Thousands of trees are cut down unnecessarily in Australian cities every year, with a significant loss to our environment, our health and our wellbeing, according to Nursery & Garden Industry Australia (NGIA).
“Trees with years of solid growth contributing to healthier environments can be destroyed in seconds by a chainsaw, however do they really have to go and is there a better solution?” says the Technical and Environmental Policy Manager of NGIA, Dr Anthony Kachenko.
“We believe that far too many trees in urban environments are cut down as a quick solution to minor problems, many of which can be fixed in other ways.”
NGIA recommends that you objectively assess the problem, for example:
• Unwanted debris from a tree? It really is not too much trouble to sweep up leaves, twigs and bark and use for garden compost or discard as green waste.
• Overhanging branches over your home or fence? Tree branches can be selectively pruned to ensure the structural integrity of the tree is not compromised so it can continue to provide benefits for many more years to come.
• Too much shade? Most trees can be thinned to open up canopies and allowing more sunlight in.
• Uplifting pavers or pavement? Simply pruning tree roots and relaying the pavers can often solve these issues.
So where do you get expert advice?
“It is important to remember a tree lopper is in the business of cutting down trees, while an arborist will assess the site situation and provide solutions to solve your problems. In many cases a simple solution is far less expensive than tree removal,” said Dr Kachenko.
“For trees that may be diseased or dangerous to people from overhanging branches, we recommend that people consult professionals such as members of Arboriculture Australia, before calling in the tree loppers.”
The Vice-President of Arboriculture Australia and Chair of the National Urban Forest Alliance, Mr Craig Hallam, also points out that just because a tree may be diseased or have a defect, does not mean the whole tree is unsafe and cannot continue to contribute to the environment for many more years. Often some remedial pruning can rectify a tree problem.
“One common belief is that trees interfere with infrastructure such as pipes. It is a myth that tree roots break into pipes. In fact, where older drains have decayed and began to leak, then the roots will enter the pipe seeking moisture. Removing the tree should be the last resort – fixing the drain is the better solution,” said Mr Hallam.
“Arboriculture Australia’s professional Consulting Arborists member listing can be found at http://arboriculture.org.au/listings.aspx and all arborists on the listing have a minimum qualification in Diploma in Arboriculture (AQF Level 5) and their Professional Indemnity and Public Liability insurances are annually verified. Using professional associations like Arboriculture Australia provides comfort to home owners that they will receive the right advice,” Mr Hallam added.
Arboriculture Australia advises that before anyone removes or prunes a tree, living or dead, they should contact their local council to ensure there are no environmental overlays or special protection on the property or tree. Local councils and shires each have their own regulations on tree removal.
Whether you need a tree removal permit will depend on the size and type of the tree and where you live, while some local areas have zoning laws that restrict tree removal regardless of size. Particular types of trees may also be protected.
The Nursery & Garden industry believes that people can avoid the need and cost of tree removal if they select the right varieties and species to plant in the first place.
“Get advice from your local garden centre when selecting tree varieties to plant – and heed the advice on the label. Most councils have a list of suitable trees for your area and also have lists of plants to avoid if deemed invasive,” Dr Kachenko said.
“Do not plant too close to the house, outbuildings, paths or pavements. Think of how much space the tree will need in 20 years time. If you are still unsure, we recommend having a consulting arborist visit your property to discuss your outcomes and ensure they document what advice they offer.
“And remember to think twice before calling in the tree loppers, we need more - not less - trees please in our urban environments,” Dr Kachenko added.
For more information about the importance of trees visit www.plantlifebalance.com.au or visit the Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/plantlifebalance
For specific tree issues or to find a consulting arborist, visit the Arboriculture Australia website http://arboriculture.org.au/listings.aspx
Images: Consult an expert before making the decision to remove any tree. Sometimes it is obvious, when trees are placed too close to buildings (or buildings placed too close to them).