Urban forest plan revived

Cr Matthew Kirwan outside a denuded front yard in Noble Park. 202371_01 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Greater Dandenong Council has re-planted the seed for a proposed ‘urban forest strategy’ that restricts tree removal on private land.

After axing the proposed policy in December, the plan to protect large canopy trees will be put to public consultation.

Cr Matthew Kirwan said tree shade was the “most effective weapon” against climate change and the worsening ‘urban heat island effect’.

“Trees draw down emissions from the air and cool our cities with their shade, saving older people’s lives from heat stress.

“Currently we have an average of about eight days a year above 35 degrees Celsius.

“By 2050 we are currently on track for up to 21 days a year above 35 degrees.

The council area has among the lowest rates of tree canopy (9.9 per cent) in metro Melbourne, Cr Kirwan told a 24 August council meeting.

“Greater Dandenong is being stripped bare of trees which is bad for climate change and makes our city ugly as well.

“No amount of street or park trees can make up for this loss in one of the local government areas in Melbourne that already has the worst tree canopy cover.”

Cr Kirwan said residents would still be able to cut down trees if there were justifiable reasons such as drainage blocks or safety issues.

As an indication, the policy would protect healthy trees of at least 40 centimetres diameter and 7 metres height that weren’t dangerous or weed species.

That affected between 2 to 5 per cent of properties in Greater Dandenong, according to a council report.

In opposition, Cr Tim Dark said the council would potentially intervene in more private properties than estimated.

Many properties had “double-storey”-high trees, which would be covered by the proposal, he said.

The proposal would require ratepayers to lodge permits to remove trees, at the cost of their time and money.

Also opposed was Cr Zaynoun Melhem, who said he was a “major supporter of more canopy cover in Greater Dandenong”.

He also endorsed the council’s climate emergency strategy, the push for zero-carbon environmentally sustainable building design and opposed the removal of Springvale street trees.

But the urban forest strategy went “too far”.

The council shouldn’t “dictate” what people do in their own yards, he said.


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