Ballarat could more than double the amount of trees lining its streets under a new plan approved by councillors last night.
The Urban Forest Action Plan aims to expand the city’s canopy cover to 40 per cent by 2040. Currently it stands at just 17 percent in total, so would entail a huge increase in the number of trees in the city.
Following feedback on the draft version, the plan was approved by eight votes to one at last night’s council meeting.
It probably is a multi-million dollar exercise. We need to do a lot of planning or we simply won’t hit the targetCouncillor Daniel Moloney
Some parts of the city, including Ballarat Central, Newington and Soldiers Hill mostly have a good level of tree coverage. Other areas, in particular on the urban fringes, were identified as vulnerable to heat stress in part due to the lack of tree cover. These include Wendouree, Sebastopol, Delacombe and parts of Ballarat North and Ballarat East.
According to councillor Belinda Coates, the plan could bring “multiple benefits” including for the economy, environment and people’s health and well-being.
While he approved the plan, councillor Daniel Moloney warned: “It probably is a multi-million dollar exercise. We need to do a lot of planning or we simply won’t hit the target.”
Only councillor Grant Tillett voted against, saying that the plan did not go far enough and that there were not enough measures in place for tree protection. “It should be an all-embracing plan but I don’t think this is,” he said.
$20,000 grant awarded to Ballarat Evolve
At the same meeting, the first award from the council’s social enterprise grant was unanimously approved for Ballarat Evolve, a group that has organised for artists and artisans to work rent-free in empty retail spaces in the city's CBD.
They will receive a grant of $20,000 from council this calendar year, to go alongside $85,000 they have received from Creative Victoria, the state government body that promotes creative industries.
Councillor Mark Harris said he believed Ballarat Evolve “may be able to deliver something that is extremely good for the city” and that he wouldn’t discount a strategic partnership with the non-profit group in the future. Meanwhile the Mayor Samantha McIntosh said she could see its successes, and described Ballarat Evolve’s work as an “inspirational way forward”.
Cr Moloney noted that landlords of empty shopfronts could play a part in the regeneration CBD generation by offering better rents.
Hooning petition referred for a response
Councillors also voted to refer a petition asking council to take action against hooning in Cobden St in Mt Pleasant to the council’s CEO for a response.
In the petition, 19 residents complained that the stretch of road between Magpie St and Trees St was "attractive to drivers doing burnouts and generally using the stretch of road as a stunt or race track."
“This makes the road extremely dangerous to residents and to school children attending Mt Pleasant Primary School," the petition read. They called for the council to look into speed control measures.
A couple of items on this month's agenda were deferred. The Reconciliation Action Plan 2019-21 was held over until next month to allow some wording to be amended.
Meanwhile councillors decided to postpone considering a proposed Central Highlands Councils Victoria Regional Shared Services project - which aims to allow eight councils led by Ballarat to make savings with greater collaboration - as a business plan had not been delivered.
The state government has committed $20 million this year for putting large-scale "transformation projects" in place regionally.
Councils including Ballarat City, Ararat Rural City, Central Goldfields Shire, Golden Plains Shire, Hepburn Shire, Moorabool Shire and Pyrenees Shire, are developing the business plan along with EY, the consultants contracted by the state government. They are seeking $5.5 million funding through the program, which they say could provide "significant savings and service improvements".
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