Tough fines for damaging trees

Fremantle Environmental Collective’s Marcel Teschndorff and councillor Adin Lang.

More trees in streets

FINES for damaging council-owned trees in Fremantle could hit $5,000 and perpetrators would be ordered to replace them under sweeping new plans to kick along the city’s green canopy along.

Among a raft of initiatives adopted at the council’s last meeting, its verge garden program will be reinstated and staff will be forced to spend at least 80 per cent of the tree planting budget on streets, parks and other urban areas; only after that can funding go towards tubestock in bushland areas.

To increase transparency about how it’s fairing against targets set in the Urban Forest Plan, the council’s website will also be upgraded to include a consolidated section on tree planting and revegetation efforts.

The measures were introduced after the Fremantle Environmental Collective blew the whistle on how far the council had fallen behind its targets earlier this year (“City short on canopy targets,” Herald, January 16, 2021) and presented a 1200-strong petition calling for improvements.

Collective member Marcel Teschendorff said he was pleased with the response, which includes around $300,000 pencilled in for this year’s budget and the appointment of an urban forest officer.

“Getting the 80 per cent target of trees in streets, parks and urban areas is the real highlight, because it speaks to the spirit of the Urban Forest Plan,” Mr Teschendorff said.

He said there had been a grey area in the forest plan about “what was a tree” and where it could be planted, and believed that also frustrated council staff when his organisation started calling them out about the missed targets.

Mr Teschendorff said it also became apparent through the review process that a number of good initiatives had been introduced by the council, but they often lack follow-through or resources.

“It would be sad to see that happen again,” he said, noting that the collective would continue to be involved and would keep their eye on the progress.

He praised councillor Adin Lang who initiated the council’s review after they approached him about their January petition, saying the city warder had been a “powerful” ally.

Cr Lang said it was the most significant review of “all things tree” in Fremantle in a generation.

“It is unlikely we will see another like this for some time,” he said.

He said other important initiatives included in the review was a directive for staff to develop a “friends of bushland” policy to give more support to groups working to green the city, and a review of the city’s street and reserve tree policy in the next year.

Native species or those providing habitat and food for fauna would also be encouraged.

by STEVE GRANT

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