City of Sydney Greening Plan

City of Sydney Greening Plan

(Private Members Statement, 6 May, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

 I welcome the City of Sydney's new initiative to green the inner city, which is helping to build resilience against climate change and protect the health and wellbeing of residents.

Open space, parks, trees, gardens and plants are not what come to mind when most people think of global city centres but they are essential to a city's ability to function. Green coverage in most cities across the world has been rapidly eroding, but under the leadership of Lord Mayor Clover Moore, Sydney's inner city has been getting greener. Over 15,000 trees were planted in the past 15 years and over 800,000 plants have been planted since 2009. Canopy cover has increased by 23 per cent, and parks and green spaces have expanded by 13 per cent in the past 10 years. Native bushland has increased by 180 per cent and 23 community and verge gardens have been established across the city. But more needs to be done.

Climate change is set to increase both average and maximum temperatures by three degrees by 2050, and heatwaves will be longer, hotter and more frequent. Cities are vulnerable to the heat island effect, with built structures and hard surfaces re‑emitting absorbed heat to make temperatures even hotter. Natural landscapes and canopy cover have the opposite effect and can reduce ground temperature by up to 10 degrees. A greener city environment also has health and wellbeing benefits. Trees absorb pollution from traffic and clean the air. There is extensive evidence that greenery has a calming effect on emotional and mental state and can relieve depression and anxiety. The City of Sydney is rising to the challenge and has set an ambitious plan to cover 40 per cent of the inner city in vegetation by 2050, which will produce immense benefits. Targets include 23 per cent canopy cover by 2030, increasing to 27 per cent by 2050, and the city has committed to planting 700 trees each year. But it is not just streets and parks that will get greener, with a strategy to green laneways, roofs, walls, and private property.

Planning controls will promote green roofs in new developments and encourage retrofits where possible. The green factor score, a planning tool that quantifies urban greening in development projects, will be incorporated in planning controls and the development control plan with a mandatory minimum score. The council will only remove trees as a last resort and, when it does, it will compensate through a Greening Sydney Fund that will provide grants to green private land like installing green roofs, walls and facades. The city will work with local Aboriginal communities to establish new ways to design culturally sensitive green spaces and help people integrate with nature. Wider community participation will be encouraged through education programs, community gardens, city farms, bushcare and Landcare groups, and footpath gardening projects. The city will analyse sites across the local government area to ensure all residents and workers benefit from the plan. COVID‑19 has highlighted the importance of the public domain for health, wellbeing and community.

Lockdowns and work from home orders forced people to rely on public open space for exercise and downtime, and the streets and parks provided safe spaces to socialise. The Sydney electorate has diminishing opportunities to expand green space and the State Government should make use of available options. Land on William Street, Woolloomooloo, above the Eastern Distributor has long been neglected and remains in a state of disrepair. The inability to excavate the site limits its development potential, making it prime land for open space. Roads and Maritime Services owns the land and should give it to the city to manage for public recreation. The former Paddington Bowling Club is Crown land dedicated for recreation but it has been passed from commercial operator to commercial operator for decades, all seeking to squeeze as much profit from the land as possible. The site is located in a densely populated area with very low levels of open space, yet has remained unused for six years with management recently transferred again.

The Government should give it to Woollahra council to manage for community benefit in line with its intended purpose. Moore Park provides significant public open space and is in increasing demand from expanding surrounding populations, yet it is often alienated from public use. Car parking on the greens continues during events, despite light rail services. The Entertainment Quarter, which could become a hub for community sport and recreation has been earmarked for development through a lucrative unsolicited proposal. Those are wasted opportunities. Cities need open space, green canopy, plants and vegetation. I welcome the City of Sydney draft strategy to green the inner city. The strategy is currently on exhibition and I encourage all city residents, workers and visitors to provide input.

Let's work together to celebrate and protect our great city!