The planting of 500,000 trees to create cooler spaces for residents of Melbourne’s western suburbs has been unveiled by the Victorian government.
It is hoped that the $5 million initiative to plant new trees across six local councils that have been earmarked as home to growing populations will improve air quality in the western suburbs and have a significant cooling effect.
Acting premier James Merlino said that the experience of the pandemic reminded the community of the importance of physical and mental health to have green open spaces close to home.
“These trees will mean more families in the western suburbs can enjoy a cooler, cleaner environment around them,” he said.
The problem of an ‘urban heat island’ is worst felt in Melbourne’s west compared with other metropolitan areas, which in 2018 had a recorded urban area canopy cover of 5.5%, compared with 17.4% in the inner south-east, and 25.9% in the east.
In a statement released on Thursday, the government said it hoped the additional vegetation will also provide new habitats for urban biodiversity, and improve links between existing trees and parks in the west.
“The trees bolster Victoria’s efforts to tackle climate change, helping meet our ambitious targets to cut greenhouse gases by 45-50% by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
“They will also help us realise the goals of Plan Melbourne 2017 to 2050 by greening and cooling our city,” the statement read.
Energy, environment and climate change minister Lily D’Ambrosio added that in addition to 22 new upgraded parks in Melbourne’s west, under a $154 million Suburban Parks Program, planting an extra 500,000 trees would help meet the government’s climate change agenda.
“These trees, together with our investment in suburban parks, will help Victoria tackle climate change and support our goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050,” D’Ambrosio said.
Plans to plant the trees, saplings and more mature specimens, are scheduled to start in September. The government will consult with experts about the best types of trees to plant, and then make funding available for them through grants to community organisations and local councils.