Monday, August 29, 2016

Northbourne Avenue trees and light rail - facts not fiction

A diseased tree being removed from Northbourne Avenue (Canberra Times)
Yes the trees are going
Yes they will be replaced (with more than there are now)
Yes they will be replaced with semi-mature trees 4 to 5 metres high
No tree that is removed before construction begins is because of light rail.
No Northbourne Avenue will not be defoliated permanently

There will be more trees when we have light rail, then when we didn't. 

The trees on Northbourne Avenues median strip will be removed during the construction of light rail. Trees are being removed now because they are diseased or damaged. Construction has started on the light rail project, but it is not yet at the stage where trees will be removed on Northbourne Avenue. See this post on the light rail construction timeline.

Fact - There are only 202 healthy trees left along Northbourne Avenue after years of disease and storm damage to the current planting. Many of these would have to be replaced over time in any case.

Fact - When light rail construction concludes an extra 1000 trees will be planted to replace those removed.

Fact - semi-mature Eucalyptus Mannifera will be approximately 4-5 metres high when first planted during the construction phase of Capital Metro. The NCA endorse this species.

Fact - light rail tracks will occupy about seven metres of the total 27-metre wide median strip, leaving about 10 metres on either side for landscaping and trees

Northbourne Avenue with light rail, mature trees and sympathetic landscaping 
In time the entrance to the Nations capital will become a grand tree lined boulevard, with trees and light rail. People may actually enjoy walking or cycling along it. It will be more than simply a funnel for cars and a long strip of sickly gum trees. It will be the entrance we have needed since Federation.

Many trees have fallen since the current planting matured, and they continue to fall or be removed on safety grounds. Sometimes this program is misinterpreted as being part of the light rail project, and those with an anti light rail agenda fulminate and distort reality in their political campaign. Even the Canberra Times (Independent always...) plays this game with misleading headlines.

Example - "First Northbourne tree removals costing $32,000" implies that the trees being removed are part of the first stage of light rail construction. In fact the removal was about public safety.

"the tree removals were not linked to the government's planned city to Gungahlin tram line, which will see 444 trees cut down on Northbourne from later in the year. They will be replaced with 671 new trees, expected to be grown at the Yarralumla Nursery. On the Federal Highway, 211 trees will be removed and 157 new trees planted."

Understandably it is hard to get the true facts on tree removal along Northbourne when even the local newspaper distort the truth to sell papers. That is why this website will alway provide a range of views to enable you to form your own.
Northbourne Avenue has had several generations of tree plantings in its lifetime. It is a harsh environment for native trees, and their lifespan is significantly shorter in a congested urban area, than sitting peacefully in Namadgi. In 2015 the ACT Government advised that:
"The selection of a suitable replacement tree species for the Northbourne corridor is significant as it represents the fourth generation of trees to be planted within the median since around 1913.
“Many of the trees remaining in the median on Northbourne Avenue are in decline and will need to be replaced in the near future regardless of the light rail project,” Mr Corbell said.
“Between 2010 and 2014 the number of trees on the Northbourne Avenue and Federal Highway median of the light rail corridor reduced from 802 to just 484 through failing health, storm damage and removal of dead and dangerous trees. Furthermore, the 2014 assessment of the trees in the corridor found only 59% of the remaining trees were healthy."

In June 2015 the ACT Government informed the public that:
"The light rail corridor between Gungahlin and City will see an increase of nearly 1000 extra trees as part of Capital Metro stage one according to the recently released environmental impact statement for the project, Minister for Capital Metro Simon Corbell said today.
“Although the project requires the removal about 860 existing trees along Flemington Road, the Federal Highway and Northbourne Avenue there will be 1,800 new trees planted in their place,” Mr Corbell said.
“This includes the replacement of about 450 Eucalyptus elata along the Federal Highway and Northbourne Avenue with approximately 700 Eucalyptus mannifera.
“This will result in fantastic medium to long-term results for the aesthetic of the gateway to Canberra but the government is also exploring possibilities for the staging of replacement of the existing trees and the procurement of pre-grown replacements in order to minimize the short-term visual impact of these changes.
The Eucalyptus elata have been struggling over recent years and through natural attrition the number of these trees in this area have reduced from more than 800 in 2010 to about 480 in 2014.  Many of these remaining trees are in decline and only 59% are rated as being in good health. 
“Eucalyptus mannifera is a common tree in Canberra with 100,000 already planted in our urban forest, including as boulevard trees in areas like Captain Cook Crescent in Griffith.  The new plantings will emphasise the ‘bush capital’ look and uphold the character of Northbourne Avenue as a grand boulevard,” Mr Corbell said.
“The Capital Metro project provides a key opportunity to redefine the gateway to the nation’s capital and improve the landscape character for the light rail corridor for all residents and visitors to enjoy. Development of light rail stage one provides an opportunity to refresh the Northbourne Avenue, Federal Highway and Flemington Road corridors, adorning the alignment with new native and exotic trees
“An opportunity also exists to improve the landscape character of Flemington Road, which at the moment doesn’t feature many trees in the median. The draft EIS identifies an opportunity to greatly improve the visual appeal and amenity of the corridor through tree planting in the verges and median.”
A number of native and exotic trees are proposed to be planted along Flemington Road and the Federal Highway. A key focus for the Flemington section of the light rail corridor will be to compliment the surrounding native temperate grassland and lowland woodland character."

Even the ACT Conservation Council appreciate the need for tree replacement.

Of course, politicians will ignore facts and create their own reality where any tree that falls along Northbourne, or is removed for safety reasons is somehow related to the light rail project. despite the facts presented here that shows that many of these trees will have to be replaced regardless of whether light rail was coming down Northbourne Avenue or not. These people are lying to win votes. They don't really care for trees, they just don't want light rail and will use anything they think people will fall for, even cheap deceptive publicity stunts.
Canberra Liberal candidate Elizabeth Lee deliberately misleading people in an attempt to win votes

Canberra Liberal candidate Candice Burch misleading the public to win votes

This is Northbourne Avenue. We deserve better.

For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  

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