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Mark Hamilton wants "urban forest" to lower city temperatures

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Lord mayoral candidate Mark Hamilton says Adelaide should look to Melbourne to develop its own version of an “urban forest” tree canopy project to improve street appeal and offset a warming climate.

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Hamilton, a former deputy lord mayor and veteran lord mayoral candidate, said he was amazed at the amount of “glaring and bloody hot” areas around Adelaide that are not shaded by trees.

He said Adelaide should adopt a tree target across private and public land similar to the City of Melbourne’s “Urban Forest Strategy”, which aims to achieve 40 per cent tree canopy cover by 2040.

Melbourne’s strategy started in 2012 and is designed to bring inner-city temperatures down by two degrees Celsius.

The strategy also sets out to increase forest diversity by ensuring no more than five per cent of one tree species is planted in the CBD area.

Hamilton estimated Adelaide’s current tree cover to be roughly 14 per cent.

He said he did not have a set target for how much he would like that cover to increase, or when it should be achieved, but he said Adelaide should copy Melbourne’s 40 per cent target “with due diligence”.

“Adelaide doesn’t need to hire too many consultants because the work has already been done in Melbourne,” Hamilton told InDaily.

“We would be copying their plan and just adjusting it to meet Adelaide timelines.

“The idea, put simply, is to get the city and everyone recognising that we need to increase the city canopy to get as much canopy shade as possible.”

Hamilton criticised the current council for being seemingly “fixated about maintaining and planting trees of a small size”.

He said he didn’t have specific tree species in mind, but said he would like to see “big and noble” trees planted on Adelaide streets.

“Having that big tree coverage can be really transformative. The economic impact is immense in terms of property values that increase significantly when the street has a more aesthetic appeal.”

In the lead up to the council elections, Hamilton has consistently pushed his “balance the books, be transparent and run council like a business” mantra.

When asked how much his vision for increased tree coverage would cost, Hamilton said the cost was irrelevant as “the streets will need to be upgraded anyway”.

“It’s not about the cost as such, at the moment what’s happening is the council is not doing it (planting trees),” he said.

Hamilton said he would face a challenge as Lord Mayor to manage finances as the current council had “left the cupboard bare”.

“The timing is when council can afford it,” he said.

“It will most likely be an incremental cost.”

Hamilton’s vision for increasing tree coverage involves installing underground electricity in all residential and commercial streets in the city square mile and North Adelaide to make room for more street trees.

He also wants the council to develop a tree register and establish a new park lands committee above the council’s existing park lands authority.

“That committee would have some delegated authority in relation to the park lands,” he said.

“They would have a much greater focus on policy matters and questions relating to the upgrade and change of the heritage status of the park lands.”

Hamilton said he would also introduce a designated city arborist, whose role would be to advocate and nurture city trees to encourage their “condition, longevity, and ensure they’re not just cut down to be replaced with some small sapling.”

The deadline to send in ballot papers for this year’s local government elections is 5pm next Friday (November 9).

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