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“Between a human and a tree is the breath. We are each other’s air.”

—Margaret Bates

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The green canopy of these beautiful River Red Gums soften and enhance the suburban landscape in Victoria Avenue, but for how much longer we do not know. An application has been submitted to council for the removal of these trees.

There is a wild beauty in the statuesque older trees that thrust their limbs skyward above our suburban dwellings. These trees provide numerous benefits to humans for free and without any demands, except perhaps to be allowed to live. Sadly more and more of our big old trees are disappearing from suburban areas and in most places big tree species are no longer being planted. Undoubtedly this urban forest adds value and prestige to areas like Unley and if we don’t act now to halt the loss of trees, in a generation all our Adelaide suburbs will resemble stark concrete deserts. Yet most people fail to even notice the demise of these trees, some of which stood tall and proud before Europeans even set foot on this land.

In February Unley Mayor Lachlan Clyne wrote to the Save Unley Trees Campaign advising that from August 2016 to January 2017 there were 29 applications for removal of significant and regulated trees with 20 approved. Our research shows that from May 2016 to April 2017, applications were submitted to the council to remove a total of 63 significant and regulated trees on private land. Of these, 39 were approved to be cut down, equating to roughly 3 trees every month.  Imagine what our suburbs will look like in 10 years time if this rate of tree removal continues. 

We, as human beings, have a long history of reliance on trees for shelter, food and fuel. This connection is reflected in the health effects we gain from exposure to trees. A number of studies have found that walking, sitting under, or even simply having a view of a tree can improve our physical and psychological health. Nature play for children and adults are in vogue and rightly so. What a bonus it is then to live in areas where you can access the health giving benefits of trees by simply stepping into your backyard or strolling down to the local street.

The value of trees also extends to the health of the community. There is great concern about the effects of climate change. One of the simplest and low cost ways to combat air pollution and rising temperatures is to have a good mature tree canopy.

Then there is the biodiversity that is reliant on trees. A mature gum tree for instance can provide homes and food to a variety of birds and animals. Given that another great catastrophe of our time is the rapid decline in biodiversity, the protection of habitat for other animals and birds is of vital importance and we cannot simply relegate such responsibilities to distant rural areas. It is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that our little part of the world is a healthy space for humans and the other native creatures that inhabit it. The majority of Australians live in urban areas and these urban habitations are spreading further and further out at a rapid pace. So it is our responsibility as urban dwellers and inhabitants of this planet to respond in meaningful ways in our local area to globally important issues of climate change and biodiversity loss.

We could keep extolling the virtues and importance of trees to human beings but in many ways it comes down to the simple notion of respect and love. In our scientific, rational era, emotions are seen as irrelevant to issues of development, planning and progress. Yet in the last decade places like New Zealand are giving legal rights to natural entities(1). This excerpt from The Advertiser on 21 March 1933 by journalist Ernest Whitington, about the Eucalypts lining Brownhill Creek near Heywood Park, is as applicable now as it was then:

“I honour these men who love our gum trees and do something really practical to preserve them. I’m sure posterity will bless them for it”.

So let’s all do what we can to save the trees we cherish in Unley and across Adelaide’s suburbs. As they recently did in Melbourne(2), let’s write love letters to these life-nurturing trees and send it to those in power, the politicians and councils, who are currently approving the alarming level of tree loss across the state. A tree is not like a piece of Ikea furniture. It cannot simply be replaced by planting another one. We do need to keep planting trees, but we also need to be much more circumspect in our removal of trees, especially our significant trees, only doing so if they are diseased, declining or dead.  In this way we will pass down to future generations some beautiful green liveable areas like Unley instead of bleak concrete deserts.

(1) This year (2017) New Zealand recognised the Whanganui River as a living entity with same legal right as a human person.

In 2008 Ecuador included in its Constitution the Rights of Nature that acknowledge that nature in all its life forms has “the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles. And we – the people – have the legal authority to enforce these rights on behalf of ecosystems. The ecosystem itself can be named as the defendant.”

In 2010 Bolivia passed the Law of the Rights of Mother Earth which gives rights to all of nature.

(2) Melbourne has a wonderful Urban Forestry Strategy where it plans to double tree canopy cover by 2040 by planting 3000 trees annually and only removing existing public trees if they are dead, declining, structurally poor or hazardous. As part of this Strategy, the trees were mapped and assigned a number and people could send an email to report damaged branches, vandalism or other problems. Instead there was an outpouring of love letters for various trees around the city.  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/29/city-of-melbourne-prepares-to-see-some-emails-lovely-as-its-trees 

Anne Wharton and Dinali Devasagayam, June 2017

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The setting sun bathes this stately old River Red Gum with a golden glow. Anne has grown up with this tree, which was already well established when her Great Grandmother built her childhood home. An application to remove this significant tree will be assessed at the July Development Assessment Panel (DAP).

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Dear members and friends,

FOCUS has received several messages of disappointment with the content of the Deputation we made to Council last Monday night. We provide the following information for the information of members. 

