Moreland increasing tree canopy to combat Urban Heat island Effect

September 12, 2014 at 5:59 pm 8 comments

Moreland Council at it’s September 2014 Council meeting adopted a report on increasing vegetation tree canopy and resolved “to support and fund current initiatives aligned with the management of climate change and the Urban Heat Island Effect.”

The Council report – DCI70/14 REVIEW OF TREE COVER IN MORELAND AND HEAT ISLAND EFFECT (D14/225415) (full text below) – was prepared for the Director of City Infrastructure as a result of a motion by Cr Davidson (full text below) at the July council meeting. It outlines that Council will plant 5,000 trees annually as part of the Moreland Street Landscape Strategy (see Street Trees on Council Website) with the biggest tree suited to an area to be planted to increase canopy coverage. The goal is to plant 30,000 trees across the municipality by 2020.

Moreland Council is also working as part of the Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action Group (NAGA), bringing together regional councils and associated entities, to identify regional climate risks and preparing the Climate Change Risk and Regional Profile Synthesis Report.

As part of this work Council officers are liasing with Professor Nigel Tapper from Monash University and also a Program Leader in the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities. Tapper’s group undertakes “fundamental work on heat, health and thermal comfort and on the performance of different elements of Water Sensitive Urban Design in improving urban climate to create more liveable cities, in the face of climate change.”

Research by Nigel Tapper and colleagues has shown that reducing the urban heat island effect even partially would be a major environmental and health benefit for the citizens of Moreland. He recently did a presentation for NAGA at Coburg Civic Centre. (Tapper 2014 – Slideshow presentation PDF)

Moreland has been assessed has having a high social vulnerability to extreme heat events by recent scientific research involving spatial vulnerability analysis of urban populations. (See Loughnan et al 2013 PDF, and Mapping Heatwave Vulnerability Melbourne website)

In February 2014 Cr Bolton moved a resolution by Moreland Council calling for emergency heatwave response from state government and for council to report on and investigate possible heat refuges and targeted assistance, given the high social vulnerability of Moreland’s population to heat events. This report is likely to be delivered for Council to consider in November.


Minimising the Urban Heat Island Effect

Over the last year Council officers have produced the Community Climate Action Plan ‘Zero Carbon Evolution’ (See Reducing the community’s emissions on Council Website). This includes a number of strategies for addressing climate change. Strategy #4 details minimising the urban heat island effect through developing and implementing a Moreland Urban Heat Island Action Plan. The essential actions so far ennumerated are:

  • Identification of priority areas for heat accumulation and resident vulnerability
  • Selection of appropriate vegetation to maximise canopy cover and urban greenery
  • Integration of water Sensitive Urban Deasign principles into street tree plantings
  • A strategic approach to increasing vegetation on private and public land.

These are all very important actions, but Council has failed to address as part of the Community Climate Action Plan ‘Zero Carbon Evolution’ the possibility of changing the urban surface reflectivity (surface albedo), even though Climate Action Moreland suggested this improvement. Changing the surface albedo can be done by private owners painting their roofs white, or using high reflectivity paints, which reduces the radiant heat transfer to the inside building thus reducing energy use for building air-conditioning.

Fawkner-footpath-summerSimilarly, public surfaces such as roads and footpaths can be resurfaced increasing their albedo allowing for greater reflectivity thus reducing summer surface ambient heat during extreme heat spells. Such cool pavement resurfacing technologies should be built into partial or complete road reconstruction work to future proof the municipality. Climate Action Moreland raised Cool Pavements for moderating the Urban Heat Island Effect during the draft process for the Community Climate Action Plan and raised it again with Council in July 2014.

Modifying the reflectivity of urban surfaces could be as important for reducing the urban heat effect as increasing canopy coverage and water sensitive urban design, yet it has so far been ignored. Why?

It is particularly important that Council make the best use of resources so that during partial or complete road reconstruction work landscaping and tree planting for increasing canopy coverage and consideration of “cool” surfacing technologies is undertaken.

The last two Council meetings there have been questions raised from the gallery about the importance of increasing tree planting in specific locations of the municipality.

Tree planting Pascoe Vale Road at Glenroy

At the meeting in August in Glenroy a resident raised the social vulnerability of residents to extreme heat and asked why over several years there has been $700,000 allocated in the Council budget for treescaping works in Pascoe Vale Road but in a 750 metre stretch there is still no tree in site.

The response from Council Director Planning and Economic Development was “that the capability to plant trees on major roads and in shopping precincts, because of the tree canopy, is limited so often the side streets are planted out.”

