Inner West Independent

Trees “massacred” in Inner West while climate crisis worsens

Greens member for Balmain, Jamie Parker, has started a petition against the tree felling policy. Photo: Jamie Parker

By GEORGIA ROBINSON

In areas with less green cover, and more hard surfaces to absorb and radiate heat, the Urban Heat Island Effect is increasing.

The Urban Heat Island Effect is an issue in most urban areas around the world. It sees urban areas becoming hotter as a result of human energy waste, this can include cars and factories, use of urban materials and low amounts of vegetation which results in the lack of a natural cooling system.

Areas with low tree canopy cover, often see a rise in the Urban Heat Island Effect, as there is a limited natural cooling system. The Inner West is one of these areas.

With the total tree canopy cover sitting at around only 17 percent, the Inner West is impacted by the Urban Heat Island effect. Although the council outlines a plan to reduce and contain the effect, the Tree Management Development Control Plan currently in place only worsens it.

“The Inner West already has a poor canopy cover, it’s getting worse and that will persist for several decades”, Jeff Angel from Total Environment Centre told the Inner West Independent.

A tree “massacre”

The Tree DCP which was amended in late 2019, saw the conditions for tree removal on private and public land become considerably more lenient, with residents granted permission to remove trees within two metres of their properties, without Council approval.

The changed planning controls also allow trees to be removed in order to allow for developments, as well as not requiring property owners to replace removed trees. This saw a massive increase in tree removals from 409 trees in 2018, to a staggering 915 trees in 2020, a statistic which some consider to be evidence of a ‘tree massacre.’

Data from the NSW Government reveals the Inner West tree canopy cover is low. Photo: NSW Government

Although trees removed on private land need to be replaced, Pauline Lockie told the Inner West Independent, said “Council staff made it clear to us when the Tree DCP was changed that they didn’t have the resources to follow up on replacement plantings, and that’s still the case.”

To increase the overall tree canopy cover and in effect reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect, more trees need to be planted than removed, and the trees being planted need to be mature trees with a significant canopy.

Jeff Angel said there wasn’t evidence that replacement trees would create sufficient canopy when they mature and that “replacing trees doesn’t mean 100 percent survival rate, about half will die, whether it’s by accident or deliberate.”

Lockie agrees, she says “replanting trees is no replacement for protecting healthy, mature trees.” 

“It takes many years for new plantings to provide the same canopy cover and environmental benefits as a mature tree.”

Jamie Parker, a Greens member for Balmain has started a petition, ‘Protect the Inner West Tree Canopy’, in hopes that the management plan will change, sooner rather than later, and although many are on board, Lockie says that the policy changing ultimately depends on Labor councillors changing their position.

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