Perth local governments are under increasing pressure to stop mature trees from being chopped down, after two councils adopted major changes to local development laws.
Under the changes, endorsed by the City of Nedlands and the City of South Perth, low-density residential property owners would have to ask for council approval before removing large, established trees from their property.
The votes came following an extensive push in recent years to boost Perth’s dwindling tree canopy.
Claremont resident and tree canopy advocate Nick Cook says Perth has the lowest canopy cover of any capital city in the country.
“So we’re starting from a very low base, most capital cities have had regulations around tree removal for decades so it’s incredibly important that we catch up with the rest of Australia,” he says.
Dozens of residents and advocates filled the Nedlands and South Perth council chambers to watch the vote on Wednesday night.
Consultation on the proposal by the City of South Perth showed 79 per cent of submissions were in support of the changes.
Gardening advocate and communicator Sabrina Hahn says she backed the council’s decision.
“The general public is now seriously concerned about how urban infill is affecting all of our trees and gardens,” she says.
“Western Australia is the only state where you have been able to go and completely clear an entire block, no other state allows that to happen.
“There were kids that were also speaking in South Perth and Dalkeith. They’re looking at a future of a city that’s going to get hotter so if we don’t do something now, then we’re not leaving a good legacy for our children.”
Push to increase tree canopy moves to other councils
A motion to explore options to enhance the tree canopy was also moved at Wednesday’s Town of Cambridge council meeting.
The motion was voted down 8-1 but Councillor Xavier Carr believes there is strong community support for the council to further protect trees in their area.
“I’ve been contacted by a number of people about this (protecting the tree canopy) by a number of people who think this is a good idea and I, myself, also believe it is a good idea.”
State approval next hurdle
WA’s Planning Commission will have the final say over whether the changes to Nedland’s and South Perth’s local planning laws will be adopted, a process that could take months.
WA Tree Canopy Advocates chair Brendan O’Toole says he hopes to see the Planning Commission adopt the new rules and for the State Government to consider making them standard across all local governments.
“I’d be very disappointed if it wasn’t in place across the City of Nedlands and the City of South Perth by the end of the year and I’m hoping that shortly thereafter other LGAs will follow suit,” he says.
“But the real priority is to get state-driven regulation in place across all of the metro area.”