Council digitises tree planting program

A regional Queensland council’s award-winning digital initiative to increase the number of trees in the region has had some additional benefits, providing valuable data for landscaping, vegetation management and bushfire mitigation.

Bundaberg’s digitised tree planting program aims to see one million extra trees planted by the end of 2024 (Image: Bundaberg Regional Council).

Bundaberg Council’s One Million Trees program, managed through the regional council’s community engagement website, provides a platform for residents, businesess, schools and community groups to apply for free seedlings and record data about where they’re being planted.

They can also record information about trees they’ve bought themselves.

The progam aims to have one million extra trees planted by the end of 2024.

A recent webinar heard the initiative is also supporting behavioural change and promoting healthy competition between suburbs, fueling even more tree planting.

Earlier this year the program was recognised with an award for digital government by US-based digital services provider Granicus, taking out the Data for Good category.

Collaborative model

The One Million Trees project has as its model a voluntary collaboration between Council residents, businesses, schools and community groups.

More than 120,000 have been planted since the project launched in October 2020. The  website has expanded to six pages, including pages where residents can apply for a voucher for a seedling from a local supplier, record a tree planting and view an interactive tree planting map.

(L-R) Carmen Bracken, Rona Borg and Trish Mears discuss the project during a webinar on March 15, 2023

While there’s nothing new about council-led tree planting programs, they’ve traditionally been managed manually with little, if any, data collected on the number of trees and planting locations, community engagement officer Trish Mears told a webinar this month.

Automating the management of tree voucher applications and distribution has streamlined interactions between residents, Council and suppliers, and ensures that tree and planting location data is collected and well-managed through the entire process, she says

“We really wanted to automate the project,” Ms Mears said.  “These sort of tree planting programs in the past have been very much paper based, so you’d send out a voucher with rates notices, for example

“We wanted a way to make it accessible, and online was really the way to go. It’s also cut down on the paper that we use, which is another part of being environmentally sustainable and friendly.”

Extracting and analysing data

The platform is helping council to extract and analyse useful data for a range of other purposes, the webinar heard.

“Essentially a landowner can go purchase some trees, put their details in – which are of course private – and then submit it,” Bundberg’s GIS officer Rona Borg told the webinar.

“We then display it in our total number of trees. From there we can also pull out reports, spreadsheets and do analysis.”

Screenshot of Bundaberg’s interactive tree planting map at March 23, 2023.

That information can in turn be used for forward planning for environmental planning and disaster management, One Million Trees project officer Carmen Bracken said, and help target resources where they’re most needed.

“It means we can look at where we’re going to get the best outcome environmentally, economically and for the community” Ms Bracken said.

“From a vegetation management point of view, is there anything we need to consider for bushfires? What buffers need to be there? What distances are required? Where can we do larger plantings from a landscape point of view?

“The data spatially allows us to do that, and direct where we plant trees for the best outcomes from a landscape management perspective.”

Open for partnerships

The project will continue to be developed, and council is looking for external funding and partnerships with major organisations like builders and land management companies.

Mayor Jack Dempsey

“There’s a lot of day to day management to keep things going,” Ms Bracken said. “The next focus will be looking at landscape scale projects using our data and we’re interested in anyone looking to collaborate on a landscape scale project.”

Bundaberg Region Mayor Jack Dempsey says having the program recognised with an award is positive news for Council and the region’s environment.

“It’s fantastic to receive recognition for a program that will not only help Council’s carbon footprint and move towards Net Zero strategy, but will have far reaching positive impacts on the region,” he said.

“By utilising technology and consultation sessions with our residents, everyone has been offered an opportunity to take part in planting some trees while making a difference to our environment.”

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at  

Sign up to the Government News newsletter

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required