For those who were not present, we want to let you know that Council will hold a Special meeting tonight – Thursday – at 7 00 pm to make Final decisions on the DPA for Unley Central. 

Immediately prior to Monday night’s meeting, various members of FOCUS’ committee held a number of meetings and lengthy phone calls with individual councillors. From these we formed a firm view that it was unwise to continue to hold out for a height limit of 5 storeys West of Unley road. Partly because the view was expressed that the Minister was unlikely to accept such a low level, and might remove all further consideration of the DPA and undertake it himself which the legislation enables him to do.

We were advised that a number of Councillors would reject calls for 5 storeys.

But also because we understood and this has since been confirmed that existing State Government policy allows any proposed development with an estimated cost of over $3 million can be referred by the developer to the Controller – General, and the decision to approve the development or not is then given to the Development Assessment Commission. Council would have no say.

Now, $3 million is a very small amount when significant buildings are being designed. So the FOCUS Committee formed the view that to hold out for a limit of 5 storeys would, in practical terms, be of little point

So FOCUS stated on Monday night that we would not oppose 9 storeys, although we greatly preferred a limit of 7 storeys. We did not support 9. Nor agree with it. But in order to focus attention on the critical need to preserve the Village Green, Memorial Gardens, Mornington House and other heritage buildings in DPA zone we decided to reduce our demands for the large sites on Western Side of Unley Rd which we cannot control but will try to influence decisions made and support residents. 

Lastly, we want to say to FOCUS members, and to the wider community, as respectfully and sensitively as we can, that yes, most of the 295 submissions to the review of the DPA were opposed to ”high rise development” in the centre Zone.  

But that is not the only issue that Council will take note of when reaching decisions tomorrow night. Many people present on Monday night clearly felt very strongly that if the community says, “you must not allow high-rise”, then the Council must give effect to that view. As one person said, “you are our voice, this is what we want you to say’.

But, having followed the issues of heritage protection and character in our City over many, many years, FOCUS expects that Council will also be thinking about:-

  1. The Minister’s intent to achieve more dense development in centre zones across Adelaide. And his ability to take his own decisions if communities don’t offer ideas which are somewhat akin to his.
  2. Council has for many years had an intent, maybe not a policy, but a keen interest in achieving “redevelopment of opportunities” in the Centre Zone
  3. The concessions made by Government in the past in granting very important protection about demolition and new building design in the Historic precincts of Unley – these remain in place today – and an understanding that more dense development might be permitted in other parts of the City in future years.

We see the protection of the Village Green “block” as absolutely paramount. Your Committee believes that the position it took to Monday night’s meeting offers the best prospect of getting decisions to achieve this at tomorrow night’s meeting. A key plank of our position is that the “Block” should be totally excised, that is, removed from the DPA process completely.

Thank you for your support and I hope this email helps you understand our position.
Please contact me on 0438723001 if you would like to discuss any of these issues.

Yours faithfully

Ros Islip

President FOCUS

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Shaping the Future of Unley –

The draft Development Plan for the Unley Central Precinct is being significantly revised following public feedback.

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Be informed – attend Council’s Public Meeting when Elected Members (only) participate in a workshop session on revisions to the Plan.

After this meeting make sure your Councillors know your views before the Development Plan is finalised! [Further meetings 14 & 27 March]

When: Monday 6 March 2017
Where: Unley Civic Centre, Oxford Terrace, Unley

Time: 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Contact: Ros Islip-0438723001 Warren Jones–0419852622
RSVP: by email or telephone by 3 March 2017

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Following is an update on the Unley Central DPA process from the City of Unley.

Dear respondent to the public consultation process,

The Unley Central DPA process is nearing its anticipated conclusion, so this letter is to provide an update on the status and remaining opportunities for you to attend meetings where this DPA will be discussed by Council.

The City Strategy and Development Policy Committee (CSDP) of Council and Council have received all respondents’ feedback, and will be further considering this at meetings in March. There was a significant number of respondents and a wide variation of views, so it is taking some time to compile the necessary reports for Council and Committee to consider. To assist in this process, there will be a further briefing of the CSDP Committee and Council Members on 6 March at 6.30 pm in the Unley Civic Centre. While the meeting gallery will be open to the public, there will be no public presentations or representations at this meeting.

This briefing will be the last opportunity for CSDP Committee members to clarify matters pertaining to the policy under consideration before their next meeting (also open to the public) on 14 March at 7.00pm, where the Committee will make recommendations to Council regarding the DPA.

The March Council meeting on 27 March will then consider the Committee’s recommendations and make a recommendation to the Planning Minister regarding the DPA.

Council has reached the end of the time available to it to prepare the Draft DPA for the Minister. If for some reason Council is unable to make a recommendation to the Minister at the March Council meeting, it will need to seek an extension of time from the Minister. The Minister may approve such a request, or may follow alternate paths with the DPA.

Council will further correspond with you after the March Council meeting, to update you on the DPA’s progress.

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The December 2016 Development Register is now available, please click on the map image below to view an interactive map and report.

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From Shaping the Future of the Unley Precinct (PDF, 7 Mb)

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