Cr Davidson also advised that garden beds in the shopping strip had been planted with shrubs and had also moved the motion regarding Council action for addressing the urban heat island effect and climate change at the July meeting.

Need to integrate tree planting strategy with civil works

At the September Council meeting Antonia, a Brunswick resident, had a particularly detailed question and asked why Moreland Council could not provide as much tree planting detail as Melbourne Council and questioned the poor level of co-ordination between Civil Works and Open Space departments. She highlighted that tree planting and street landscaping should be integrated with the civil works program when there is partial or complete road or footpath surface reconstruction undertaken.

Antonia also questioned the suitability of planting three particular plants in Barkly Street and their ability to provide an adequate vegetation canopy for the street in years to come, appearing to be at variance with Council’s policy and Street Landscape Strategy.

Antonia’s question was answered by the Director of City Infrastructure who said that there is co-ordination between departments but it can be improved.

Report accepted

The report on tree cover in Moreland was later accepted by Council with Councillor Bolton noting that frequent reviews of this policy may be needed.

This policy on increasing vegetation tree canopy in Moreland is an important start for addressing and ameliorating the impacts of extreme hotspells and climate change on residents. It is an essential part of local climate adaptation.

Moreart 2013 -  Victoria Mall Coburg - I adopted a Koala called; Third Draw Down by Aaron James McGarry

Image: A tree in Victoria Mall Coburg festooned with a koala sculpture called ‘Third Draw Down’ by Aaron James McGarry – part of Moreart 2013

The following is the full text of Council Report – DCI70/14 REVIEW OF TREE COVER IN MORELAND AND HEAT ISLAND EFFECT – as copied from the Council Agenda for 10 September 2014


Director City Infrastructure
Open Space and Street Cleansing

Executive Summary

There are two Council resolutions relating to the Urban Heat Island effect within Moreland. One related to specific tree coverage within the municipality from Council meeting dated 12 March 2014, and the other Council’s future plans of managing its effects from Council meeting dated 9 July 2014.

Council has commenced addressing the issue of the Urban Heat Island effect by:

  • * Moreland Street Landscape Strategy provides the future design principles. Including planting 5,000 trees annually, and planting the biggest tree suited to an area to increase canopy coverage throughout the municipality.
  • * The current work being done with the Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action Group (NAGA), creating the Climate Change Risk and Regional Profile Synthesis Report. This highlights climatic issues arising from climate change and areas of risk of which Moreland is one.
  • * Council is liaising with Professor Nigel Tapper and hosted his seminar ‘how trees and green open space can save lives’ and his recommendations from this covering spatial and heat mapping options.
  • * Council has adopted the Community Climate Action Plan ‘Zero Carbon Evolution’. The key recommendation is to develop an Urban Heat Island Effect Strategy, and planting 30,000 trees across the municipality be 2020.
  • * Council’s continued partnership with the 2020 Vision Program.
  • * Council’s application for funding through Melbourne Waters ‘Living Rivers’ grant funding program, to utilise tree WSUD designs in reducing Urban Heat Island Effect mitigation as a key criteria.


Council resolve to acknowledge the progress being made and continue to support and fund current initiatives aligned with the management of climate change and the Urban Heat Island Effect.

1. Policy Context

The following policies and strategies are directly related to this report:

  • * Moreland Street Landscape Strategy
    Specifically Section 3.3 Objectives, 4 the value of Street Trees and Vegetation and Section 4.1 Implications of Climate Change

  • * Community Climate Action Plan
    Specifically Strategy 4 Managing the Urban Heat Island Effect.

2. Background

Extreme weather events have increased over the past 10 years causing many issues including:

  • * Decreased water supplies.
  • * Flooding due to heavy rain events.
  • * Structural damage due to high wind events.
  • * Health issues due to increased temperatures causing the ‘Heat Island Effect’.

This is where urban areas, particularly built-up inner cities, are significantly hotter than their surrounding rural areas. The phenomenon is a result of many issues but largely because of vegetation removal.

Because of social concerns around the Heat Island Effect, Council has been proactively developing plans to combat its effects.

3. Issues

Moreland Street Landscape Strategy
This strategy was endorsed by Council in 2012, and is a guide to streetscape Development in terms of long term vision. The Strategy covers many areas of streetscapes, which include environmental aspects.

  • * Section 3.3 Objectives:
    Highlights the rise in temperature of the urban environment and Council’s plans to reduce this by planting 5,000 trees per annum

  • * Section 4 The value of street trees and vegetation
    Highlights the benefits of an urban forest to reduce the impacts of the urban heat island effect.

  • * Section 4.1 Implications of climate change:
    Highlights the future environmental challenges urban areas will face including the rise in temperature of urban areas

Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action (NAGA)
Council has been working with NAGA which is an alliance of the Moreland Energy Foundation, and the nine Councils bordering the northern metropolitan region.

Councils ESD unit has been working closely within this group to develop the Climate Change Risk and Regional Profile Synthesis report. This report is a combination of the regional climate change observations and projections, climate change impacts and associated risks including Urban Heat Island risk areas within Moreland.

The information contained within this report will inform the forthcoming sector vulnerability workshops and the regional and local government specific climate change vulnerability assessments.

Community Climate Action Plan
Council recently endorsed the Community Climate Action Plan called ‘Zero Carbon Evolution’. Two key outcomes highlighted in this plan are to:

  • Develop an Urban Heat Island Effect Strategy to guide Council on future trends in the aid of reducing its effects.
  • Commit to planting 30,000 trees across the municipality by 2020. This is in line with Council funding the planting of 5000 trees annually relating to the Open Space Street Tree Planting Program.

A cross functional working group will be set up in September 2014 to begin scoping the methodology and data requirements of these outcomes.

Professor Nigel Tapper
Council recently hosted Professor Nigel Tapper (Chair in Environmental Science at Monash University), who provided a seminar on ‘how trees and green open space can save lives’. In this seminar he highlighted his research on spatial mapping of heat waves in urban environments.

Council’s ESD unit is now determining whether this spatial mapping is a better tool for mapping Urban Heat Island Effect, than thermal imaging traditionally used for this reason. Thermal imagery of Moreland would have an estimated cost implication of around $60,000.

Council partnering 2020 Vision Program
This program is a national campaign to reverse the Urban Heat Island effect by increasing urban green space by 20% by 2020. This is in line with Council’s commitment to plant 5,000 trees annually.

Living Rivers Grant
Council’s ESD and Open Space units are collaborating on a bid for funding under the Melbourne Waters ‘Living Rivers’ grant funding program. This aims to design and test passive street tree WSUD solutions, and approaches to target their implementation using Urban Heat Island Effect mitigation as one of its key criteria. Professor Nigel Tapper has agreed to be the strategic advisor for Moreland on this project. The funding announcement will be released in October 2014.

Social implications
The reduction of the Urban Heat Island Effect would greatly improve the health and wellbeing of the Moreland community. However, there are sections of the community that are not in favour of increased tree planting within Moreland.

Areas north of the municipality tend to have issues with large trees overhanging property lines due to the potential mess made, and perceived risk factors. This thought process is not in line with Council’s vision highlighted within the Street Landscape Strategy, and should not in any way affect current work being done on the reduction of the Urban Heat Island Effect.

Human Rights Consideration
The implications of this report have been assessed in accordance with the requirements of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.

4. Consultation

Through NAGA, of which Councils within the region are a member, there has been constant consultation.

Advice was sought from officers across Council involved in the Open Space Maintenance, Open Space Design and Development and ESD units.

5. Officer Declaration of Conflict of Interest

Council Officers involved in the preparation of this report have no Conflict of Interest in this matter.

6. Financial and Resources Implications

Financial implications currently relating to Council are:

  • The continual funding of the planting of 5,000 trees within Moreland annually.
  • The potential funding of thermal imagery or similar processes estimated at a cost of $60,000.

7. Implementation

Officers will continue to address the issues surrounding the Urban heat Island effect by delivering the projects identified in the Issues section of this report.

There are no attachments for this report.

The following motion was moved and carried at the Moreland Council meetinfg 9 July 2014 regarding the vulnerability to the urban heat island effect:


Cr Helen Davidson
Cr Davidson advised that during an Information and Discussion Workshop several weeks ago Council became aware of the Heat Island Effect within the municipality. Glenroy was named as a specific problem area for this. This motion asks for analysis to be carried out on the how vulnerable areas such as Glenroy are exposed to the increased urban heat island effects and what strategies Council is or should be pursuing to mitigate these effects.

This information could then be used within Moreland’s Street Landscape Policy and implementation and specifically target landscaping to those areas most effected and most vulnerable. Further the analysis would be able to inform a review of the structure plan / place framework and guide how much open space etc., needs to be maintained to minimise the heat island effect.

Cr Davidson moved, Cr L Thompson seconded that –

  • 1. Council resolve to undergo an analysis on how vulnerable particular areas in the municipality are the increased urban heat island effect and what strategies Council is pursuing to mitigate these effects.
  • 2. Consideration based on the findings be implemented into each structure plan or place framework for the municipality.



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