Local Government efforts in maintaining Perth’s tree canopy may soon be easier with support from a new planning guide, however greater collaboration is still required to redress significant decline to our ‘urban forest’.

The WA Local Government Association, together with the Western Australian Planning Commission and the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage today released the Better Urban Forest Planning Guide to assist Councils, developers and government agencies in their planning and policies around urban greening, tree retention and replacement.

WALGA President Lynne Craigie said collaboration with the State in developing the Guide reflected the level of concern across all spheres of government about the loss of trees in urban areas.

“The benefits of maintaining an urban tree canopy across Perth are numerous: lowering surface  temperatures, increasing air quality, adding to the amenity of a local area and in some cases fostering a greater sense of well-being amongst residents in the community,” Cr Craigie said.

“Balancing this with the needs of a growing population and meeting infill and development targets is a challenge and despite planting and greening programs, many Local Governments are struggling to keep up with the ever-increasing canopy loss – much of which is occurring on private land.

“The Guide provides advice, tools and case studies information to support Local Governments in their efforts to maintain and grow their urban forests.  It also showcases the good work that Local Government are already undertaking and provides examples of other approaches that can be used to increase urban tree canopy cover.”

Cr Craigie said many Local Governments were already implementing plans to reduce tree loss, with significant investment in planting programs on public lands and policies to encourage and require developers and homeowners to retain and plant trees on their properties.

She said a more strategic approach would allow Local Governments to achieve significant gains to urban greening, with the sector calling for changes to the State Planning system to support their efforts including requirements for trees to be incorporated into all types of developments.

“Local Governments are often limited in being able to mandate retention of trees when infill and development occur on private land, Cr Craigie said.

“Inclusion of tree considerations in State Planning guidelines would go a long way to helping Councils work with developers and residents to ensure the overall canopy can be achieved whilst allowing appropriate development to occur.
“Trees are essential community assets that need to be planned for and incorporated in our urban footprint to ensure that we have liveable communities for current and future generations.”

The report can be found here.