The ACT Government has released new laws for consultation to better protect Canberra’s trees from unsustainable development and to help grow the urban forest for future generations.
The proposed new Urban Forest Bill 2022 will repeal and replace the Tree Protection Act 2005, which only applied to leased land, to improve tree protection on both public and private land and encourage the shared care of Canberra’s trees.
The Bill will work towards the Government’s commitment of a 30 percent tree canopy cover or equivalent by 2045. Changes include:
• All trees on public land will now be regulated, regardless of their size
• More trees on private land will be regulated; all trees more than 8 meters tall, with a canopy 8 meters wide, or with a trunk circumference of 1.4m, could be covered by the bill. (The current Act covers trees 12 meters tall, or with a canopy 12 meters wide.)
• A new Canopy Contribution Framework will ensure that when regulated trees are approved for removal, they must be replaced through new planting. If new planting is not possible, a financial contribution (determined by a tree valuation formula) will need to be made to fund the planting and maintenance of trees nearby.
• Property developers’ replanting requirement or financial contribution will depend on the size and location of the tree they seek to remove, and will increase depending on the zoning of the land they are developing. Tree removal in higher density areas will require more replanting (or a higher financial contribution) to compensate for the high community impact of tree removal in these areas.
• A tree bond system will protect trees that nearby development might damage, by placing a financial value on the trees, paid as a bond.
The criteria for tree damaging activity (including removal) will remain the same. The proposed changes in the new legislation will introduce a tree bond scheme and establish the Canopy Contribution Framework. The Canopy Contribution Framework will not apply to dangerous trees that pose an immediate threat to safety.
“As Canberra grows, there will be more development, and we want to ensure that as this occurs, we keep what we love about our city, including its tree canopy,” said Chris Steel, ACT Minister for Transport and City Services.
“These proposed laws will help protect and grow our tree canopy to reduce the urban heat island effect, the impact of climate change, and retain the leafy character of Canberra.
“They will also disincentivise property developers from removing or damaging trees, encouraging more sustainable building design practices.
“For the first time, if a tree is approved for removal, more trees must be planted to ensure our tree canopy continues to grow.
“Tree bonds will also provide a strong financial message to developers that valuable trees close to a construction site must be given a high level of protection as work occurs.”
This legislation follows an extensive review into the Tree Protection Act 2005, and implements actions of the of the ACT Urban Forest Strategy 2021-2045, which was developed after consultation.
To view the draft bill and provide feedback, visit: https://www.yoursayconversations.act.gov.au/urban-forest-bill.