The country’s largest urban greening network, the 202020 Vision, has launched a national plan of 20 ways to achieve a 20 per cent increase in urban green spaces by 2020.

A first for Australia, the document of 20 “innovative, proven, scalable and replicable solutions” were crowd-sourced from a brain’s trust of 500 cross-sector greening experts during the organisation’s Growing The Seeds tour in 2014.

The tour facilitated the exchange of ideas and discussion between a range of stakeholders – from the Government and developers, to health experts, landscapers, researchers, the United Nations, and everyone in between – and allowed the network to better understand the key obstacles to achieving more and better green spaces.

It also resulted in the release of its own Where are all the Trees? report, which found that Hobart, Brisbane and Darwin’s CBD councils were performing better than Sydney and Melbourne in urban greening, with the highest percentage of tree canopy cover among all Australian cities.

The top 20 barriers to more and better green spaces as identified by the 202020 Vision and its partners

Now, the 202020 Vision Plan has birthed a compendium of urban greening strategies that the initiative says is a “must-read for every business, level of Government and community group in Australia” that play a role in creating healthy and thriving cities.

One of the first solutions to be brought to life will be a ‘White Label Urban Forest Strategy’ for local Governments to utilise, inspired by the City of Melbourne’s ‘Urban Forest Strategy’ which is widely seen as a benchmark initiative within urban greening in the country.

This ‘White Label Urban Forest Strategy’ will be a step-by-step plan for Local Governments to create their own urban forests and tree covers, with Landscape Architect and Director of CLOUSTON Associates, Crosbie Lorimer, noting that significant contributions can be made to urban forestry without the need for major new landholdings. Instead, cities should tackle smaller, less ambitious increments.

“The prime example of how to evolve the framework of an urban forest exists in the design, management and maintenance of our parks, waterways and streets,” says Lorimer.

“Currently, many Local Councils are mowing square kilometres of grass ‘corners’ that are of no recreational value; by shifting the thinking towards replanting all of these ‘corners’, margins and corridors to native plantings, the benefits become obvious - enhanced environmental values, reduced maintenance costs, additional shade, climate change amelioration and higher land values, to name a few.

“This focus on ‘making more of what we’ve got’ has been patchy at best and in some cases non-existent across our public realm. We need to go out in search of new opportunities that focus on a better integration of planning and design in our existing land resource – and define how it adds value to place, economy, environment and experience – as the promotion of Urban Forests is unlikely to be successful when pushing ecological values only.”

Dr Sheryn Pitman, a 202020 Vision advocate who contributed to the 202020 Plan, adds that re-imagining urban habitats are important.

“Each year more of us live closer together in large towns and cities and we are facing climatic and environmental pressures with growing alarm.

“Across the vastness and diversity of Australia, each place differs; soils, weather, water, wildlife and pollinators vary enormously, and bringing together our diverse and growing knowledge is an exciting prospect.”

Collating this type of critical information is another solution discussed in The 202020 Plan – ‘The Which Plant Where Database’. Work has already begun in South Australia to develop a prototype, ‘The Plant Selector’.

“The 202020 Plan shows if you get industry and government leaders together to share their collective wisdom they can create simple, impactful pathways to reversing the urban greening crisis – it truly is collaborative impact at its best,” says Dr Anthony Kachenko, Research and Development Team Leader, and Portfolio Manager at Horticulture Innovation Australia, which started the 202020 Vision in 2013.

“These are big changes that we need to see, which is why it was so important to ask our greening and planning experts to offer solutions that were proven and piloted, rather than ‘blue-sky thinking’, and as a result we have a plan of 20 simple pathways to the future.”

The 202020 Vision is a national initiative that aims to combat the challenges of increasing urban green spaces, including the overlooking of plants and trees when plans are drawn and concrete poured. Its mission is to make Australia’s urban areas 20 per cent greener by the year 2020, and has about 150 projects under its portfolio.

Burnley Living Roofs by Hassell, a green roof research and education facility, is one of many projects part of the 202020 Vision. Photography by Peter Bennetts

View The 202020 Vision Plan