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    NSW Councils considering urban forest strategy to combat El Nino and urban blight

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    An award-winning urban forest strategy is being considered by NSW Councils to deal with the environmental challenges facing the community.

    Urban renewal expert and communications specialist Yvonne Lynch will be joining NSW Councils to share and discuss how they can adapt the 202020 Vision Plan to their local area.

    Lynch also ran a master class at Parks and Leisure Australia’s National Conference on Monday 26 October to provide practical and creative insights to how NSW local governments can grow an urban forest aligned to their unique context.

    Lynch led the City of Melbourne’s multidisciplinary Urban Forest & Urban Ecology Team whose work has been recognised and awarded nationally and internationally for its progressive approach to urban forestry, climate adaptation and citizen participation. 

    A national plan that targets a 20 per cent increase in urban green space by 2020 will require each urban council in Australia to develop an urban forest strategy, which has the potential to radically transform not only the local community, but also the climate, productivity and health of cities.

    Sydney is facing significant challenges from traffic congestion, soaring house prices, rising climates and urban blight risk. Increasing urban green space can mitigate some of these issues and help vulnerable communities to become El Nino prepared.

    Commenting on the Penrith City Council’s recent adoption of the Urban Forest Strategy, Penrith Mayor Karen McKeown said they have identified hotspots in their urban areas and are now looking at cost-effective and simple ways to help cool the city. She added that their strategy will deliver long term benefits for people who choose to live, work and play in the city.

    Candice Delaney, Senior Research Consultant at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney agrees that tree cover and ground surface vegetation can play a major role in minimising the impact of extreme heat events. For instance, a broad canopy cover can reduce ground surface temperatures by up to 8°C, decrease irrigation demands of lawns and trees, and lower energy costs of the built environment.

    Delaney underlined the need for clear policy and leadership in mitigating heat waves in urban areas and achieving urban cooling. She added that establishing a connected urban forest will have a multitude of benefits for local communities and for urban biodiversity and will improve the liveability of cities.

    How well Australia responds to the El Nino threat will be determined by its ability to adopt urban forest and water sensitive urban design strategies. To help Local Governments overcome some of the most common barriers to the creation of more, and better, green space, the 202020 Vision in conjunction with the City of Melbourne and the Victorian Government have developed the How to Grow an Urban Forest guide.

    This guide and City of Melbourne’s key insights will be shared with NSW Councils to encourage further progress and commitment to an urban forest approach.

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