City of Sydney Council voted on Monday not to stop the planting of London plane trees.
The city aims to increase overall green cover to 40% across the local area, including a minimum of 27% tree canopy by 2050 with its Greening Sydney Strategy.
London plane trees make up around 11% of the City’s tree population and greatly contribute to tree canopy cover and local amenity.
Feedback to the Greening Sydney Strategy released last month reflected a lack of support for plane trees, which some people have allergies to.
Councillor professor Kerryn Phelps made an amendment to the motion to adopt the strategy, that the city stop the planting of London plane trees, and implement a yearly quota for planting native trees, plants and other vegetation.
“I work as a general practitioner and have done for some decades, and there is absolutely no question that plane trees create a health risk to a number of people who do have respiratory issues,” Phelps said in the meeting.
Arboriculture expert Dr Gregory Moore said physical irritation caused by the species isn’t the only problem.
“The other thing about the London plane is that it could be one of those species that struggle from climate change,” Dr Moore told City Hub.
Despite its downsides, Dr Moore said there are some advantages to planting the tree in the City of Sydney. It provides good shade coverage in summer, allows plenty of light in winter, is resilient, has relatively low maintenance cost and is very good at picking up pollution.
Diverse green future
To implement the Greening Sydney Strategy, Dr Moore believes that a variety of species, including the plane tree, must be considered.
“The plane tree should be one of those species that we continue to consider … and we plant it where we know we’re going to get the benefits and minimise the risks,” he said.
“Diversity will pretty much ensure that we’ve got a better urban forest in 50- or 100- years’ time.”
A spokesperson for Saving Sydney’s Trees Margaret Hogg believes Council made the right decision.
“I would agree that you don’t take any tree that has such resilience off the table … It’s still a viable tree in the right place if planned well where they can still be very, very useful,” Hogg told City Hub.
There was a hung vote on the amendment, with the Lord Mayor Clover Moore exercising her casting vote against it.
Council said this issue should be discussed at the review of the Street Tree Master Plan.
The Street Tree Master Plan is planned in the next two years and will include a review of the species planted in each street across the city.
The review will also include community consultation, providing all residents an opportunity to make comment on species selection at that time.
The Which Plant Where research program will reveal which trees survive as a result of heating and climate change.