Urban forests: Melbourne’s plan to green the city

Australia’s second largest city has unveiled a $19.1 million plan to unleash a sea of green across the city by boosting urban forests and decorating buildings with ‘vertical greening.’ 

Government News has also learned City of Melbourne Council will next week reveal details of a ‘demonstration green roof’ as part of its 2019-20 budget.

The news comes just days after council approved plans to build a living ‘skyfarm’ in the city.

The centrepiece of the Green Our City Strategic Action Plan is a $4.2 million commitment to plant at least 3,400 trees in the next year and to help council care for more than 80,000 trees.

The plans will also see council increase the quality of green roofs and vertical greening across the municipality, where there are already 40 green roofs, according to council.

Budget documents describe plans to “progress a planning scheme amendment to improve sustainability performance and deliver green infrastructure on buildings.”

Parks and gardens across the city will get a makeover under the budget pledge, with council making a $19.1 million investment in projects to make the city more sustainable, including $7.1 million in upgrades across 480 hectares of parks and gardens.

Melbourne’s budget includes a $28.7m investment in public open space.

The plans will see council spend $1.9 million to implement the first year the strategic plan.

Water management overhaul

A radical overhaul of council’s water management also features in the budget, with the city set to roll out a $4.2 million plan to collect and reuse rainwater in a bid to protect their iconic gardens from drought.

Acting Lord Mayor Arron Wood said the investment would help the city conserve water as temperatures continue to rise.

“This summer was Melbourne’s hottest on record so it’s important we conserve our water. That’s why we’re investing $4.2 million in our strategy to collect and re-use rainwater across the city. Our projects to renew drains and harvest stormwater will protect our iconic gardens from drought and extreme weather conditions.”

The budget pledge also includes sweeping measures to convert the city’s facilities to entirely renewable energy under the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project. 

The energy, which will come from a 80MW windfarm near Ararat, will power councils street lights, recreation centres, libraries and Town Halls.

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44 thoughts on “Urban forests: Melbourne’s plan to green the city

  1. Great to see this proactive plan. One for the essentisl steps we must do to limit climate change. Roof top gardens producing food for the cities coffees also reduces our carbon footprint and traffic congestion from delivery vehicles.

      1. Fantastic news – local government showing the way on climate action AND improving liveability of large cities !!!

      2. I’d like to know how you are going to incentivise people to conserve and reuse water, please?

        1. Lindy, states govt have been through drought conditions before. In fact last time I read about it Victoria was on permanent Stage 2 water restrictions. This an excellent idea and if people don’t want to participate, then suffer the consequences. In case you haven’t noticed we had next to no rain for almost 18 months.

    1. What a waste of money! How r u going to mow them? And what about water soaking into the rooftops causing problems with damp? U need to research the problems before u do it!

      1. Hi Lisa. 1: Where does improving the living space count as a waste of money? 2: Mowing is not required; a grassy lawn is the least effective use of growing space and also the most boring – there are much better ideas out there. 3: The technology for this proposal has been around and in practical active use for many years, there’s no reason to delay. This is a small step if we consider mining for oil or coal, but it’s an important step in terms of cooling the city, preserving water and reducing floods, cleaning the air, and making the place better able to resist the worst of summer and winter weather. We have already done the research, it’s time to get our hands dirty 🙂

      2. Lisa, there are dozens of cities around the world which are or have greened parts of their cities. You thinking is a little limited if you think they haven’t already worked out the issues.

      3. I’m sure they’re planning to spend millions on a scheme like this without any forethought at all, and they certainly wouldn’t be able to get any pointers from the many cities that are doing it all over the world…

      4. I m pretty sure this idea has been tried successfully in other countries. Also city planners, engineers and architects would of researched thoroughly. Feel free to correct me. I might learn something.

      5. Lisa Murray perhaps you could visit Town Hall 2 in Melbourne and go look at the roof garden that has been operating for over 10 years now. The entire building is environmentally friendly.

  2. This is a great example of how we can continue to progress collaboratively ensuring a healthy economy and healthy environment. Well done Melbourne, I hope this will encourages all states and councils to follow the example.

  3. This makes me reconsider handing back my Australian passport after this botched “climate election” outcome. Wonderful news!

    1. I was hoping that Melbourne would pick up on the global movement of greening cities as well as strategic water use. 70% of the worlds carbon emissions are generated by cities. Bravo Melbourne

  4. What an amazing concept. Leading from the front, utilising what already exists and future proofing Melbourne as a global leader, not only in the climate shift (that at the national level is denied), but also preparing for the growing population (being able to feed our own / breath fresher air) as well as fuel the new economy.

  5. Fantastic ideas and Melbourne could be a world leader in green cities and it would also be good for tourism. Develop the Botanical Gardens too. Look at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore… huge success.

  6. Leading the way ! Let’s hope that the rest of the country follow the example that Victoria is showing?

  7. Fantastic concept and leading the way in thinking outside the square. No fake grass please and how about a central city park eg Elizabeth Street Regards

  8. Sounds great. What if the councils provided compost facilities allowing household food waste to go into green garden waste bin? Nillumbik are doing it and selling the compost back to the community. Preventing food scraps from needlessly entering landfill.

