Canopy retreat

TREE-starved Bayswater council has abandoned aspirations to reach 20 per cent tree canopy cover by 2025 with a majority of councillors deciding it’s unrealistic.

Back in 2014 the council voted to set the aspirational target, as it had a paltry 13.2 per cent canopy cover and was one of the least green council areas in the nation.

Despite planting new trees every year the canopy count has barely budged due to so many blocks being cleared for infill development along with big state government infrastructure works like the airport upgrades. The cover now sits at 14.5 per cent.

Experts from UWA’s Australian Urban Design Research Centre have looked over Bayswater’s progress and run some modelling on how much more infill development is expected and found that at the current rate of planting they won’t hit the 20 per cent canopy coverage mark until 2040.

So council staff recommended shifting the aspirational target date of 2025 to a firm date of 2040. Their advice to councillors read: “If this target is retained there is a reputational risk to the City should it not be achieved.”

At the June 28 meeting Cr Catherine Ehrhardt argued that 2040 was a bit uninspiring and moved for 2030 as a specific target, which council endorsed.

“There’s no denying that we need to put in more trees,” Cr Erhardt said. “I think we are definitely on track for that; the number of trees planted this season alone far exceeded any previous planting season,” a trend likely driven by the council doing more outreach this year and verge trees being the hot topic in the paper and among local community groups.

“I also believe it’s really important you have goals that are aspirational, but possibly achievable, and I do believe that 20 per cent coverage by 2030 is achievable.”

Councillors Dan Bull, Elli Petersen-Pik, Giorgia Johnson and Sally Palmer had wanted to massively increase planting efforts to go with a more ambitious stretch goal of 30 per cent by 2035, but after hearing the steep estimated costs the majority of councillors just voted for the 20 per cent by 2030 target.

Cr Bull said their approach, not their target, should be what’s changing: “It’s disappointing to get a report in front of us saying we’re not going to meet our target.

“If it’s the case that the target’s not going to be hit… that doesn’t mean you just shift the goalposts.”

Many residents spoke at public question time urging the council to keep their aim high.

Mayor Filomena Piffaretti responded to questions saying: “Not meeting the 2025 goal is not necessarily the result of any lack of effort, but rather the lag between effort and realising the results of that effort”,

She said some of the trees planted now wouldn’t be large enough to contribute to the canopy count of 2025 as they need to reach three metres to qualify for inclusion.


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