I found myself coming away from the recent Hamilton workshop on Our Climate Declaration with a vivid picture in my mind of one easy and effective action we could take to tackle climate change in our city.
Increase spending on parks and open spaces and plant many more trees and shrubs all ovr our city – to soak up carbon emissions while showcasing our city as a lovely, healthy place to live
The government’s concerned about getting enough land to plant trees to meet the Billion Trees Reforestation target. Well, urban areas can be planted in many more trees and can also achieve better soil carbon storage in their lawns and playing fields.
We can show farmers we are also doing our bit. Hamilton's extensive gullies, parks, sports fields and school grounds are a basis for Hamilton becoming NZ's No.1 Green city. All have room for more shrubs and trees, as Norris Ward Park has shown this is a great model for planting.
Investing in trees makes economic sense too – it would create jobs in nursery work, planting, pruning and other plant management. Reduced health costs, increased tourist numbers and carbon sequestration will bring big dividends – check out “Treeconomics” in a recent New Scientist and Reforest London website.
Carefully designed plantings will provide increased colour, fragrance, bring in bird life, muffle vehicle noise and reduce exhaust pollution. They will provide shelter from NZ's high levels of ultraviolet light and wind. Berm and roadside plantings will encourage residents to walk and bike, with proven health benefits, especially for seniors.
In recent years Hamilton City Council has reduced its spend on tree planting and maintenance despite the rapid expansion of the suburbs. Staffing has not increased. The results of this are obvious in scruffier public green spaces and dying trees
This could be different – with better funding HCC parks staff could not only improve the public spaces, they could also support residents to care for their berms and trees, as in the past. Plantings in the inner city are often impressive but the suburbs have lost much of their old greenery – flower borders proudly cultivated, big gardens where children played and explored. Gardens are much smaller now, often covered in concrete for the cars used for commuting and to ferry children to their activities. The colourful borders have been replaced by easy-care shrubs and lawn.
HCC could make up for this. We could, for instance, plant playgrounds with bamboo clumps or small tunnels of trees to run around. We could do much more planting round sports fields, on traffic islands, put greater colour and variety into our parks and bring greenery back into the suburbs.
We Hamiltonians take our gullies, parks and sports fields for granted. But they are a resource we should make more of, greening the city to create a lovelier city while tackling climate change by soaking up carbon emissions.
I invite my fellow Hamiltonians to take the time to look at the plantings around the city and suburbs. So much could be done to improve them by better and denser planting, as well as better plant management.
It’s time to tell our city council that Hamilton’s 10-year plan needs to give high priority to action on adapting to climate change – and that one good place to start is to boost the spend on planting and managing the greenery of our city.