From Green Infrastructure to Place Making: How Trees Can Make Our Cities More Resilient and Welcoming
Professor Cecil Konijnendijk, The University of British Columbia
In the words of the Arbor Day Foundation, ‘the time for trees is now’. Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in urban forestry and green infrastructure programs across the globe, in response to e.g., the climate emergency and public health challenges. Successful and liveable cities need to be green – but what does ‘green’ really mean? This presentation starts from a critical analysis of the current international state of green infrastructure planning and urban forestry, based on the author’s research and consultancy work. It emphasises the need to combine city-level programs and strategies with place-making and place-keeping approaches that ensure delivery at the level of neighbourhoods and streets. While cities from Beijing to Riyadh, and from Copenhagen to Vancouver are making major strides towards becoming more resilient and welcoming, mobilising political and public support as well as substantial funding, concerns can be raised about the long-term sustainability of the urban forest. With the role of trees in focus, the presentation will introduce a number of key concepts that can foster success, which apart form place-based approaches include e.g. resilience and diversity thinking, adaptative management, and nature-based thinking. From this, lessons can be derived for Australian cities in their pursuit to become greener, healthier, and more resilient.
Impacts of heat on human health; air quality and respiratory disease; sun cancer
Dr Sujata Allan, Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA)
Climate change is widely recognised to be the greatest public health threat of our time. It has a range of effects on human health, for example from increased heatwaves, bushfires and the resulting physical and mental health impacts. Heatwaves alone have caused more deaths than any other natural disaster in Australia. Climate change also has indirect impacts on health from increasing migration and displaced people, changing the distribution of infectious diseases and the social and economic effects of prolonged drought.
Increasing temperatures, which in cities are often exacerbated by the urban heat island effect, increase the levels of ground level ozone. Ground level ozone is a respiratory irritant that can worsen asthma and other respiratory issues. Air pollution is closely linked with climate change in other ways – in Australia one of the biggest sources of air pollutants come from coal fired power stations, which are also a major contributor to greenhouse gases. Transitioning away from fossil fuels will both improve air quality and the subsequent health effects, as well as tackling the root cause of climate change.
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, and shade such as that provided by good urban canopy is an effective way to reduce UV exposure and reduce the risk of skin cancer. Increasing urban canopy has many win-win effects for human health, such as reducing the urban heat island effect, improving air quality and creating a more conducive environment for active transport which can reduce obesity.
Parklife: Reflecting on the Evidence Linking Green Space Quality and Type with Health and Wellbeing
Professor Thomas Astell-Burt, PowerLab, University of Wollongong
With two of the new NSW Premier’s Priorities focussed on increasing urban tree canopy and improving access to quality green space, I will attempt to summarise some of the key findings – internationally and in Australia specifically – that link health outcomes with green space type and quality. Through reporting what has been done, benchmarking against a recent reconceptualization of the domain pathways that link green space and health by an international team I am privileged to count myself among, I will then go on to suggest avenues for future collaboration, co-design and communication of this consequential area of epidemiological research.
While evidence is clear that trees can benefit communities in multiple ways, our urban areas are increasingly densifying and losing space to grow healthy trees. Soil is paved over for roads and sidewalks, and buildings take up larger percentages of plots. Urban foresters need to think creatively about how to fit trees within these landscapes. Residents face a range of competing priorities, and we need to build citizen support for setting aside land to grow healthy trees.
The presentation focuses on a process developed for planning future urban forests for a case study suburban neighbourhood in Surrey, BC, Canada. It will walk through the process from the beginning, discussing methods used and challenges encountered in creating urban forest plans for dense residential communities. The final set of future forest scenarios will then be presented as packages of visualizations, models, maps, and both quantitative and qualitative results to help communicate the range of options and benefits of increased urban forests in residential neighbourhoods. The diverse future scenarios each offer a unique set of choices and results, empowering the community to debate and choose solutions that best fit their local community.
Challenges and Opportunities in Increasing Green Cover and Urban Canopy
Steve Hartley, Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE)
Green and Resilient Places are places for people to live, a variety of trees, plants and animals to thrive and where responses to challenges such as climate change plays a critical role in making our environment and communities sustainable. The Green and Resilient Places Division brings together expertise in land and environmental planning, strategic and statutory planning, natural hazards, ecology, economics, policy and landscape architecture. The aim of the Division is to inform the planning, design and management of places to create liveable spaces that respond to the unique situation of each location.
Within this Division sits the coordination of Premier’s Priority 12: Greening our City which aims to increase the tree canopy and green cover across Greater Sydney by planting one million trees by 2022.
This Premiers Priority highlights the importance of trees as a critical part of the city’s green infrastructure. Trees play an important role in creating places that people connect with, provide vital shade, mitigate the urban heat island effect, improve air quality, reduce average temperatures, and provide habitat and support biodiversity. The number of trees and their subsequent canopy cover provide multiple benefits for society, the environment and economy. These benefits include: improving physical and mental health and wellbeing, increasing property value, enhancing ecosystem services, reducing energy consumption and boosting the amenity value of public and private places. This Premier’s Priority also provides the opportunity to reconsider the social and regulatory context around how trees are planned for and maintained.
Our Urban Trees provide us with a wealth of benefits. They give us shade, lower our city temperatures, filter out airborne pollutants, reduce runoff in storm events, increase real estate values etc. However, planting trees achieves none of these. It is only when our Urban Trees are healthy and grow to be big enough and grow for long enough, to do the job for which they were intended, that these amazing benefits are realised. (i.e. When our Urban Trees succeed.)
