Growing calls to slow Adelaide tree axing

The Opposition has called for the state government to act to prevent tree loss, after a report showed metropolitan Adelaide’s canopy cover fell dramatically short of the target. 

Apr 11, 2024, updated Apr 11, 2024
Adedlaide's tree canopy gain is shown in green and loss in red. This new strategy outlines how to do better. Image: Green Adelaide

Adedlaide's tree canopy gain is shown in green and loss in red. This new strategy outlines how to do better. Image: Green Adelaide

Green Adelaide data published by InDaily yesterday showed that only 17 per cent of Adelaide is covered in tree canopy. 

The widely accepted target for urban areas is 30 per cent tree canopy coverage.

A 2021 conservation council report referenced in the urban forest inquiry estimated Greater Adelaide is losing 75,000 trees a year. 

The Green Adelaide data shows between 2018–2019 and 2022, 2,959,211 square metres of changed canopy due to tree removal took place, with 1,599,908 square metres of tree removal occurring in residential areas.

Opposition environment spokesman Jack Batty said the data was “damning”.

“Labor promised to fix this but two years into government all they have done is explicitly ignore recommendations on how we can protect and grow our tree canopy,” he said. 

In October last year, Parliament’s Environment, Resources and Development Committee tabled its interim report into the urban forest, which had 13 recommendations focusing on protecting and increasing tree canopy. 

Interim recommendations include repealing a planning exemption that allows property owners to cut down trees within 10 metres of their houses, and increasing fees for legally removing trees. 

The government has not implemented the recommendations of the inquiry at this stage.

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“Labor talks a big game when it comes to the environment but take no action,” Batty said.

“They have already scrapped tree planting programs, tried to develop the park lands, and now seem to be walking away from their commitments on tree canopy.

“Why doesn’t Nick Champion want to protect Adelaide’s tree canopy? While his broken promises grow, our tree canopy shrinks.” 

The latest Green Adelaide data will inform the state’s upcoming urban greening strategy, allowing councils and state government stakeholders to make well-informed decisions about tree canopy to increase Adelaide’s climate resilience. 

Champion said the government will honour its election commitment to strengthen tree protections. 

“This [election commitment] is a major body of work which will set out strict new regulations which everyone in our state must adhere to, so it’s important we don’t rush into implementing these wide-ranging changes,” he said. 

“Once adopted, I am confident South Australia will have the strongest tree protections in the country to better protect our urban tree canopy.”

The urban greening strategy will be released for public consultation later in 2024.

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