Government grant for more street trees in shire comes as Labor 'ups the ante'

A state government grant to improve tree canopy in Sutherland Shire has been announced on the same day Labor promised a more extensive tree planting operation across Sydney.

The government grant of $627,717 has been provided under the Five Million Trees for Greater Sydney initiative, launched by the government in 2018.

The funding will be matched dollar for dollar by Sutherland Shire Council.

Planning Minister Anthony Roberts and Commissioner for Open Spaces and Parklands Fiona Morrison joined MPs Mark Speakman and Eleni Petinos for the announcement.

Ms Petinos said the council had applied successfully for funding for street planting in Taren Point, Jannali, Cronulla and Engadine, with 2879 trees to be planted in the four suburbs.

The funding comes after the council was heavily criticised last year for its involvement with Ausgrid in a program to remove street trees under power lines in several other suburbs and replant with more appropriate species.

The announcement of the new funding  took place at Sylvania Waters, which is one of the suburbs in the shire with the sparsest tree canopy.

An analysis in 2018 by the Department of Planning and Environment found Sylvania Waters, along with Greenhills Beach, had tree canopy cover of 0-10 per cent.

Cronulla was slightly better with 11-15 per cent.

The government's target of five million new trees by 2020 includes privately panted trees as well as those funded jointly by the government and councils.

Home owners who plant trees are invited to register them, and the number notified so far is 98,037.

Mr Speakman said the Five Million Trees  initiative would more than double Sydney’s current urban canopy cover from 16 per cent to 40 per cent.

Opposition Leader Michael Daley promised, if Labor won the March election, two million trees would be planted across Sydney in its first term, and six million by 2030.

Mr Daley said this would be the first action of a new program, Green Spaces, Great Places, which would "take into account environmental assets within the planning system".

"Labor understands the crucial importance of green spaces and tree cover in a city that will be home to an extra one million people in the next decade," he said. 

"Labor will invest $50 million over four years as part of its plan to put the environment at the centre of city planning, particularly in the fast growing region of Western Sydney where just a fifth of dwellings have tree cover."

Mr Daley said, as part of its commitment to protect the environment, the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) would be reviewed with a view to better protect trees and ensure our laws recognise the benefits that come from green spaces.

"Labor’s Green Spaces and Great Places program will assist local government, state government agencies, community organisations and private land holders to restore and enhance green spaces," he said.

"It will also assist the acquisition of land to be used for environmental, social and recreational uses by the community."

Mr Daley said the environment had been a major casualty of development "madness" in Sydney.

“A Daley Labor government will restore tree canopy, create new open spaces for people to enjoy and protect our trees into the future," he said.

"People are crying out for greenery in this city and Labor will give it to them.

“Labor will plant half a million trees a year to restore Sydney’s lungs and allow the people to breathe."