As mentioned in a previous edition (Ensign 15th Feb), Dr Moore is one of Australia's leading arboriculturists, was Principal of Burnley Horticultural College for 20 years, and has served on the Boards and chaired several environmental organisations such as Trust For Nature, Greening Australia, Treenet and the Significant Tree register of the National Trust.
Attendees included Councillors from Strathbogie and Wangaratta, and Council officers from Benalla, Indigo, Wangaratta and Strathbogie Shires.
Benalla Sustainable Future Group president, Peter Holmes said "the issues and benefits raised by Dr Moore in his talk, need to be immediately taken seriously by Benalla Rural City and other Councils who have not already established appropriate planning policies, in the areas of new housing subdivision approvals, and associated streetscape policies". Dr Moore said that "these policies need to include protective overlays for existing mature trees, which should be incorporated into public open spaces within a new subdivision, unlike the current practice of removing most of these trees to create more lots for the developer".
Dr Moore quoted studies that have shown the very significant health benefits that shady public spaces provide. Not only do they encourage an increase in people taking more exercise, resulting in lower rates of cardiovascular and diabetes illnesses, but the socialisation and emotional wellbeing of communities was found to be improved. The studies found that the financial savings in health costs were as high as $5 billion per year in Australia. Another very significant finding was that women who live and exercise in treed areas, have healthier weight babies compared to those women without access to cooler areas.
Dr Moore also was very critical of the trend to creating subdivisions with smaller lot sizes and building approvals for larger houses with inappropriate cladding on those allotments. He showed graphical evidence of the heat sink effects being created in the northern and western suburbs of Melbourne, where much of this unfortunate development is occurring. Temperatures of up to 7 degrees higher occur in these heat sink areas. However, the astonishing fact is that the heat sink created by day in these suburbs, then moves during the night towards the eastern and southern areas, where more elderly people live, causing an increase in the number of "excess deaths" (due to dehydration, strokes, heart failures) during heatwave conditions, because overnight temperatures are more elevated.
Benalla, and other rural cities, are not immune from this situation which needs to be urgently addressed.
The other obvious benefits raised by Dr Moore centred on the financial benefits of appropriately selected and located trees, because of the cooling effect in summer, leading to reduced need for airconditioning. Savings of up to $200 per year can be achieved on household electricity bills.
Another important fact that was mentioned regarding financial benefits of trees, should interest Councils. Streets paved with bitumen last many years longer when they are shaded by trees, resulting in much lower maintenance costs for local government (and ratepayers).
Dr Moore stated that much of the inappropriate development that is occurring in urban areas, has been a consequence of inadequate State Planning regulations, and the inability of communities to successfully challenge proposals in VCAT. Councils have been unwilling to request changes to proposed subdivisions, because they are conscious of the costs of being challenged at VCAT.
However, this should not let Councils "off the hook", Mr Holmes said, "an all of community approach to demanding better outcomes is required. Councils should insist on a minimum of 10% of asubdivision area being set aside for open space (and not fudging this by saying the street areas constitute the 10%). Lot sizes must be sufficient to allow for enough medium size trees on each lot. Street trees should be included to provide shady avenues for people to walk and ride."
The other question that BSFG would like answered is whether Benalla has a minimum percentage
target for tree canopy cover within the urban area, and if so, does this apply to each individual subdivision approved, or is it just averaged over the whole city area? Dr Moore mentioned that many municipalities have set targets of 30% tree canopy cover.
In response to a question about appropriate street trees, Dr Moore gave examples of a number of Australian species which have been found to be suitable. These included a particular genus of Spotted Gum, Yellow Gum, Cypress Pine, and some Acacias. He also mentioned there were some species of Oaks that were suitable. The audience were referred to an excellent website for information on climate-ready trees: cat.bgci.org
Dr Moore's talk was recorded, and will be available for interested people who were unable to attend his presentation. Please email BSFG at firstname.lastname@example.org for information about the recording.
Friday 24 February 2023