By Warwick Artis
Bathurst’s extended CBD area currently has an estimated 2% street tree canopy cover that compares very poorly with the recent survey of 39 council areas in NSW where the benchmark is 15% to 20%.
The study by UTS’s Institute of Sustainable Futures measured and benchmarked urban tree canopy cover over 139 council areas in Australia representing 68% of the nations population. This is the largest and most comprehensive study of urban canopy cover ever undertaken.
Street trees provide many benefits, including cooling, shade, deflection of UV light, reduction in atmospheric pollution, etc. These benefits are not a luxury but a necessity for the basic health and amenity expected of any modern and mature community. A canopy cover of less than 2% just does not do it!
The area of most concern in Bathurst is the extended CBD area bounded by Durham, Rankin, Piper, Bentinck and Keppel precincts where we have the most pedestrian traffic and parked vehicles but the least amount of street tree shade and cooling.
There is an estimated 6.4 Km length of footpath/verge within this area that council staff has designated as unsuitable for any additional street trees. Thus the street tree audit of 2007 identified 819 new planting sites for street trees in the heritage area with only 3 new planting sites identified within the extended CBD.
Bathurst Community Climate Action Network (BCCAN) and Greening Bathurst are once again requesting that Council develops a strategy to increase our street tree canopy cover to a sustainable level. A modest, achievable and affordable increase to 5% coverage within the extended CBD area is suggested as a start with incremental annual increases through to 2025 and beyond.
Our wide streets provide the flexibility to plant additional street trees to clear shop awnings, avoid underground services but without reducing car parking. We need a commitment from Council and support from Councilors for an open and transparent urban forest plan, including the CBD and surface car parks to ensure a sustainable city environment and for current and future generations.