See the Urban Forest for the Trees

Booyeembarra Park - by Garry Gillard

Booyeembarra Park – by Garry Gillard

See the urban forest for the trees

It has been expressed many times within the local media, in community debates, in the Freo 2029 community visioning process and in café conversation: Fremantle people love our beautiful parks, our pristine beaches, the majestic trees and soft landscapes. They breathe life into our city and joy into our lives and we want to keep and care for what we have and add more green spaces where and when we can.

Last year I initiated the Green Plan Working Group to address key questions on how we retain, enhance and expand our city’s greenery. We gathered a group of experts, who volunteered their time and expertise to work with council to tackle the big challenges: like how to stay green in a drier, warming climate; the tough challenges: like what can we do to protect trees on private land; and the practical challenges: like how to ensure everyone in Freo has easy access to quality, useful green public spaces.

After three months investigation and analysis, we have a working draft of a revised Green Plan that will help us to achieve these important aims. But we want to make sure we haven’t missed anything – so we’re inviting the community to get involved as we prepare the final document for council consideration.

In order to help inform the Green Plan, we have undertaken detailed mapping of the existing green spaces within our city. Combined with demographic and land use analysis, this has helped us to establish what portion of the population live within easy walking distance (400m) of useable public open space, and where there is a deficit or need for more as our city grows. We‘ve been able to identify key walking and cycling links in need of more vegetation to cool the immediate vicinity and make walking and cycling more comfortable.

We have also been investigating ways of ensuring our green spaces are adequately reticulated, with opportunities for water recycling, including tapping into waste water sources. The selection of appropriate vegetation to reduce water use while providing suitable landscaping has also been investigated.

The removal of mature trees on private land has been a much-debated issue in Fremantle. The ability for council to impose our wishes on what people do with trees on their land is limited, but we want to find a way to incentivise people to keep trees on their land and to plant more. As members of our community, what do you think would be a fair and effective way to do this?

We also acknowledge the wealth of knowledge and ideas held by our community that can help the City design and implement our green spaces.  As such, we have prioritised establishing mechanisms and funding sources that will empower local communities to be involved in creating and managing our parks and public open spaces.

In keeping with this philosophy, we are encouraging community members to be part of the development of this comprehensive Green Plan. A forum will be held where people can find out about the work done to date and let us know if it meets their needs and vision for our city.

Join the discussion on Monday 23 March at 6pm in the City of Fremantle Reception Room. RSVP to

4 thoughts on “See the Urban Forest for the Trees

  1. I tried to post this a minute ago – from a phone – trying again now from a computer and hoping I dont press Post accidentally.

    I went to an excellent breakfast seminar this last Thurs with Alannah MacTiernan at the Local Govt Planners Association. Incredibly impressed with how well Alannah knows issues to a great level of detail (and from State Govt / Local Govt perspectives). She was railing against the current R Codes for multiple dwellings – which are certainly popping up as an issue in Midland as well, as more and more multi’s go up, which are pretty crappy designs and – as she said – rely on “borrowed amenity” (ie. the fact that neighbouring houses have light / air / greenery) to make them look acceptable at all. While she’s in favour of density, obviously, Perth is doing it in a dumb way which isn’t going to produce attractive results. LG”s are bound by the R codes and must accept proposals which comply. The R codes, however, don’t require “green” landscaping or useable landscaping. I’m finding on the DA’s that I assess – the ground floor is entirely carpark / bin store / accessways. Any sliver of space (1m wide or so) will get imaginatively covered by the architect with lush landscaping drawn in, but in reality will not have sun access for anything to grow there. The R codes does not require any “genuine” useable communal space, and accepts “hard landscaping” as landscaping. We have trouble getting designers to even allow enough room for maybe a 50cm strip to “slightly” screen their carpark from the road.

    She said that the City of Vincent had spent 7 years working on their Scheme with proposals to address some of these issues. However, when it got to the WAPC, these changes were knocked back. She didn’t go into great detail on this but I would think it would be extremely worth while to talk to her about it – she’s passionate! and particularly what stuff couldn’t get through the WAPC and why.

    I personally think it’s almost useless / impossible to try to save trees on private land – while the R codes is the way it is. In Swan we get people illegally clearing really precious, remnant bushland – you simply cannot prosecute unless you have a witness prepared to stand up in court and say “I saw Mr/Ms X clearing x on x day”. Aerial photos don’t cut it. And while I have some large trees on my own property, they will go when I redevelop this block, and I will plant new ones in better locations. You do not want to discourage people from planting trees in the first place, in fear that it will devalue their property. As it is, I have had 15 years of enjoyment out of them.

    Apart from this – I haven’t read your Green Plan – but would highly recommend incorporating Water Sensitive Urban Design Principles. We’ve done a few educational workshops / tours with the DOW (Emma Monk) and they have been brilliant. My personal bugbear as a planner and citizen is commercial / industrial carparks with no trees or shade – enormous heat traps. They showed us examples of how to get real trees into carparks – providing them enough water that they will thrive, without pushing up the pavement – without losing functional carbays. How? Permeable paving – carpark “islands” which are permeable (and attractive) and provide enough water for big trees – flush kerbs which allow water to run off. The thing that we need to make developers implement it (unfortunately a missing link in the chain at present) is a council guideline or specification which we could then require developers to implement, as a condition of development approval. (Eg. “landscaping in carpark to be carried out to provide shade to carparking areas, in accordance with specification g. plans to be provided prior to building permit application”.) At present -commercial and industrial premises are the worst offenders in openly telling us they hate vegetation or maintenance – they could do heaps better.

    I won’t be coming into Freo , as I live at the other end of the world, but good luck with this, hope it goes well. I hope that you may be able to get in touch with Alannah MacTiernan / Emma Monk if you haven’t already.

    Kind regards,
    Natasha Kepert

    • thanks for the great info Natasha! I’ll submit it to the discussion on your behalf 🙂

  2. In regard to your comment above – incentivising people to keep trees on their land…

    The current R codes has “open space” requirements but does not put requirements on the shape / location / useability of that open space, apart from the Outdoor Living Area which has to have a minimum dimension of 4m, usually.

    One answer may be a local planning policy to give development bonuses where there is “open space” which is of sufficient dimensions (ie. long enough and wide enough) to fit a real tree in there. I think it’s almost impossible to require people to keep an individual tree — how? — but if the space is there to “fit” a real tree, it’s a start. So perhaps a local planning policy which says that where a block has an open space area of at least 5m x 5m ….not counting areas developed with swimming pools, hard landscaping, patios, or required “Outdoor Living Area” – then there is some kind of development bonus. I would think it would be better to allow a bonus in terms of height rather than more coverage of the actual site? – In Berlin, Prague, London, buildings are normally 4-5-6 storeys, but you don’t at all feel deprived of greenery, as apartments often have views out onto trees. So you can go pretty high but still have air, light and a view of green (typically built around an “innerhof” or courtyard, between several buildings, in Berlin). This would be a much better built form to encourage trees. As Alannah said, people don’t necessarily go out and sit under the trees in these places – but apartments looking out onto them enjoy the light / air / amenity that they provide.

    I guess in new development areas, it would be good to be encouraging that courtyard – Berlin-type form. You could do it through detailed area plans, but unfortunately would need the WAPC to support it.

    Good luck !

    • Hi Natasha, I agree this is a great concern!
      According to the R-Codes, “open space” includes driveways, covered alfresco and car ports – it doesn’t refer to vegetation or plants at all!
      This has been one of my greatest concerns and frustrations. one things we are investigating as part of our “Diverse Dwellings” amendment currently in development is to allow infill development as long as it includes a greater amount of open space, or which a portions must have “deep root vegetation” e.g. Trees.
      You do raise a very good point tho – what can we do to incentivise, encourage or enforce people to plant trees on new developments, not just retaining existing trees.
      I hope you’re coming to the forum on Monday, but I will make sure to raise this as one of the ideas for consideration in the new green plan.

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