The City of Whittlesea will increase its percentage of ‘green’ coverage over the next 20 years as part of its new City Forest Strategy. ​

By Aleksandra Bliszczyk

City of Whittlesea council has voted to adopt a new greening strategy, which will see more than half a million trees planted in the next 20 years.

The Greening Whittlesea City Forest Strategy is council’s first city-wide strategy for the protection, growth and management of its trees, and was developed with input from community, industry, academic and business stakeholders. 

At the April council meeting, infrastructure and environment director Debbie Wood said the strategy would contribute to a more liveable city. 

“The strategy facilitates a best-practise framework to manage our green assets. The Greening Whittlesea strategy outcomes will deliver a healthy, vibrant and sustainable city forest, contributing to a greener, cooler, more liveable city,” she said.

“Council will now have comprehensive tree planting programs, increased canopy cover across streetscapes, town centres, main roads, residential streets, parks, waterways, and conservation reserves on an annual basis.” 

The strategy was drafted in early 2020 after reports identified that 56.5 per cent of the City of Whittlesea land cover was plantable, while only 19.7 per cent had tree cover, making some areas hotter than others. 

Heat profiles of the municipality’s established urban suburbs found that most of Wollert and some parts of Epping were on average 2-4 degrees celsius hotter than the rest of the city, and in some areas, more than four degrees hotter.

This was attributed to large expanses of pasture as well as low levels of shade. Epping’s total canopy cover is under seven per cent and Wollert’s is just over four per cent.

“With increased development comes increased pressure on existing green cover and for potential future green cover, the strategy hopes to balance these needs,” Ms Wood said. 

Council currently spends around $450,000 per annum on tree planting, which will increase to an estimated $1.2 million from 2021-22, and about $1.4 million per year from 2022-26.

The strategy proposes a $26 million spending increase in greening programs over the next 20 years, which will include more than 500,000 trees planted.

Chair administrator Lydia Wilson said the new strategy would transform the city and ‘leave a lasting legacy’. 

“The report and the strategy really clearly articulate the many benefits of greening our city, such as shade, character, habitat, connected communities, all the health and wellbeing aspects associated with greening, improved mental and physical health and the cooling effects,” she said.

Ms Wilson also added more recommendations to the motion, including council providing a copy of the strategy to all local members of parliament and to all abutting municipalities, including Mitchell, Nillumbik and Murrindindi shires. 

Administrator Peita Duncan said sharing the strategy with Whittlesea’s neighbours was important for improving the sustainability and liveability of the region. 

“This is very important because greening doesn’t stop at our border, it’s part of this whole family around us of these other municipalities and it’s a great opportunity to share information, ideas, and a way forward so that it’s a wholistic picture,” she said.

1 COMMENT

  1. One wonders if Whittlesea Council planting in the next 20 years of 500,000 trees will be a nett increase given the intense tree removal program in Doreen the Council is currently engaged in. In December last year Colin Macgillivray ran an article in your paper after we objected to the planned removal of 140 trees. After the people in Harlin Street objected with the help of Rob Mitchell MP, Council decided that, after a ‘new’ look at their GeoTech report it wasn’t necessary to remove the trees in the Northern end of Geebung Place and Harlin Street. At the Southern end of the reserve at the corner of Geebung Place and Woodstock Drive there were 4 trees that were no possible threat to any of the houses, 3 were marked on their map to be retained. They were the habitat of a Magpie family and now there is only one spindly tree left. We tried to get the 3 trees on the nature strip next to them saved but were told 2 were deseased, yet all 3 went. None of these trees had any relationship to the Council’s rationale for removing the large number of trees in surrounding streets. The replacement trees will be smaller in size and number and will take about 10 years to mature. Infrastructure Victoria has recommended to the government that new outgrowth suburbs have a 30% tree canopy by 2050. Whittlesea Council is not promoting planting 500,000 trees out of altruism, they are getting in before they are told to do it. With their propensity for tree culling due to their past mistakes, this target of 30% is a pipe dream. So aside from the hubris the Council puts out, what is the real situation? How much does the Council spend on tree removal and how many trees do they remove every year? Will we get 500,000 ‘extra’ trees and how is the 30% tree canopy going to be achieved when replacement trees are so small?

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