Inner West Independent

Inner West Council to trial micro forests as part of $2 million tree planting commitment

Inner West Council will trial micro forests following a supported motion earlier this month. Photo: Fiona Ryan.

By SEJA AL ZAIDI

Inner West Council will trial ‘micro forests’ around the Inner West as part of a $2 million commitment for new tree planting in the next council budget, despite Greens and Independent councillors believing that a better recommendation for tree development control was left on the table.

A micro forest, which was originally founded by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki, acts as a mini-ecosystem located in a city or in suburbs, containing shrubbery, trees, groundcover and canopy. The density of the vegetation helps to directly cool the surrounding environment, and also helps to increase biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions.

New Labor councillor Chloe Smith tabled a motion for micro forests at a council meeting earlier this month, saying that following the COVID-19 lockdowns, it’s “more important than ever to provide opportunities to rebuild a sense of community and collectiveness after so much isolation”.

“It will also mean we can beautify and better utilise small spaces in our community which may be currently under-utilised and under-maintained.”

Cr Smith believes the micro forests will bring an array of social and ecological benefits to the Inner West community, noting that “our community is passionate about protecting our native environment and taking real and meaningful action on climate change”.

The motion was met with the support of the Labor caucus but was opposed by all Independent and Greens councillors.

The Greens and Independents were supportive of a foreshadowed motion put forward by Independent councillor Pauline Lockie, which Greens councillor Cr Kobi Shetty said “dealt better with the issue of council’s Tree Development Control Plan (DCP)”.

Councillor Shetty had “no problem with micro forests and tree planting”, saying that “they’re both important ways of growing our urban tree canopy”.

“We still have a massive issue with a Tree DCP that has seen our urban canopy decimated. No amount of public planting is going to make up for that loss if we don’t fix the Tree DCP,” Cr Shetty added.

While affirming council’s “long-standing commitment” to increasing canopy, Independent councillor John Stamolis said that an effective program must be demonstrated to the public, to “prove that when we commit funds … we’re able to actually produce results”.

Financial commitments

The funding commitment granted to the Council was a minimum of $2m for new tree planting in the next Council budget for the 2022-23 financial year. The carried motion also noted council’s support for amending a four-year operating plan to include a minimum $2m investment in tree planting each year, and its endorsement of a $3m budget commitment for new tree planting in the 2021/22 financial year.

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