Our Urban Trees are important to us now. However, with the reality of climate change, the importance of our Urban Trees can only increase. Finding space for trees in public areas is becoming increasingly difficult and, with smaller lot sizes and bigger houses, useful trees on private property are likely to become a thing of the past. When you add the increased stresses placed on each newly planted tree, as temperatures rise and storm activity increases, each new tree planted needs to be as big as possible and be provided with everything it needs to be able to succeed.
Think of Urban Tree plantings as a small jigsaw puzzle where the trees succeed when all the pieces of that puzzle; Planning and design, Species selection, Provision of resources, Stock selection, Planting practices, Establishment and maintenance, and Education and communication are in place and each “piece” has been carried out to a very high standard.
Our goal should be to ensure that each and every tree we plant succeeds and grows to add the greatest crown projection and crown bulk practical, given the spaces and resources available. And, keep in mind that, with current and projected water shortages, working harder on fewer bigger, better trees will generally provide a better outcome than if scarce resources are spread too thin.
Interactive Workshops – Strategies for Delivering Effective Green Infrastructure and Improving Urban Forest Canopy
Dr Carol Richards, Consulting Educationist
The aim of the interactive scenarios workshop immediately after lunch is to build creative solutions for delivering and improving the urban forest. Workshop groups will comprise the people at each table and shall be multi-disciplinary. Successful outcomes will be best achieved as a result of inter-disciplinary collaboration.
The outcomes from the workshops will be incorporated into a strategic document that is used by delegates and others to help deliver effective green infrastructure.
The workshops session will be facilitated by Dr Carol Richards. Carol has significant experience in problem-based learning and in engaging people from all disciplines in creative learning strategies.
Exploring a ‘Trees- First’ Approach to City Planning and Design
Dr Libby Gallagher, Gallagher Studio
Research indicates that urban tree canopy can significantly improve local temperatures, reduce urban heat, improve air quality and reduce air-conditioning costs. Governments and authorities have increasingly embraced tree canopy as a solution to address the climate challenges that our cities will face.
However, implementation can be challenging. Street reserves are highly contested and can be difficult environments to deliver healthy trees. Similarly, urban development patterns –characterised by infill development, small lots and large dwellings have reduced space available for trees.
Delivering effective tree canopy on public and private land requires holistic planning strategies that address built form and infrastructure. This talk discusses the opportunities and obstacles of prioritising tree canopy in city planning and design.
Greener Spaces Better Places is the new name for the 202020 Vision, a multi-award winning project that brings together over 400 organisations to help make Australia's urban areas the greenest in the world.
In this session, Ben talks through past learnings, recent research and future plans for the program with a view to learning how we can all work better together to create the kind of future cities we all need.
A Strategic Review of The City of Sydney’s Urban Forest; Targets and Capacity for a Greener Sydney by 2050
Karen Sweeney, City of Sydney
The City of Sydney is planning for 2050. We understand the challenges ahead, with the climate emergency, a doubling of people (to 2 million) in our area on a daily basis, and the ever-increasing competition for space. Whilst we understand the benefits of trees and canopy cover, how do we refine and tailor our greening and canopy cover targets to provide a liveable and resilient city?
This presentation focuses on the strategic review of the City’s urban forest targets and capacity for a greener Sydney by 2050. It will briefly cover the potential translation of target analysis for future investment in greening across the city.
Living Melbourne - Greenprinting a Metropolis
Martin Hartigan, Resilient Melbourne & The Nature Conservancy Australia
Living Melbourne: our metropolitan urban forest brought together councils, state government agencies, non-government and community organisations, residents, and other partners, to work towards a shared vision for the urban forest. The strategy focuses on improving the quality and quantity of trees and vegetation in the urban forest – whether on public or private land. This strategy sets out six actions to enable and inspire our rapidly growing city to better protect and strengthen its natural assets. Collaboration is a central element of the strategy. Only by working collaboratively between organisations, land tenures, and regions can we understand the needs, agree on priorities for protection and improvement, set targets, and track progress. It builds on the strong foundation of urban forest initiatives already started or under way in Melbourne. In this way Living Melbourne can bring city-wide benefits that could not be achieved by individual neighbourhoods, infrastructure operators, businesses or governments acting alone. This presentation will outline the collaborative co-design process that was undertaken to develop the strategy, the key elements that informed the actions and some of the embedded urban forest priorities.
Poster Display: 'The Gap', designed by landscape architects Marti Fooks, Claire Winsor, Suhas Vasudeva and Jacqueline Hegglia, was the winning entry of the international Future Park Design Ideas Competition in 2019.
‘The Gap’ is intended as a “new landscape system that cuts through Melbourne’s urban form as a response to the world’s climate emergency.”
In describing the winning design from among 250 professional and tertiary section entries, Jury Chair Jacky Bowring stated that ’The Gap’ is beautifully presented with accessible graphics, and is a project that will encourage conversations and discussion among professionals, politicians and the public.”
Forum delegates will have the opportunity to view and discuss this innovative design with lead designer, Marti Fooks, during the breaks.
Marti Fooks has specialist qualifications in ‘safer by design’ and ‘the potential of places to reduce the risk of harm for visitors and communities; particularity for those less able to defend themselves’. Marti teaches at Melbourne University and RMIT University in the Masters of Landscape Architecture programs.
The Future Park Design Ideas competition was hosted by the University of Melbourne in partnership with the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA).