Wollondilly Council seeks feedback on plan to protect shire's trees

Wollondilly councillors want to ensure developers keep some mature trees at green field development sites. Pictures: Wolter Peeters and Simon Bennett
Wollondilly councillors want to ensure developers keep some mature trees at green field development sites. Pictures: Wolter Peeters and Simon Bennett

Recent bushfires have prompted Wollondilly Council to seek resident feedback on its new policy to protect the region's trees.

The council has developed a draft tree management policy which would provide developers with an incentive to retain some mature trees at future development sites.

The policy also outlines guidelines for existing residents, heritage trees and more.

Wollondilly mayor Matthew Deeth said the council had sought feedback on the policy last year but wanted to give residents another chance to have their say after the fire events earlier this year.

"In light of the recent bushfire events in our shire we are giving the community an opportunity to provide further feedback on the policy," Cr Deeth said.

"It is important to get the balance right between preserving trees of significance within our townships and new growth areas as well as protecting safety to property and life in bushfire prone areas."

Cr Deeth said the council was committed to making a balanced and informed document that assists in protecting valuable trees but also understands that the policy should consider the impacts of bushfire.

The policy recognises the increasing need to preserve and better manage trees, especially those with environmental, heritage, social and cultural significance.

Deputy mayor Matthew Gould raised the idea of an urban tree strategy at a council meeting last year.

Cr Gould told the Advertiser at the time that tree removal at development sites had caused "significant outrage" on social media.

"In housing developments where all of the trees have been knocked down it has a different feel," he said.

"It doesn't feel like Wollondilly.

"A lot of trees in the region have been here long before housing so it's obviously a very emotional topic for some people."

The City of Sydney's Urban Forest Strategy found that in one year a single tree can cool air similar to 10 air conditioners running constantly, absorb 3400 litres of storm water and filter 27kg of pollutants from the air.

The policy aims to maximise the preservation, protection, maintenance and management of trees, as well as protecting and conserving important biodiversity and wildlife corridors.

It also recognises the importance of tree canopy and the need to increase it throughout the Shire.

Streets with a tree lined canopy have shown to have 10 per cent increase in property values and urban heat mapping shows that heavily developed areas without tree canopy can be up to 11 degrees hotter than rural or natural environments.

The policy incorporates many of the common questions residents ask council staff about tree management on private property and council-controlled land.

Sutherland Shire Council has an Urban Tree Canopy Strategy in place and has been providing advice to Wollondilly Council staff in developing the draft document.

To view the policy and provide feedback, visit: yoursay.wollondilly.nsw.gov.au.