Costigan / The growing mysteries of ‘significant’ trees

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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5 COMMENTS

  1. You can’t write an article without a rant about the ‘Parklands’ can you. Just how many of those ‘significant trees’ at the ‘Parklands’ are actually on the sites for developments? Very very few – most are along the drain/around the pool, and areas not being touched by the development.

    But don’t let the facts get in the way of your usual rant.

  2. “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.”

    Just how many trees will be lost in that space. Its pretty much completely unused at the moment, and there are no trees of significance in that space at all. Talk about clutching at straws.

    I love trees, but your view of ‘we can’t do anything that could possibly see a change in the mix of trees’ is utterly absurd.

  3. Well done. Ten years ago there were about 16 magnificent old gums on the corner of Northbourne and Anthill. Today, there are 1 or 2. How can we be chop down mature trees in this era of climate change? I have watched that small patch of urban green space, which was a habitat for gang-gangs and other birds, be whittled away, tree by tree. Will it ever be replanted ? I doubt it.

  4. Thank you Paul, what is sadly lacking in the tree debate is full transparency and inclusive and broad public consultation. People only know about the fate of trees once it’s too late.
    The saga of the Gosse st eucalypts is a good example. It is likely that only a handful of Canberrans are actually aware of the decision to cut them down. Another one is the decision the Conservator of Flora and Fauna is due to make about the Registered tree in Manuka. The residents’ community groups were not given full access to the documents necessary to submit an informed objection. The Canberra community and the public at large are unaware that Mrs Liangis and Mr Ponton want to cut down this tree, as no evident sign has been erected on site to notify the passers-by. Yet this is a Registered tree, protected by law. It is not a matter of whether or not we like trees, it’s really a matter of whether or not our politicians and government representatives represent us in an objective and unbiased way, to ensure the law is enforced and developers’ greed don’t rule.

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