Have your say – Protecting Trees on Development Sites

 Please build around trees

The City of Stirling has released for  public comment a draft amendment which will attempt to protect trees on development sites (see below). Closes 5th of July, please have your say.

A simple letter or email (attention CEO) is all that is required.  Just state what you would like to see happen if you don’t have time to read through the information below and tackle a more detail submission.  Bullet points are probably best anyway.

Please encourage others to have their say  too and send copies to Councillors and your Local Members of Parliament as well. Find all of their contact details here.

Anyone can comment, especially those who work, shop in and visit the City of Stirling.   Perhaps some would like them to build around the trees on the Scarborough Beach foreshore or to save some of the trees around the Karrinyup Shopping Centre redevelopment?

Why this is an important public health issue

Trees mitigate dangerous urban heat and provide many other  important benefits.
Therefore, the City of Stirling has set a target to increase our total urban tree canopy from 12% to 18% by 2030.   They have worked out that most of the trees are being removed from privately owned for  infill and redevelopment.  Even though the city has a commendable tree planting program, just planting trees on council owned land (on streets and in parks), will not be enough to counter the losses on private residential and commercial land.
If nothing is done to rectify this situation 45% of trees on private land will be lost by 2030, which is about 290 hectares of tree canopy across the City of Stirling.  See Today Tonight – Urban Trees 22 March, 2016 .   Add to this trees removed from public land, to build roads etc., and from school grounds, plus those trees that die from old age, drought, disease, storms damage, excessive pruning and those removed due to irrational fears and ignorance.  Something must be done and it must be done now.

About this amendment proposal

Firstly, it is important to note that this is an interim amendment.  The City has said it will develop a “comprehensive” tree protection policy amendment, which would be introduced in few years time?
In a nutshell, this initial proposed amendment  would not force developers to retain some trees.  Rather, it would attempt to “encourage” developers not to remove them.  If developers decide not to bother saving existing trees on a development site, they would have to leave space and plant a new one every 500 sq m (if possible) and or possibly on the verge across the road.  Please read the  Local Planning Policy 6.11 – Trees and Development (Draft) and details below for more information on what they are proposing.

Time-line to 2030

We have less than 14 years to go before 2030.  It will take until next year at least, before this first amendment to be officially gazetted.  So there goes over 20.7-hectares of the 290-hectare predicted loss.  The time-line for trees on private development sites looks something like this;
2016 -2017  (1 year) Business as usual, we are set to lose 20.7 h of tree canopy,
2017 -2021  (4 years) Developers are encouraged to retain or plant new trees, but how effective will this actually be?  Will we actually go backwards? (see below),
2021- 2030 (7 years)  Comprehensive tree protection laws.  But how “comprehensive”?  Clearly this would not save all existing trees?
2030 – 18% tree canopy cover?


New vs. mature trees

A large 40 year old tree for example, might have  300 sq m of canopy.  Whereas, a new “advanced tree” (2 years old) might only have a  .75 m of canopy.  We it comes to trees, it is not the number of new trees you plant, it is the size and volume of the canopy that counts.
Large vs small tree
Also, Not all newly planted trees survive, many die or fail to thrive and who is to stop new owners from removing new trees or bothering to water them?  See this BBC article, ‘Is there any point planting new trees?‘.  Also see this article – Nine in 10 trees planted by Perth councils will never mature , this also applies to trees on private land.  So this is another reason why we must save the trees we already have.

Some other points to consider


1.  Before Councillors decided on this particular draft proposal (Option 2) , officers prepared 4 Options for them to consider;
  • Option 1 was to do nothing
  • Option 2, was this draft plan
  • Option 3 to “Retain, Plant or Cash-in-lieu”.  Developers could choose to remove trees and pay for        new trees to be planted on Council land.
  • Option 4 a “comprehensive” tree protection policy, but with a catch;

Councillor were told that this plan would be very expensive, because it would require setting up a Significant Tree Register, which would cost around $500,000 and require 2 new staff member to manage it?

But this is 1970’s thinking. With modern remote sensing and data management software, officers can easily zoom in and see exactly what size trees are, where they are and how many there are.  The days  of sending someone out to physically measure the girth of a tree and manually record all of its details are long gone.  Similar information and much more can all be acquired for a fraction of this price, using aerial and satellite imaging and thermal sensing, that is regularly recorded and already available. The City of Stirling already purchase this type of data every year, that is how they know how bad the situation is.

As Councillors are careful about spending rate payer’s money, the Significant Tree Register cost was a contributing factor in some of them opposing this option.

2. The whole point of making this amendment is to help the City of Stirling reach its target of 18% tree canopy cover by 2030.  However, it is difficult to imagine that many developers would choose voluntarily to retain existing trees and put in the time and effort to work out solutions to build around them and replacing mature trees with new saplings will do little to slow canopy loss, if anything?

