Creation of Urban Tree Canopies: Water experts welcome federal government plan to cool Australia’s cities
Green Space and Human Health
As cities swelter through summer heat waves, the humble tree could provide the solution.
The Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities (CRCWSC) has welcomed an announcement by acting Cities Minister Greg Hunt of a plan to create “sustainable, green cities with improved amenity for a more liveable environment”.
Mr Hunt’s announcement, reported by Fairfax Media on 18 January, is expected to be followed by a Federal Government position paper on issues affecting Australian cities and a national Cities Policy Forum later this year.
The government would work directly with cities throughout 2016 and 2017 to set decade-by-decade goals for the creation of “urban canopies”, he said.
As well as decade-by-decade goals to develop urban canopies, the government will “look at building rooftops with green cover,” the Minister said.
CRCWSC Chief Research Officer, Professor Jurg Keller from The University of Queensland, said water played a key role in making cities and towns more liveable.
“Heat waves are an emerging urban health crisis, and greening our cities helps reduce the problem,” he said.
“Trees and green parks need water. They save energy, improve our comfort and foster a social and active lifestyle – so greening our cities is critically important for our wellbeing.”
CRCWSC urban climate researcher Professor Nigel Tapper, from Monash University, said there was strong evidence that a green, leafy park, tree-lined street or urban waterway could drop the local temperatures by several degrees.
Just as households and industries, the vegetation in our cities depends on water, he said. “We need to make the most of what is a limited resource, and the CRCWSC is identifying novel solutions to keep our cities green using new water sources and efficient water usage.”
CRCWSC urban planning expert Professor Darryl Low Choy, from Griffith University, said it was important to incorporate water into all facets of planning from strategic regional and metropolitan scale plans, through district and suburban plans, right down to subdivisional and site scale plans.
“This enables cities to maximise the benefits of all sources of water, including stormwater, groundwater and new water supplies such as desalination and water recycling,” he said. “If water is added as an afterthought in the planning process, we miss major opportunities of the integrated approach.”
Professor Keller said the CRCWSC – as a well-connected national research centre – was keen to work with the Federal Government on efforts to create to greener, healthier cities.
“Delivering green cities requires integrated and coordinated action by councils, urban water authorities, state governments and private industry, so it’s encouraging to hear that the Federal Government will develop a vision for greener Australian cities and work with the States to implement this vision.”