SUB­URB IN THE SUN

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - OPINION -

IT is no co­in­ci­dence that the City of Bel­mont’s ap­pallingly mea­gre tree canopy cov­er­age (“Heat on in city as shade fades”, Gazette, March 3)has been iden­ti­fied dur­ing a pe­riod in which unit de­vel­op­ments have been pro­lif­er­at­ing through­out the dis­trict.

When I com­pleted an ap­pren­tice­ship in hor­ti­cul­ture with Bel­mont coun­cil in the early 1980s, the motto was “City of Parks”.

And, in­deed, the dis­trict had many green parks and a great many large, shady trees. How­ever, the City sub­se­quently be­came the “City of Op­por­tu­nity” and the de­vel­op­ers have taken ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to re­move any tree that stood in their way.

I can only as­sume the coun­cil has ex­panded its rates rev­enue ac­cord­ingly but the cit­i­zenry now lives in a more con­gested and un­pleas­antly sun-beaten sub­ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment.

Even noise from planes, sirens and traf­fic car­ries across the dis­trict more now.

I still have a copy of a let­ter writ­ten by a City planner 16 years ago mak­ing ex­cuses for de­vel­op­ers want­ing to re­move large trees.

It does not con­tain a word about the pos­i­tive at­tributes of large trees and this un­sym­pa­thetic dis­po­si­tion helps ex­plain the City’s em­bar­rass­ing clas­si­fi­ca­tion as the lo­cal gov­ern­ment au­thor­ity with the lowest tree canopy cov­er­age in the metropoli­tan area.

Trees bring a great many ben­e­fits to our liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment but re­duc­ing ur­ban heat build-up is now a se­ri­ous pub­lic health is­sue.

The sta­tis­ti­cal re­la­tion­ship be­tween fatal­ity rates and heat waves in large cities is quite strik­ing, though not widely ap­pre­ci­ated, and in a hot cli­mate such as that ex­pe­ri­enced in Perth, de­priv­ing an area of its tree canopy is a se­ri­ous is­sue.

The City of Bel­mont may have be­lat­edly com­mit­ted to plant­ing more trees but its “Street Tree Plan” in­cludes no lo­cally na­tive trees and less than a hand­ful of WA na­tive species.

The rest are a mix of east­ern states trees and largely de­cid­u­ous ex­otics that have no eco­log­i­cal re­la­tion­ship with the dis­trict at all.

Fur­ther­more, the City raised no ob­jec­tion when Perth Air­port re­moved 310 hectares of bush­land and wet­land con­ser­va­tion precincts from the Perth Air­port Mas­ter­plan last year.

Apart from their nat­u­ral her­itage value, ar­eas such as these are sub­stan­tially cooler than con­crete, steel and tar­mac ag­glom­er­a­tions and help to make the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment more live­able.

I hope City of Bel­mont res­i­dents can all af­ford to run air­con­di­tion­ers for many hours ev­ery day: so much for sav­ing en­ergy. KEVIN McLEAN, Red­cliffe.

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