  9. If you are so concerned, why not break up the cities and spread the people around the country. A concentration of people will create more pollution and a larger carbon footprint.

    1. Hi Kevin. Incorrect. The closer people live together the less they drive to access services and employment, the less energy is needed to provide services, and therefore pollution levels plummet. The ideal for a pollution-free society is we all live in one concentrated centre and let the rest of the space re-wild itelf – yay I say! What you’re thinking of is the current thinking that it’s OK for people to live great distances from their work and drive for an hour or more each morning and evening. If people lived near their work/school/etc and used public transport, the air there would be as good as anywhere! Sorry, you’ve not thought it through but that’s OK, we’re all on a new journey here.

  10. Australia needs physical models of sustainability integrated into our cities. Once established we can reference there practical and economical advantages (quote statistics etc) so that society in general can be swayed to integrate such ideas more broadly. I’d hope in future ideas such as these become mainstream and unchallenged by conservative dinosaurs.

  11. Having researched and experimented in this area for 10 years – because the plants look green does not mean they have a positive affect – when a cradle to the grave analysis of a vertical wall or green roof is carried out they can sometime have a perverse affect. Experiments with Tillandsias (airplants) have shown these amazing plant can be integrated into cities without large infrastructure cost, maintenance, or risk to the structure.
    We have had Tillandsias on top of Eureka Tower for 5 years at level 92, CH2 building for 4 years, Essendon Air port 3 years and Fed Square for 2 years – with NO watering system or soil medium – the plants simply use their unique biology to survive and grow in driest 2 years Melbourne has experienced. We checked the Tillandsias on Fed Square last Monday and they are all fine.

  12. This is amazing news absolutely love it ❤️ Go melbourne, I’m so proud to be part of this city leading the way into a hopefully brighter future. Hopefully once other cities of Australia see Melbourne’s forward thinking sustainable progress they will start to follow suit.

  13. This is a really good start – and there are wonderful examples in European cities to follow, though perhaps without our climate changes. Iw oddly also like to see the councils of Melbourne enforce set-backs on all new developments to provide for green space and tree planting in and around all new developments, rather than allow for building to the boundary line and covering such high percentages of the site footprint with hard building and hard landscaping. Allowing for water permeable playing is also a good direction when thinking about managing stormwater in our built up environments.

  14. My question relates to the timescales. When is this plan to be implemented? I see a lot of positive support, and I see the comment that a ‘demo’ version is included in the 2019-20 budget – is a demo garden going to be the size of a city block or the roof of a gelato van?

    We know this idea has solid science and practical application in the real world so I would encourage all interested citizens to request a definite timescale for implementation including details of the size of each demonstration/implementation stage a s we proceed. It’s not going to counteract the damage caused by felling old timber stands in Gippsland which also need to be stopped urgently. But it will certainly improve the central city climate and deflect the worst of climate chaos to some degree. there’s no cause to delay, so let’s get going now – and have those rooftops ready to plant up in the Spring 🙂

  15. Obvious commitment to a greening future vision for the City of Melbourne- but prone to failure without attention to detail. Like any structure of substance, a sound foundation must be built to underpin its stability and resilience. How much attention will be paid to establish and maintain Soil Health in support of optimum plant growth and health? It’s the little things that count. In this case soil microbial life essential in supporting plant health but difficult to adequately manage in a concrete environment without specialist design and support is the key.

  16. $4.2 million commitment to plant at least 3,400 trees . $1235.00 per tree, time to open a nursery.

  17. Australia is so far behind the rest of the world on climate change all the cities need to comply with this

  18. This is great news not only for the environment but also for our health. Creating green spaces encourages increased physical activity which reduces the risks of a number of chronic diseases (this is why it is part of the World Health Organisation’s Ottawa Charter for health promotion). For all the fiscally minded out there, increasing physical activity levels could result in significant cost savings in the health system (See Determinants of Health at https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/australias-health-2018/contents/table-of-contents).

  19. This is fabulous news. As a Melburnian currently holidaying in Singapore, I welcome this plan wholeheartedly. Melbourne City Council can do nothing better than emulate what the Singaporean government has achieved. Once known as The Garden State, Victoria pales into insignificance when one has seen the Garden by the Bay precinct, in particular the Flower and Cloud Domes.

  20. Way to go Melbourne!
    A great example to follow . Thanks for leading the way and sharing your knowledge and experience.

  21. Thats brilliant. So good to see a government that hesrd the voice of the people and makes positive changes

  22. Go Melbourne! Thank you Council for being so forward thinking. Can’t see any negatives, hopefully other cities in Australia will follow suit

  23. The article was up to the point and described the information very effectively. Thanks to blog author for wonderful and informative post.

  24. very important initiative – has council perfected a green roof retrofit? there are so many existing flat commercial and residential rooftops which could be “greened” to contribute to reduction in the urban heat island.

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