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Canberra Today 2°/5° | Sunday, May 22, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Lop, chop and, bingo, we’re a Tree City of the World!

Who would have thought that the path to earning a “Tree City of the World” accolade was chopping down and neglecting trees. The ACT government spinners have triumphed again. It’s “Seven Days” with IAN MEIKLE.

I THOUGHT it was odd; “Canberra Matters” columnist Paul Costigan wondered if he could get arrested for screaming at such nonsense and reader Chris Emery wrote pithily on our website: “The worst offenders at removing mature, protected trees are the ACT government and their agencies.”

Ian Meikle.

It all started with a self-serving media release from the wooden Minister for Spinning Trees Chris Steel announcing that Canberra had been, and note the language, “declared Tree City of the World”. Declared, fancy that? 

He claimed that the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation had, and note the language, “named Canberra an International Tree City of the World”. Named

“Canberra’s trees are one of the things which give our city its special character,” said the disingenuous Steel, a cabinet minister of the government that’s lopped more trees and reduced, through neglect, the city’s urban forest faster than at any other point in Canberra’s history. 

“It’s great to see our community’s shared commitment to protecting and enhancing them recognised by our acceptance into the Tree Cities of the World network, which celebrates global leadership in managing greener cities.” Acceptance. Oh, please! Pass the bag. 

“It’s a shame this government doesn’t think they are special and has left the future of the trees to the ‘community’s commitment’, not the government’s,” sniffed Costigan who has a keen nose for hypocrisy.

Remember when we (mostly) laughed at then-Liberal leader Alistair Coe’s courageous pre-election promise in 2020 to plant 100,000 trees every year, for 10 years?

Compare that with Steel’s crowing about 54,000 more trees across Canberra by 2024. Of course, what he’s not telling us is how many will be coming down in that time. Nevertheless, if Coe had been able to enact even half of his plan, he’d still have been planting three times more than this lot will in the next three years. 

The ACT government’s treatment of trees beleaguered our late gardening writer, the irascible Cedric Bryant, who despaired at the idea of clearing century-old trees for trams up Commonwealth Avenue. 

“It would appear that, like old buildings in Canberra, trees don’t have a heritage value and must be destroyed in the name of progress,” he wrote in “CityNews” in July, 2018. 

“So where have our planners gone off the rails for our garden city? 

“If these trees are not heritage listed and/or on the National Tree Register, it begs the question why not? These are an important part of the history of early Canberra.” 

So, I think we’re agreed, despite our internationally declared naming, the ACT government doesn’t have a great record with planting or caring for trees. 

But, to enlist the Bard, the big question is, how did Canberra have such greatness thrust upon it, especially in time for Tree Week?

Minister Chris Steel.

Truth is, it didn’t. It wasn’t “declared” or suddenly “named”. The City Services dwarfs applied for it; filled in a form, made some promises, probably wrote a cheque and bingo!, here we are. 

“Minister, Minister, Moulton-Brown – yes, still working from home – found this website during her lunch break and it’s a corker for a Tree Week announceable. 

“It’s the Tree Cities of the World program; no, we’d never heard of it either, Minister, but get this, it’s a network of 138 cities in 21 countries dedicated to sharing successful approaches to preserving trees and creating successful policies and initiatives that celebrate the benefits trees provide. Yes, yes, don’t fret, we can get around most of that. 

“All we have to do is go to and fill in a form. I know, right. Brilliant, eh? And there’s bound to be a conference you can go to.”

I went to the website and it turns out we’re in year one of our recognition and credited already with planting 6312 trees and putting in 9217 volunteer hours. That equates to an hour and half to plant every tree; Chris, you’re going to have to push these old darlings along. By my reckoning they’re going to have to put in another 78,852 volunteer hours to meet your 2024 target. 

Equally, one has to wonder what City Services is contributing to our feted Tree City of the World. On these stats, my guess is bugger all. 

To get recognition, there were five “standards” we had to promise to uphold. Number one caught my eye, “the city has a written statement by city leaders delegating responsibility for the care of trees within the municipal boundary to a staff member, a city department or a group of citizens – called a tree board”. A tree board, LOL! 

Then there was number two, “the city has in place a law or an official policy that governs the management of forests and trees”; number three calls for “an updated inventory or assessment of the local tree resource so that an effective long-term plan for planting, care, and removal of city trees can be established”, and four, that we have “a dedicated annual budget for the routine implementation of the tree management plan”. Wouldn’t you love to know what they wrote?

The fifth standard was, in essence, telling the government to hold a party and congratulate itself. No problem there, eh Minister? 

OVER recent times “CityNews” has reported on the lamentable state of spending a penny across our suburbs. Here’s some news and views on loos from the Curtin shops. 

The newsletter of the local residents’ association reports that the two private enterprise toilets in Curtin Square are provided by the building owner of 44 Curtin Place on behalf of the ACT government and replaced the pre-development, three public toilets. 

But where they are is something of a mystery. The newsletter says there are no directional signs, only a small sign on the door. 

And the opening hours? “It’s impossible to tell,” the association says. “We have found them locked before 8pm in the evening, a long way from 24/7 provision of this essential service.”

They’re badgering Toilets Minister Chris Steel (him again) to find a way for the public to report the need for cleaning, maintenance and supplies, which they politely describe as “a problem”. 

Ian Meikle is the editor of “CityNews” and can be heard on the “CityNews Sunday Roast” news and interview program, 2CC, 9am-noon. There are more of his columns on

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Ian Meikle, editor

Ian Meikle

Ian Meikle

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3 Responses to Lop, chop and, bingo, we’re a Tree City of the World!

Palmerston's Echoing Lament says: May 9, 2022 at 10:37 am

Some weeks ago I noted there was a strong need to extend an invitation to Shane Rattenbury to have his say, as Leader of the Greens, on the current state of the ACT, and how the Greens are protecting our future.

Apart from a froth and bubble comment in another news feed, there has been the sound of crickets from the Greens on this, and related issues.

I think now is the hour to seek an interview. As residents and voters, we can only scream into the void for so long.

Greg Hollands says: May 9, 2022 at 11:09 am

Once again, a giant FAIL on the part of the Barr labor/greens alliance. Perhaps they are referring to the ACT Urban Tree Unit ? They are doing a bang up job with masterly inactivity in maintaining the current crop of trees in Canberra’s suburbs – check out the number of dead or dying trees right now.


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