Data collected by RMIT University and Greener Spaces Better Places have found that more than half of Sydney’s municipalities lost urban forest cover between 2013 and 2020.
Lack of planning in the wake of the development can be attributed to clearing of trees in a number of municipal areas. A number of experts argue that if a number of trees are not planted in the near future, certain regions may be considered uninhabitable.
The state government is currently catching up, indicating that it aims to plant five million trees by 2030 and has a target of 40 percent tree canopy cover in all LGAs by 2036. The data indicates that the town of Ryde has lost nearly seven percent of its forest coverage, with Burwood and Canada Bay losing six and four percent, respectively. At the other end of the scale, Sutherland Shire increased its tree coverage by nine per cent, with Hornsby finishing second with seven per cent growth and the City of Sydney in third place with three per cent.
“The consequences of tree loss are to diminish and ultimately eliminate the benefits that the urban forest provides,” he said. “In terms of urban cooling and associated facilities, this will be the difference between habitable and uninhabitable suburbs in many areas of our cities,” said RMIT Associate Professor Joe Hurley in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.
Hurley believes that the planning processes for the development of new cities do not create climate-resilient neighborhoods with efficient urban forest cover. A spokesman for the town of Ryde says a drop of seven percent in canopy coverage could have catastrophic long-term effects on the area, and attributes the drop to developments.
“This includes the increase in high-density medium developments and the introduction of private certification, which undermines the Council’s approval process. This means that the Council has very little opportunity to enforce its own tree retention and replanting policy.”
Suburbs with higher levels of tree-crowned cover typically have higher property values. The value of a property can also increase by about $ 50,000 if there is a ten percent increase in the tree canopy in the immediate area.
City Forest Consultant Gwilym Griffiths says more needs to be done to ensure significant growth in tree crown percentages.
“Trees were never meant to grow in cities, nature has not designed them to grow in urban areas, but they have now become important assets in our cities and we need them to make our cities viable and “A city that can not sustain trees will soon be a city that can not sustain people.”
Bayside Council is ranked as the lowest for urban forest cover in Sydney with a total of 17.2 per cent. Cumberland City (18 percent), Camden (18.3 percent) and Fairfield City (19.1 percent were the second lowest. Hornsby Shire holds the largest tree crown in Sydney with 78.6 percent coverage. Sutherland (72.6 percent), The Hills Shire (63.5 percent).) And Northern Beaches (62.6 percent) areas are ranked second, third and fourth.