Residents invited to have their say on urban forest strategy

Could this be the city's future? Digitally altered image. Picture: Leighton Rosestone

Could this be the city's future? Digitally altered image. Picture: Leighton Rosestone

Climate change, powerlines, pests and diseases are some of the challenges the city will face as it looks to double the amount of tree canopy coverage across Ballarat.

The City of Ballarat has released a discussion paper highlighting some of the key priorities and challenges of its urban forest strategy, with community response to form part of the final action plan. 

The strategy was adopted in mid 2015 and outlined plans to increase tree canopy coverage from an estimated 17 per cent to 40 per cent by 2040. 

Currently, there are more than 70,000 trees located across public land in Ballarat, including parks, gardens, streets, reserves, urban green spaces, recreation spaces and wetlands.

Mayor Samantha McIntosh said while the urban forest strategy presented council with “a number of issues and challenges”, there were also “some great outcomes” that could be achieved. These included economical, mental, physical and emotional benefits. 

“Having worked in real estate, I know that property values are absolutely increased in the streets that have those wonderful tree canopies,” Cr McIntosh said. “But it is also about health and wellness, and providing plenty of shade, where people like the elderly will benefit.” 

She believed the 2040 target of 40 per cent canopy coverage was achieveable, pointing out some CBD areas had already achieved 36 per cent coverage.

Suburbs such as Wendouree and Sebastopol were highlighted in the discussion paper as areas with less than 10 per cent coverage and in need of new planting. Alfredton also had less than 10 per cent, but was recognised as a new growth area where planted trees had not yet established significant canopy. 

The paper also considered factors competing with trees for space such as parking, powerlines and underground services including water, gas and the fibre optic network.

“The height of tree would be determined by the infrastructure it is standing beside (such as powerlines),” Cr McIntosh said. “But it is important for us not to have the same trees in every single street, we want diversity in the combination of trees.”

She said the age, height, species and health of the trees were all taken into consideration.

The City of Ballarat does not have a register of dangerous trees, instead residents are encouraged to contact the planning department with their concerns. 

Cr McIntosh said the discussion paper encouraged public response and suggestions.

“We’re not saying we have all the answers,” she said. “Heritage and green space are very important to the people of Ballarat, we want to continue that conversation and ensure the public is involved.”

For more information visit www.ballarat.vic.gov.au/haveyoursay. Submissions close April 17.