WATCA Calls for 30% Tree Canopy Target for Perth by 2040

15 March 2023

West Australian Tree Canopy Advocates (WATCA) is calling on the WA government to urgently set a 30% by 2040 Tree Canopy Target to combat Perth’s grim status as the most tree-barren capital city in Australia.

Figures from aerial mapping specialists Nearmap show Perth has the lowest and fastest-shrinking tree canopy of any capital city with only 16% overall tree canopy coverage. In addition, only 22% of Perth suburbs have greater than 20% tree cover, compared to 30% in Melbourne, 44% in Sydney and 79% in Brisbane.

WATCA Chair Brendan O’Toole said Perth had the hottest summers and the weakest tree protections in the nation and a Tree Canopy Target was crucial to addressing the Heat Island Effect and health issues caused by too little tree coverage. “Perth has the hottest summers in the country and research tells us that without trees our suburbs are up to 5 degrees hotter, we use more energy, and we have poorer community health outcomes.

“Cities like Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Hobart all have Tree Canopy Targets and various regulations concerning removal of large trees on private property - it’s time Perth caught up before it’s too late,” he said.

Established in 2022, WATCA is the state umbrella organisation for a growing network of community Tree Canopy Advocacy groups representing 15 Local Government Authority areas and more than 11,000 community members.

Studies show greater tree canopy in urban areas lowers temperatures and energy costs and provides cleaner air, climate change mitigation, reduced noise and erosion, greater biodiversity, increased property values and improved physical and mental health.

WATCA Deputy Chair Sarah Allchurch said there was a groundswell of community support and concern about Perth’s rapidly declining tree canopy.

“The speed at which our local groups and memberships are growing shows this is a mainstream issue, not ‘radical greenies’. “We have groups from Wanneroo to Rockingham and people are anxious about the number of mature trees being cut down in their own streets and suburbs. “Parents are worried about increasing temperatures, lack of shade, air pollution and what will be left for their kids and grandkids,” she said.

Mr O’Toole said it was crucial that Perth manages its urban areas in a sustainable way that preserves trees, rather than clearing blocks prior to development. “If we expect to continue receiving the amazing benefits of trees now and in the future, then protecting and promoting tree canopy is vital.”