Central Coast Council: Establish an Urban Forest Strategy for the Central Coast
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Since the introduction of the NSW Government's State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) Affordable Housing 2009, the Central Coast has experienced unprecedented loss of mature trees in front and back yards. For every granny flat that goes up, mature trees are coming down - yet the Central Coast Council is doing nothing to offset the devastating loss of shade and habitat.
A growing number of cities (for example, City of Sydney, Perth and - now famously - City of Melbourne) are prioritising proactive tree planting and shade production in their town planning by publishing Urban Forest Strategies*, yet the Central Coast - an area experiencing some of the most rapid population growth in NSW - still does not have formal shade production and green space targets. Moreover, the council has recently stopped providing residents with free native trees, something it has done for decades.
Following years of a passive (some would argue, retrograde) approach to managing existing trees, including a lack of any strategic plans for succession planting and carbon offsetting, Central Coast suburbs are gradually becoming hotter, drier and more barren. Pedestrians - primarily children, mothers with prams and the elderly - are met with shadeless streets which on a summer day make the simple pursuit of walking an unbearable task. Newcomers to the Central Coast are often heard remarking at the lack of shade, and the absence of atmospheric tree-lined streets in shopping strips and urban spaces. In an area known for its National Parks and world-class beaches, the back streets of Central Coast suburbs present a stark contrast.
We know that granny flats and multiple dwelling developments - much-needed affordable housing options for many - are here to stay. What we urge the Central Coast Council to acknowledge is that as the population becomes denser, and larger homes and less green space become the norm unique stresses are being placed on our suburbs.
Planners and policy-makers can no longer ignore the requirement for strategic policies and programs to not only increase the retention of existing hardy trees, but to proactively add to the urban canopy to ensure shade for the future.
We call on Jane Smith and the new Central Coast Council to act now to establish policies and guidelines to prevent unnecessary tree removal and to promote proactive tree planting in suburbs, parks and nature strips. We urge you to take the steps needed to ensure that Central Coast suburbs are vibrant and liveable places...now, and in the future. Many, many cities already have Urban Forest Plans which formalise the value and benefits of trees as community and environmental assets worthy of protection and promotion.
*Urban Forest Plan. An urban forest is broadly defined as the collection of green spaces, trees and other vegetation that grows within an urban area, on both public and private land. It provides a range of social, environmental and economic benefits that enrich the quality of urban life.
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