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Greening Streets

In June PedBikeTrans hosted a seminar that looked at the role trees and verge gardens play in improving our cities and suburbs. Gayle Dallaston launched the Shady Lanes Project in 2019 with the aim of encouraging residents to take ownership of their road verges / nature strips and plant indigenous verge gardens and request street trees. She shared an enlightening presentation on the benefits of verge gardens, and the best approach to creating these as delightful improvements to suburban streets.

I was so inspired I converted my weed infested verge into an indigenous garden. After years of trying to get some grass to grow under the bottlebrush, I now have the start of what should be a pleasant little patch. Now I just hope the brush turkeys dont destroy it.

It is not well known the Brisbane City Council allows residents to plant gardens in the road verge, as long as they stick to the Council guidelines. Council is still responsible for planting street trees and they dont approve of residents planting their own trees or large bushes in the verge. Other local Councils have also adopted a similar approach.

There are other benefits of verge gardens and street trees, including reduced stormwater runoff, lower temperatures, improved road safety and increase the positive perception of communities with verge and median planting.

We heard more about these benefits from Chris Madigan (Arup) who presented on the Urban Tree Canopy Cover investigation Arup did for the City of Gold Coast. Unfortunately the report is not published on Council's website, but Chris gave us some great insight from the study, including these research findings on the benefits of street trees:

  • customers spend 12% more at shopping precincts with attractive, tree-lined streets

  • 10% vegetation cover can reduce daytime surface temperatures by 1 degree Celcius

  • neighbourhoods with more than 40% green space have 1.1% lower rates of Type 2 diabetes

  • working environments with trees and green space reduces stress and results in improved productivity and lower levels of absenteeism in employees

The investigation of the Gold Coasts tree canopy cover showed the significant variation in tree coverage between suburbs. New greenfield developments with small lot sizes present a particular challenge as there is very limited space available to plant trees in back yards. For many new suburbs, street trees are therefore essential to reducing the heat-island effect higher-density development.

But not everyone wants trees in their garden or on the verge as they just see them as a maintenance problem. An interesting point shared was the importance of messaging in getting support for the greening of urban areas. The example was given about how a community had limited interest in street trees, until they were made aware of the annual savings in their electricity bill due to reduced airconditioning.

With global warming and the densification of our suburbs there is a need to increase the greeing of our suburbs. This will support the creation of liveable, sustainable communities where people choose to walk and cycle.

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