Heat on in City as shade fades

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - NEWS - Joel Kelly

AT last count, City of Bel­mont had the low­est pro­por­tion of tree canopy of any lo­cal govern­ment in the Perth metropoli­tan area at just 11.44 per cent.

Aerial sur­vey­ing is un­der way this month to de­ter­mine if the sit­u­a­tion has im­proved since the City im­ple­mented its ur­ban for­est strat­egy 18 months ago.

The strat­egy was in­tro­duced in 2014, not only for aes­thetic rea­sons, but to com­bat the im­pact of ur­ban heat is­land (UHI) ef­fect.

UHI ef­fect is par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able in cities with pop­u­la­tions over one mil­lion and is the re­sult of a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors like dark sur­faces, hot air trapped be­tween build­ings and lim­ited tree cover.

A re­cent re­port shows av­er­age an­nual air tem­per­a­tures in dense ur­ban ar­eas are one to three de­grees hot­ter than greener ar­eas while in the evenings the dif­fer­ence can be up to 12C.

Perth-wide, the in­cre­men­tal loss of veg­e­ta­tion has been com­pounded by the push for higher res­i­den­tial den­si­ties to cater for the grow­ing pop­u­la­tion – mean­ing smaller yards and of­ten fewer trees.

City of Bel­mont has set a tar­get to reveg­e­tate tree canopy to the 2001 level of 12.05 per cent, how­ever it has set no time­frame for achiev­ing its goal.

Last year, City of Bel­mont ap­proved 61 plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions for mul­ti­d­welling de­vel­op­ments two storeys or higher – not in­clud­ing sub­di­vi­sion ap­provals.

This fi­nan­cial year, City of Bel­mont has bud­geted $100,000 to progress its ur­ban for­est strat­egy.

City of Bel­mont chief ex­ec­u­tive Stu­art Cole said sev­eral ef­forts to re­plen­ish tree canopy pro­por­tions had started, in­clud­ing new trees in parks as part of the park upgrade pro­gram.

“It also plants new trees on street verges and will be plant­ing trees on Hous­ing Au­thor­ity prop­er­ties and street verges in River­vale in win­ter 2016,” he said.

“Res­i­dents can re­quest a tree from the City for their street verge at any time.”

Ac­cord­ing to a Cli­mate Coun­cil re­port re­leased last week, Aus­tralia needs an ur­gent whole of govern­ment re­sponse to the rise in heatre­lated deaths.

The re­lease of the re­port, The Silent Killer: Cli­mate Change and the Health Im­pacts of Ex­treme Heat, co­in­cided with a sum­mit of 24 health ex­perts in Mel­bourne.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the num­ber of record hot days in Aus­tralia has dou­bled in the past 50 years and heat­waves have be­come longer, hot­ter and more in­tense.

Heat­waves have killed more Aus­tralians than any other nat­u­ral haz­ard and have caused more deaths since 1890 than bush­fires, cy­clones, earth­quakes, floods and se­vere storms com­bined.

Sum­mit co-chair Liz Hanna said a com­pre­hen­sive and stream­lined re­sponse to the in­creas­ing dan­gers of ex­treme heat would save lives.

Perth lo­cal gov­ern­ments and their per­cent­age of tree canopy cov­er­age.

City of Bel­mont lost 161,800sq m of tree canopy area.

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