Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 April 2021) . . Page.. 934 ..
MR BRADDOCK (Yerrabi) (10.53): I wish to echo and support everything my colleague Ms Clay has said in terms of the TCCS budget but bring my special emphasis to a matter that is quite close to my heart: trees. We want to create a city that looks after and expands our beautiful urban trees and green space that make Canberra the bush capital. This vision for a 21st century green city is one that integrates ecosystems into our urban environment. By establishing a network of neighbourhood forests as part of our 30 per cent tree canopy target, we can protect and grow one of the things that make this city great.
An approach to urban trees will make Canberra a biodiversity sanctuary, providing a home for plants and animals being impacted by climate change, habitat loss, bushfires and urban sprawl. The way we are developing our city is not sustainable. It is a losing battle if we plant a million saplings while developers can still cut down hundreds of thousands of massive mature trees that provide essential shade, habitat and food for the people and animals that call Canberra home.
The Greens welcome the commitment to 25,000 trees over the next four years to help grow Canberra’s urban forest. This is a good start, but it is nowhere near enough to reach the 30 per cent canopy cover target by 2045. The government’s Urban Forest Strategy states that to reach this target we need to plant over 450,000 trees on public land over the next 25 years. If we continue at the rate of 25,000 per four years, we will only reach a third of that number.
I would also like to stress the importance of equity of access to tree canopy cover. Some parts of this city have more than six times the tree cover of other parts. We need to ensure that tree-poor areas of the city are prioritised for tree plantings, as they are the worst affected by the heat island effect and changes in temperature from climate change.
Our trees are under threat due to climate change, old age and redevelopment. Street and park trees in our established suburbs are in decline by about 3,000 per year. To help reach our 30 per cent canopy target, changes to our planning and development system, as well as improved management of our existing urban open spaces, are required. These will include changing the Tree Protection Act and planning system to make it harder for developers to cut down mature canopy trees during development. It will also include making room for green space and trees in development by expanding the Living Infrastructure Plan to cover more residential developments like mixed-use zones, more space for street and park trees in new suburbs, and more tree canopy in local shops and town centres. We also need to look at amending the planning and development systems to incentivise builders to plant more rooftop and vertical gardens.
Biodiversity is key to a healthy environment. We need to build ecosystems, not monocultures, to ensure that our urban trees are resilient to climate change; provide shade to cool our city; and provide food and habitat for birds and other animals wanting to call Canberra home. We want to build a city sanctuary for wildlife.