Council proceeds with tree planting

Sutherland council isn’t letting COVID-19 get in the way of an ambitious project to plant 3,000 trees across the Shire.

Face-to-face community consultations are off and the nursery is closed to the public, but Council isn’t letting that stop its momentum.

Mayor Carmelo Pesce on April 16 unveiled the first tree of the 3K Trees 2020 project, part of a $6 million NSW government grant program to plant 5 million trees in Sydney by 2030.

Sutherland Shire is one of 20 councils awarded funding for thirty-two projects across Greater Sydney

Canopy coordinator Katie Denoon says the 3K trees project is an extension of Council’s Green Streets program which has been running since 2013.

It’s focused on bringing back the canopy in the streets and nature strips of suburban residential areas using trees suited to the local area.

“What we’re trying to achieve is increasing canopy cover in the Sutherland Shire,” Ms Denoon told Government News.

Adapting in the time of coronavirus

She says while the coronavirus pandemic has put but a bit of a dampener on the project, it’s provided an impetus for moving consultation and planning online.

In place of community consultations council has provided an interactive map, and while the nursery is closed it still offers pick-ups and deliveries, subject to social distancing.

Meanwhile, teams have been reduced to two people who are working independently from each other and consultants are given dedicated technology to use in the field to reduce the need for device sharing.

Precinct planting commencement dates have also been staggered.

“We have spatial systems that we can work off so the contractors are seeing the same system that we’re seeing and the residents can see in real time as we’re changing the system as part of a consultation map on our website,” Ms Denoon says.

“We’ve been working on this for about two-and-a-half years as part of Green Streets but it’s been a wonderful evolution and the timing of us being able to create this live has been uncanny,” she said.

Council is also prototyping a risk management plan to ensure tree planting teams can continue.

“We’ve taken it pretty seriously. We’re extremely lucky in the sense that it’s an outdoor program,” she says.

“Tree planting is something we can do largely in isolation, with additional methods applied for extra measures to keep staff and the community safe.

“If we need to slow this down to take extra precautions as the COVID-19 situation changes we will, but we’re confident we have thorough practices in place to keep our staff, contractors and the community safe while planting trees for the future through these suburbs.”

Thirty trees a day

Cr Pesce says the aim is to get 30 plants into the ground each day. He says while community engagement has been moved online it’s still central to the success of the project.

The first tree was planted Jannali and and planting will continue along streets, in reserves, school grounds and community spaces across Engadine, Cronulla and Taren Point over the coming months.

“Importantly, Council has adopted practical and innovative measures to protect staff and the community in light of COVID-19 restrictions,” Cr Pesce said.

“I’m confident the right practices are in place for the project to continue and if Council needs to adjust activities to take extra precautions as the COVID-19 situation changes, we will.”

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