No room for verge tree policy change

Cr Elli Petersen-Pik reckons they can afford to squeeze a few more trees onto verges.

A BID to get more trees on Bayswater’s barren verges has been shut down by a knife-edge vote by council.

Currently the council’s policy states “generally” one tree gets planted on the verge per property.

Sometimes council staff decide a property is long enough to warrant a second tree, or if a resident thinks to ask they’ll get some extra greenery, but it’s an exception rather than a rule.

Cr Elli Petersen-Pik proposed they change the policy to explicitly empower staff to plant more trees outside blocks with larger frontages “subject to space available”, and to make clear to residents they’re allowed more than one when the council sends out its brochures inviting them to get a verge tree.

Cr Petersen-Pik pointed out many examples of lengthy verges that only had one small tree. 

On some streets there can be only one tree covering a 65 metre stretch of verge. 

The council’s had a fair bit of feedback in recent years from pedestrians wanting more shady footpaths to encourage people walking, especially school kids who don’t want to dash between far-flung outpost of shade in the afternoon sun. 

“From just walking in different streets around our city anyone can see examples of very wide verges with one single tree planted in the middle of them,” Cr Petersen-Pik said at the March 28 meeting, “sometimes blocking the option of planting more trees on that verge in the future.

“This proposed change is about making the most of our public spaces along our streets, for the purpose of beautifying our streetscape providing more shade for pedestrians and cyclists and increasing our tree canopy.”

Cr Petersen-Pik said not many people would think to ask for extra trees, so this “reverses” the onus by offering one upfront.

He said the council would need far more verge trees if it was going to have any chance of hitting an interim goal of 16 per cent tree canopy coverage by 2025.

Cr Petersen-Pik’s motion got support from councillors Dan Bull, Catherine Ehrhardt, Sally Palmer, and Giorgia Johnson, but the vote was deadlocked 5:5, opposed by Crs Assunta Meleca, Steven Ostaszewskyj, Josh Eveson, Michelle Sutherland, and mayor Filomena Piffaretti, who used her casting vote as chair to tip the balance. 

The no-voters largely argued that the existing policy was 

fine and it technically did allow multiple plantings for big blocks, notwithstanding the examples of verges with only one sapling struggling to shade a sizeable stretch of street.

Cr Piffaretti said “if there’s any confusion out in the public, let’s publicly say if you want more than one verge tree you can ask for more than one verge tree, and the city will be more than happy to provide you with more than one verge tree.”


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