THE continuing loss of trees on the Mornington Peninsula has prompted calls for the council to adopt a strategy to halt “tree recession”.
Cr Steve Holland wants a tree canopy (urban forest) strategy presented to council for adoption before 1 August 2023, but with an initial timeline, budget and implementation report presented to council before 1 January.
The strategy would apply to all areas on the peninsula within the urban growth boundary, with the aim of substantially increasing canopy cover across residential and commercial areas by a yet to be determined percentage and date.
Holland said tree removal and loss was a significant issue on the peninsula, an area loved by most residents for its rich and thriving flora.
He said the strategy would not only recognise the value of established vegetation in relation to the character of townships and the wellbeing of residents, but it would also increase flora diversity and improve the health of local ecosystems and mitigate the urban heat island effect and reduce average ground temperatures in summer.
“We are experiencing a tree recession,” he said.
“This policy aims to recognise the value of established vegetation and the effect tree canopy coverage has on the character of our townships.
“Many of us live on the Mornington Peninsula precisely because it’s not a concrete jungle and it’s going to take many years to re-establish a healthy tree canopy.
“In many cases it may not be so much about halting tree removal as it is about encouraging more planting, not just on private property but also on public land including nature strips. We’re looking at how that can be more easily permitted.
““If you have to remove a tree or a tree dies, plant one or two to replace it.”
Ecologist Mal Legg said tree loss on the peninsula was also devastating for wildlife, with the region home to a large variety of native birds that need trees to nest in, and 25 per cent of native vertebrates relying on tree hollows.
He said that while the planning scheme gave some protection to trees and vegetation, more should be done to stop land clearing.
Cr Holland said the strategy may necessitate the amendment of existing council policies, including those relating to nature strip landscaping.