Greyswater

• Former councillor Chris Cornish fought for more tree cover. File photo.

BAYSWATER council’s domain has been ranked the worst in the nation for its paltry urban tree canopy.

Bayswater also took the un-coveted award for the greatest spread of pavement, roads, roof and carparks.

A new report “Where Will All the Trees Be?” ranked the areas with the highest “grey growth” (pavement etc) across 131 urban councils. It stated “the most significant increase was City of Bayswater (WA), up 6.9 per cent” since 2016, and 59.9 per cent is now hard grey surfaces. 

Bayswater’s tree canopy and green cover is also the lowest ranked in the report, and though the study breaks regions down by local government area it’s not just the council to blame, with state government departments overseeing massive denuding in recent years, including airport-associated works and housing at Carter Wetlands. 

When Bayswater councillors endorsed the current canopy targets back in 2014, 13.2 per cent of the suburb was leafy and they aimed to hit 20 per cent by 2025.

But the area’s gone backwards: Tree canopy now covers just 10.9 per cent of Bayswater.

The report was jointly written by RMIT university and the horticultural industry body Greener Spaces Better Places and it names Bayswater, Fremantle and Gosnells as places which will struggle to maintain their green cover.

The risk is based on the current low levels of greenery exacerbated by the lack of growth momentum. 

Former Bayswater councillor Chris Cornish, who made inroads on getting the council to adopt more tree-friendly policies, says “the wetlands housing development is just one of many examples where state government departments are to blame for the dwindling tree canopy.

“The state government are laggards when it comes to tree management and this is illustrated in many Development Assessment Panel and State Administrative Tribunal decisions.”

He cites an October 2019 DAP decision on a Collier Road petrol station that saw verge trees ranging from 40 to 100 years old cut down, “which was not only contrary to established City of Bayswater policies but is essentially gifting public assets, which DAP don’t own, over to a private developer.”

Greg Smith from Bayswater Urban Tree Network, proposes two options for fixing the tree-felling epidemic: “The WAPC have got to define cutting down trees as ‘development’,” requiring approval, “or the local authority has got to adopt within their scheme a significant tree register [listing] every tree three metres and above”.

He says the withering of the canopy “is not happening by accident, it’s happening by deliberate policy.

“When you have a town planning system that doesn’t recognise trees, in a legal sense, and at the same time you’re promoting infill, then what other result can you expect? 

By DAVID BELL

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