Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Where we all want to live

Fifth Ave, Manhattan

The most common descriptor used to describe the most desirable suburbs of a city is "leafy".  Read the reports and see if I'm right.

In order to be "leafy" a suburb has to have lots of big trees. It won't be achieved using small trees at wide spacings as is too often the case now.

And this is going to cost. At present, councils in Perth are probably losing at least half of the trees they plant. One local expert puts it at 90%. The reason is two-fold:

a) poor quality stock from nurseries

b) insufficient watering and maintenance by councils

The fact is, Perth is unique. It's a hot, dry place with possibly the most impoverished sand in the world. This means that watering and maintenance practices used elsewhere won't work here. Especially the watering practices. To guarantee survival, young trees in Perth need to be watered a minimum of twice a week. No other capital city in Australia requires that. In other words, Perth is the most expensive place in Australia to establish an urban forest. Yet it is arguably the most important place given it's the hottest, driest place.

Bottom line: tree planting / maintenance budgets need to be much bigger.

It costs around $450 per tree per year to water and maintain young street trees in Perth if they are to survive. The majority of this goes on watering twice a week. The irony of course is that councils are actually spending this sort of money anyway by constantly replacing large numbers of dead trees - they just don't account for it. The advantage of spending it upfront and getting 100% survival is two-fold:

a) you end up with a mature urban forest sooner

b) you present a better image to your ratepayers who get tired of seeing their money "wasted" on dead trees

Every municipality in Perth that wants to be a truly desirable place to live needs to develop an Urban Forest Strategy. It doesn't have to be complex. It just has to identify how the City is going to make itself leafy (hint: plant lots of big trees), what it's going to cost and how long it's going to take.

It will be the best investment in itself the City can make.

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