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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 25 October 2017) . . Page.. 4361 ..

Finally, many of the ACT government’s own trees are aging and coming to the end of their life. This creates a difficult management challenge for the government. A 60-year-old tree that is dying may pose a safety risk, but it still provides a wide canopy and local visual amenity as well as significant local biodiversity positives. Replacement trees will take a long time to get back to the size of the tree that was there. This has a big impact on local shade and amenity as well as amenity for the creatures we share our suburbs with, such as our magpies and our possums and our insects.

The government has recognised these challenges, and the ACT climate change adaptation strategy includes the following action to be delivered by the end of 2018:

Develop and implement a strategy to enhance living infrastructure in the Territory, including targets for urban tree canopy cover.

That is welcome. However, I believe we need more than a strategy. We need an action plan to deliver it. We need to make regulatory changes, internal changes to government systems and, importantly, we need to plant more trees.

I will step through in detail the actions I believe are necessary, and which are outlined under point (4) in my motion. Firstly, increasing our tree canopy cover requires the planting of more trees. Given that we have a situation where some suburbs have great canopy cover and others are sadly lacking, the focus of planting should be to increase the canopy cover in areas without good trees. Obviously this is likely to be a long-term process. We potentially need hundreds of thousands of extra trees, and their canopy will take decades to come to fruition. But this is exactly the kind of investment in the future that was made in the early days of Canberra, and there is no reason we cannot do it again.

Secondly, we need regulatory review to ensure that development leaves room for trees. Two sets of rules require attention. The Territory Plan covers what happens on leased blocks. Transport Canberra and City Services Directorate has infrastructure design standards that cover government areas, streets in particular. These need a joint, integrated review to make sure there is room for large canopy trees both in people’s yards and on the street out the front. Planting more trees in Canberra will require action from both the government and from the people who live here and value the trees. They just need space for them.

The National Capital Authority has usefully provided a lead for us in the Territory Plan element of the review. Its Deakin-Forrest residential precinct issues and policy paper released earlier this year has recommended a new approach to planning for redevelopment. It proposed the inclusion of a precinct-wide tree canopy coverage target in the National Capital Plan mandating a planting area that is not covered by driveways and buildings. People can choose whether or not to plant trees in the planting area, but if there is not anywhere else you could plant trees you have no choice.

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