3. Local Governments can protect trees on private land, as long as the policy amendment is made to enforce it in their Local Planning Scheme.  However, amendments must be approved by the State Government (the WAPC).  Because it is assumed the the State Government is unlikely to be  interested in protecting trees, some City of Stirling officers and Councillors feel that it is better to go to them with an amendment proposal that will be less contentious and give developers the choice, even though that would render it incapable of helping to atchieve the  18% canopy target.
4. It is important to consider that developers include ordinary people who may be;
  • subdividing their nest eggs,
  • building granny flats,
  • extending existing houses or buildings,
  • demolishing old houses to replace them with new ones.
 5. There are some professional developers who do try to retain some existing trees when carving up multiple-site developments.  A good example is NS Projects, who developed Churchlands Green, a 20-hectare residential development on the former ECU Churchlands Campus with 258-lot residential lots. Most of the trees they retain were in public areas (on streets and in parks), but a few were on private lots.  But unfortunately, they nor the City of Stirling can ensure that those on privately owned lots will not be removed by people who by the land.
6. Developers often find when they have gone to the trouble of saving some trees, the larger lots with trees are harder to sell, as buyers often opt for the small cheaper blocks without trees.
7.  In many cases, it is possible to build around trees.
8. Many people remove trees because they are unaware of the important benefits they provide.   Hopefully, this will change going forward with continuing public education.   The City of Stirling have been actively promoting tree benefits and their tree planting program.  However, they must encouraged to increase the budget and do more.  For example;
  • Give awards for great designs that incorporate existing trees, on single residential, commercial and on multi-site developments.
  • Provide information about tree health and pruning.  Many trees don’t actually need pruning to make them safe.   In fact, excessive pruning by cowboy tree loppers can kill trees and make new branches weaker.  Excessive pruning is major problem, as it also reduces the urban canopy.
  • Make the pubic aware about the need to use properly accredited tree care and agricultural consultants.
  • Provide information on how to select appropriate species for different locations and how to plant them and raise them.
  • Suggest ideas on how to build around existing trees.
 9. Local Governments and the State Government are planning authorities, they have a duty to protect citizens over and above facilitating developers.
10. All Local Governments are aware they must mitigate against climate change.  Failing to address rising urban temperatures would be considered a  ‘Failure of Urban Planning’ and a ‘Failure of Climate Change Mitigation and adaptation’, by the Global Economic Forum – Global Risk Report 2016.
11.  This amendment would only protect trees under threat from development.  It would not protect trees from indiscriminate unnecessary removal.  Anyone could move into a new house and chop down a tree simple because it drops leaves.

12. The City of Stirling is Perth’s largest council, what is decided here will influence other councils, so it is imperative that we all do our best to supersede the council to do provide proper protection for our remaining trees.  So please encourage anyone you can to have their say  and send copies to Councillors and Local Members of Parliament as well, find all of their contact details here.

Open for Public Comment

Planning and Development Act 2005
Trees and Development
Local Planning Scheme No.3 Amendment No.9

Notice is hereby given that the City of Stirling has prepared Scheme Amendment No.9 for the purpose of encouraging the retention of trees on development sites and requiring, where trees are not retained, applicants to plant new trees on-site and  on verges to off-set their removal.

Local Planning Policy 6.11 – Trees and Development

The City also proposes to introduce a new Local Planning Policy to support Scheme Amendment No. 9 by:

  • Encourage the retention of existing significant trees;
  • Requiring replacement trees to be planted on‑site at a ratio of one tree per 500m² of site area;
  • Requiring applicants to pay the cost of providing trees within the road reserve where none exist;
  • Outlining the objectives and development requirements for on‑site tree management and street trees; and
  • Applying the Policy to proposed development valued at over $100,000 on privately-owned land.

Documents explaining the proposed Scheme Amendment and Policy may be viewed at the City’s offices from Tuesday, 24 May 2016 to Tuesday, 5 July 2016 between the hours of 8.30am and 5.00pm, Monday to Friday. The documentation is also available for viewing on the City’s website at: www.stirling.wa.gov.au/yoursay.

Comments on the proposal must be lodged in writing to the Chief Executive Officer, City of Stirling, 25 Cedric Street, Stirling WA 6021 or to stirling@stirling.wa.gov.au on or before Tuesday 5 July 2016.  Please ensure that your name and address are provided on your submission to enable it to be afforded due consideration.

Should you have any queries, please contact the City Planning Business Unit on (08) 9205 8555.

Amendment No.9 – Formal Documentation

Local Planning Policy 6.11 – Trees and Development (Draft)

This Policy must also be read in conjunction with;

Local Planning Policy 6.6 Landscaping 

2 thoughts on “Have your say – Protecting Trees on Development Sites

  1. Hello Leisha – is it only ratepayers in Stirling who have any right to comment? Many thanks for your tireless work for everyone’s planet.!

    • Hi Sue,

      Anyone can comment, even if they don’t live in the City of Stirling. You may be thinking of moving to Stirling or you may work here or be a regular shopper or visitor and therefore you are a stakeholder.

      You do have to include your full name and address in the letter or email.

      Cheers Leisha

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