Page 4236 - Week 11 - Thursday, 25 October 2018

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doing to protect and increase Canberra’s tree canopy coverage. Transport Canberra and City Services maintains over 776,000 trees in our streets and urban open spaces. This represents a canopy cover of approximately 20 per cent. To ensure we retain and expand our urban forest, the ACT government’s winter tree planting program planted 608 trees over the season.

A healthy urban forest underpins the economic, cultural, environmental and social fabric of Canberra. It is also one of the key responses in our preparation for a warming environment, increasing our resilience and sequestering carbon. Living infrastructure, which includes trees, open green spaces, waterways and plants placed on the sides and tops of buildings, can provide an enormous benefit to our adaptation to future climate change. Trees help to moderate temperature extremes and weather events, provide shelter and improve amenity and property values. All these benefits, if properly considered, vastly outweigh the cost of planting and maintaining them.

The debate on the motion in the Legislative Assembly on 25 October 2017 reinforced the benefits that trees bring to our community and the importance of ensuring that the urban forest is retained and expanded. We have also heard from the community, through a number of forums, that trees are important. The better suburbs statement, created by the citizens forum, listed street and park trees as the second highest priority. The forum went further and, consistent with the motion from last year, called for a tree canopy coverage target. Specifically, the forum recommended a target of 30 per cent.

Since the motion was agreed, the government has set about doing the work that will ensure we are able to protect and enhance our urban forest. In February 2018 the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate consulted with the community on a discussion paper on the living infrastructure plan. This was in conjunction with the broader climate change strategy being developed by Minister Rattenbury.

Trees and living infrastructure are, of course, a critical part of our response to climate change, for both their mitigation and their adaptation qualities. Through this process a number of excellent ideas were put forward by the community. The living infrastructure plan is now under development and will set out policies and actions necessary to enhance our urban forest, open spaces and waterways as essential elements in helping to address the impacts of climate change on our city.

The draft plan highlights how, through the strategic use of living infrastructure, we can better equip our city to cope with more severe extreme weather events, including heatwaves, droughts, storms, flash flooding and bushfires. The plan will include actions to help drive the necessary changes to business as usual in how we design, develop and maintain our city to retain and enhance our living infrastructure, one of its most valuable assets. It focuses on the public realm, but it will also affect how private land is developed in the future.

The actions being considered in the plan are informed by evidence from ongoing or completed research projects and analysis, including mapping surface urban heat by the CSIRO; a community climate resilience survey by the University of Canberra; tree

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