Secure the Tree Canopy of Highton and Geelong

Secure the Tree Canopy of Highton and Geelong

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Jeanne Nel de Koker started this petition to Greater Geelong Council and

Highton is often described as “leafy Highton”. This characteristic of our neighbourhood is valued by its residents and by visitors. It provides important health and well-being benefits as we move into a warmer century. But our tree canopy is not secure and not all parts of Highton enjoy appropriate coverage.

WE HEREBY CALL on the Council of Greater Geelong to take very specific steps to secure the tree canopy of Highton and all other neighbourhoods in Geelong.


  1. Highton was identified as one of the top seven Geelong suburbs that are vulnerable to heat risk factors that will be impacted by heatwaves from 2020 to 2100. (Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning & CoGG, Climate Change and Heatwave Project: Identification of high-risk areas across the City of Greater Geelong, September 2020).
  2. The Council acknowledges the importance of the urban forest and canopy trees to shade the city and protect the health of the residents. It acknowledges further that Geelong lags municipalities like Yarra and Moonee Valley on canopy cover measures:
    Urban Geelong has a tree canopy cover of 14%, with approximately 7% on private land and 7% on Council land. Peer-reviewed literature recommends an optimum urban land use canopy cover of 40% because it delivers the maximum benefits to an urban environment.” (CoGG, Geelong’s Urban Forest website, August 2021)
  3. Most of the trees planted by the Council in the past are too small to deliver sufficient benefit:
    Whilst tree height is not a key criteria [sic] in measuring urban forest performance, it is of great interest to note that Geelong’s tree sizes are generally quite small. 93% of the population are only up to 10 metres in height and over half of the trees are only 5 metres in height. Given that only 22% of the street tree population are young, this suggests that the public urban forest consists of a very high percentage of small statured trees and is potentially not functioning at its most efficient capacity. This means that there is a large opportunity cost of missing environmental and economic values such as shading, air pollution and carbon sequestering and stormwater interception.
    (CoGG, Geelong’s Urban Forest website, August 2021)
  4. The vast majority of significant canopy trees in Highton are on private property. They are being felled at an alarming rate. While the Council recognises their vital role, only a small minority enjoys limited protection. In Highton, we have seen extensive clearing of land by developers removing old, established canopy trees in the past 24 months, including those on perimeters of properties that could have been incorporated into new developments with ease.
  5. The Council’s current strategy to plant more trees on Council land is not sufficient to improve Geelong’s tree canopy cover as a whole given the deteriorating conditions on private land. There has furthermore not been a proportional planting of new Council trees in Increased Housing Diversity Areas where gardens, when present, will no longer allow space for large trees on private land.
  6. The CoGG's commitment to sustainable development is commendable. It is evidenced by the Council’s formal recognition at a February 2020 Council meeting, that climate change is a global emergency. But, to make a difference in practice, these decisions and policies must also be properly incorporated into the Municipal Strategic Statement and specific local planning Policies of the Geelong Planning Scheme, and the approach, interpretation and actions of the Geelong Planning Department. That is currently not the case.

As a consequence, we hereby petition Mayor Stephanie Asher, the City of Greater Geelong Council and Richard Wynne MP, the Minister for Planning to urgently:

  • Adopt appropriate tree protection laws that reflect the Council’s current concerns about urban heat island risks and urban forest development but also balance the need for housing density and diversity with the health and amenity requirements of current and future residents.
  • Implement a strategy of planting trees with shading canopies on Highton’s major roads, along the routes that children take to walk to school and that residents use to walk to local shops and facilities, and to the same in Geelong’s other neighbourhoods.
  • Clearly incorporate its policies and policy documents regarding sustainable development into the Geelong Planning Scheme and into current interpretations by the CoGG Planning Department of clause 65.01 and other relevant provisions of the Scheme.
  • Urgently revisit all decisions to dispense with minimum garden requirements in view of concerns and research about urban heat island effects on Geelong’s current and future residents.
0 have signed. Let’s get to 1,500!
At 1,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!