Pay up, developers; government asks to compensate tree cuts

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Trees that ironically were marked for removal in Holt from green open space.

CULPRITS removing trees may have to fork tens of thousands of dollars in fines should a novel scheme for Canberra get the nod in the Legislative Assembly.

The ACT government announced it was considering to protect trees by putting a price on their holistic value to the community.

The push from within Greens members inside the coalition government would essentially target developers for criminal liability rather than individual vandals.

“We, on our side of parliament, are committed to protecting trees,” Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said in the assembly on Friday (March 23).

“We have very ambitious target of getting to 30 per cent canopy cover.

“We are not going to get there just by planting new trees.

“We need to make sure we protect the ones we have that includes the ones affected by potential development in the future and providing disincentives for developers to remove trees in the first place.

“Protect as many as we can and grow more so we can get the benefits of that.”

Government authorities are taking advice from the City of Melbourne on their scheme.

The value of one tree in Melbourne was listed at $54,000, returning Liberal member for Yerrabi, James Milligan, noted on the floor during question time.

Mr Steel did not want to pre-empt a dollar figure amount yet, but said the ambitious move was all about saving mature trees in public parks.

“I’ve clearly said we are in the process of developing that policy and we are looking forward to making that public at the appropriate time, but it would still require legislation if it was implemented here in the ACT,” he said.

“So (prices) would be considered by the assembly and no doubt with an assembly inquiry.”

The commitment has been a focus with the government’s infrastructure plan and its urban forest strategy to supply “fantastic” canopy cover for residents, but also for the benefits of the territory’s own biodiversity.

Mt Steel said the number of trees that could be saved each year will come out in the wash from the government’s modelling scheme under its strategy to aid the environment.

But estimates from the changing environment in Canberra has government authorities counting the loss of around 200,000 trees over the period of the proposed strategy.

“It’s really important that we put in place measures to protect the trees that we’ve got and also ensure that we are planting new trees as well,” Mr Steel said.

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