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Environment: Tree Canopy

The dust has settled after the WA Local Government Association's conference on the state of our Tree Canopy (spoiler: it's grim), and WA Tree Canopy Advocates (WATCA) are calling for the state government to urgently set a 30% Tree Canopy Target by 2040, to combat the smallest and fastest shrinking canopy of all the capital cities: just 16%*. By comparison, Melbourne has 30%, Sydney 44% and Brisbane 79%. They also have big targets for the future.

With the hottest summers and the weakest tree protections in the nation, a Tree Canopy Target is crucial to addressing the Heat Island Effect caused by too few trees.

Capital cities across the nation have legislated, some decades ago, to prevent removal of large trees on private property. Perth has none, and it's past time we did.

The City of Nedlands are trying to change its rules to make it mandatory to obtain a development approval before removing a tree with a canopy diameter of ≥6m and or height of ≥8m. They have received 91% support from the community. If Council endorses the change, it goes before Planning Minister Rita Saffioti for a final decision.

Regulation is essential, as is a sustained commitment and resources to dramatically increase our tree canopy. To date we don't even have a target. Without legislation, as Mayor Karen Vernon observed, unregulated removal of trees on private land is undoing the heavy lifting by councils. Meanwhile, we wait for news about Nedlands, and hope the Minister makes the right decision for our futures.

According to latest Department of Planning, Lands & Heritage data (2020), tree canopy makes up 8% of private land in Belmont and 12% in Victoria Park.

Since 2016, Victoria Park canopy has increased in parks and roads, but not on private land. In Belmont, only canopy around roads has increased slightly, while coverage in parks and on private land has fallen.

*Data by Aerial mapping specialists Nearmap.

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