Serpentine-Jarrahdale officially puts its roots down on its trees

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. (famous Chinese proverb).

Late last year, the Council of the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale finally made official the spirit of this proverb through the adoption of its Urban and Rural Forest Strategy (its URFS) in September 2018. Urbaqua was responsible for preparing the strategy with the purpose of maintaining and improving tree canopy and vegetation in the Shire. This involved analysis of canopy coverage recorded in 2016, an opportunities and constraints analysis, and significant engagement with both the local community and Shire Council in order to develop a series of goals, strategies, and actions.

Why bother trying to keep trees?

So what is the point of preparing a strategy designed to keep around a bunch of trees? Well there are many points actually! The Shire’s key motivation was to create and maintain cool, healthy and liveable communities which integrate the natural environment and reflect the Shire’s unique sense of place and identity.

On top of the more obvious environmental and heritage values, more and more research is demonstrating that there are multiple social, health and economic benefits of retaining our larger, mature trees. This includes:

  • encouraging outdoor activity and recreation;
  • improving mental health and wellbeing (& thus decreasing health costs);
  • traffic moderation;
  • reduced energy demand and costs;
  • avoiding costs of infrastructure damage and renewal;
  • increased property values; and
  • enhanced tourism opportunities.
Trees can really help us do all the things!

If you don’t quite believe it and want to read more, have a crack at the strategy here right here:

Now these are some Cocky birds loving these bottlebrushes

One of the key strategies for successfully putting together the strategy was properly engaging the community to figure out what their motivations (and fears) were around retaining or planting new trees, to ensure strong ownership of the URFS. Urbaqua hosted two community engagement workshops, as well as receiving input via an online survey (February-March 2018) to get feedback on how the local community viewed their trees and the urban forest. Nearly 90% of participants indicated that trees were very important with respect to providing habitat for native animals and improve soil health, air and water quality, while many also indicated concern about inappropriate trees with respect to falling/dangerous branches, poor placement in the street or parks, or species choice. This feedback was incorporated into a draft document which was then presented and discussed with Councillors in order to ensure that they were also supportive of the strategy.

Getting the local community involved and owning the URFS

Increasing the density in our cities as a part of urban development while ensuring that our trees, wildlife and waterways remain protected for our own benefit (as well as for our kids) is an increasing challenge. But it does not mean we have to choose if we properly consider and plan for growth in our cities and provide the green spaces in order to keep nature around us.

“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”  
―   Warren Buffett