The second began with a report about the removal of phoenix palms from Tamihana Avenue in Matamata. The trees were removed at the request of the residents, apparently because the spines on their leaves can cause nasty infections, and the trees attract pigeons. Sadly however, when the residents were surveyed by council concerning replacements, a narrow majority of those who replied did not want any trees. Now there is an outcry from other residents who say they were not even consulted and they do want replacements.
We need to embrace urban trees; like the air we breathe, they are a commons. Yes, they can be inconvenient – they drop leaves and nuts, they sometimes obstruct views. However both for the mitigation of the heating affects of climate change, as well as for their ability to help reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution they are vital in our towns and cities. It is time our own council had a firm policy regarding green infrastructure in towns, both in gardens and streets. Meanwhile, most of us can at least plant a garden tree. The tree shown here in Vogel Street, but, sadly, recently removed, would have made a wonderful, cool place for children to play and parents to relax on a hot summer day.
Cambridge is justifiably proud of being the Town of Trees, and it is an important reason why people want to move here. The benefits of urban trees are not just aesthetic; now known as Green Infrastructure (as opposed to grey infrastructure – roads, buildings, carparks) trees provide ‘services’: environmental (cleaner air , summer cooling, decreased water run-off, biodiversity); economic (energy saving, improved house values); social (encouraging walking, social interaction, human physical and mental well-being). And the greater the total leaf surface area of the tree, the greater its benefits.
But as new developments spring up in all directions, Cambridge is in danger of losing its treed character. People want affordable housing so compact urban design is desirable. But surely there are better ways to achieve this than what we now see unfolding; individual houses crammed so close there is no room for shade trees in gardens; strips between footpath and road too narrow to support a decent-sized tree, while many of those planted in recent years have sulked, been left to grow unsightly or died.
And now Council, to its credit, is set on encouraging commuter walking and cycling, but who will be tempted to walk from their new home through hot streets to work, shop or school and then trudge home again, all hot and sweaty? We need to plan from the outset for adequate space for decent-sized street trees, determine varieties suitable to the situation, plant with care and then maintain them through their early years. We need better design, with narrower streets to slow cars, wider footpaths, separated by wider green strips for decent-sized trees that shade our footpaths and encourage people to use active transport. There is no need for compact housing to be a desert if we plan for decent-sized street trees from the outset.
February 19, 2022.
Are our Protected Trees really protected?
This amazing Black Walnut glorifies the entrance to Lola Silcock Park in Bath Street. It stands on the corner of an empty section in Le Quesnoy Place. It is a Protected Tree, but over the years various people have purchased the property, knowing the status of the tree, and have made application to have it removed. Under the STEM system of classification for Protected Trees it scores 138 points, which signifies that the tree ‘has some outstanding features that contribute to the amenity and /or heritage of the community and make appositive impact on the district.’ (Waipa District Council/Notable Trees). This score is also the trigger point to require notification of removal. Any tree scoring between 110 and 137 points can be removed without notification. The arborist’s assessment states that this ‘tree is in good condition and no threat to human, animal or plant life …. In this tree’s current setting the harm done by it is not a significant factor …. Although if the land were to be built on it would require creative planning and architecture.’
Since law changes were made some years ago concerning urban trees, Auckland City has lost more than 30% of its tree cover. Is this what we want for Cambridge, or indeed for our country, as we begin to endure the effects of climate change? Can we learn to accommodate the natural world of which we are part with more creative solutions, instead of just felling trees when they are inconvenient?
24 April, 2022.
One day it will look like this …
A recent Listener (April 9-15) included an article (Over and Out) on the world-wide trend for people departing big cities for smaller towns. Housing costs, Covid-19 and the ability to work from home are part of this trend, but research at Waikato University has detected a further driver. In their “20-minute city” survey they discovered that young and old, single or married with kids, everyone wanted two things above all:
- local shops ( unsurprising)
- “access to wilderness, gardens and parks” (surprise!)
Project leader Professor Iain White is quoted as saying “We’re hoping the 20-minute city idea will influence decision makers, because we are in danger of losing those green spaces that, actually, people value extremely highly.”
Elsewhere I have come across work, which indicates that green space/parks should be within 300 metres of any home; further away and it will not be used. This too presents a challenge to planners and councils. It is to be hoped that Waipa District Council has got this right in the new developments now springing up around Cambridge. If not it is time for urgent changes to planning rules.
Meanwhile Cambridge Tree Trust has recently planted up a small park near its base on Thornton Road. The trees are only a metre or two high at present, but in time we hope it will be a space where neighbours can wander to admire the trees, enjoy the birds, picnic in the shade, play in the open space, gather fruit.