the community aspirations as the urban environment becomes drier and hotter. The people of Canberra deserve better. We could start by appointing an agency independently charged with stewardship of the totality of our urban forests. When trees have to go, there should be replacements and a few more. The number of trees needs to be increased – not reduced.

We love our trees.

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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor