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.