Wednesday, 02 May 2018 10:47

Message from the President: Cooling with trees

A leafy street in South Penrith A leafy street in South Penrith

With summer weather lingering into the latter half of autumn, the NSW Government’s plan to plant 5 million trees across Sydney could not be timelier.

WSROC strongly supports this initiative, but is acutely aware that tree planting programs are rarely straight forward, and just one part of a wider approach to tackling urban heat in our city.

Tree species selection, location, ongoing maintenance costs, community support and urban design limitations will significantly impact the success of any tree planting initiative.

Choosing the right tree for the right location is important to ensure the tree performs the function for which it was planted and maintenance requirements are addressed.

For example, native species are great for biodiversity, but to tackle urban heat we may need to consider other options, such as leafy deciduous trees.

We must also ensure that the species chosen are appropriate for location, affordable to maintain, available in appropriate numbers, and do not have negative impacts on the surrounding infrastructure such as footpaths and drainage.

Work also needs to be done to educate the community on the benefits of trees. Community acceptance and education is critical to ensure saplings are allowed to grow into the healthy, shady trees of the future.

Ensuring urban planning and design supports the healthy development of appropriate trees is another important consideration.

Unfortunately, there are many areas of Western Sydney – particularly in new estates – where there simply isn’t room for trees. We must make sure this doesn’t happen in future.

For example mandating minimum verge widths and depths at the state level, will ensure all future developments have room for shady trees to be planted alongside footpaths; offering greater opportunity for residents to walk around their neighbourhoods during the summer months.

Finally, it is important to acknowledge that while important, tree-planting will not solve our heat problems in the short term.

Urban canopies take decades to establish, so in the meantime we must find other means to reduce heat-related deaths in our community including:

  • Review regulations for new homes to prioritise passive cooling;
  • rethink urban design for public spaces;
  • design heat resistant infrastructure and services;
  • build community preparedness and resilience;
  • assist vulnerable communities find relief during heat waves; and
  • support our emergency services.

Urban heat is an issue that needs state and local government collaboration in the short and long term.

Trees are just the beginning of this journey. We also need widespread regulatory change to ensure we are planning a cooler future city; a change that must be facilitated by the NSW Government.

With a state mandate, councils will be empowered to execute their critical support role providing localised planning advice, community education and implementation.

Together we can build a cooler city.



Want to learn more about building urban canopies?

Local government officers are invited to register for the Green Light Tour, run by 202020 Vision.

The Green Light Tour seeks to empower local government professionals from a range of backgorunds including strategic and urban planning, architecture, sustainability, parks, recreation, and community development backgrounds to get involved in greening our city.

Run in partnership with the Office of Environment and Heritage, the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub and with the support of WSROC, this event will provide policy insights, practical advice on implementation, case studies tips and tricks to get the community involved un urban greening.

Date: June 5, from 8.30am – 2pm

RSVP now to secure your ticket.

Last modified on Thursday, 03 May 2018 13:10