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We need to increase our tree canopy

Trees play an important role in combating the effects of climate change. Not only do they soak up carbon, They also bring many other benefits, such as reducing ground temperatures, aiding in stormwater management and filtering out air pollutants.

Trees provide space for us to relax and play, a home for birdlife, insects and other wildlife, enhancement of our environment, a source of food to nourish and heal us, and improve our wellbeing.

Just as roads, footpaths, drains, public buildings and recreational facilities are a part of our community’s infrastructure, so are trees. Trees define our parks, neighbourhoods, and streets and are an essential part of Ōtautahi Christchurch’s character and identity.

For these reasons, we are undertaking an ambitious tree planting program across the city. The planting program is an important step in fulfilling the outcomes of our Urban Forest Plan which among other things endeavours to increase the canopy cover across our city.

Rest assured, we are also aware that trees have the potential to have a negative impact on some people. Trees can be the source of excessive shading, drop debris, damage property and nearby infrastructure and cause concerns over safety.

Many of these negative impacts can be avoided through carefully selecting the location of trees and selecting tree species that will complement their local environment.

These tree planting plans will be guided by our Urban Forest Plan  to look at the ‘right location, right plant and right function’ and aims to avoid many of these potential problems.

This is also just the start of a huge programme of work. We have more than 1200 parks and reserves across Ōtautahi Christchurch and Banks Peninsula and clear targets for increasing tree canopy cover over the next 50 years.

Our Urban Forest Plan

Find out how we developed the plan that set our targets, and why we want to increase tree canopy cover in local parks.

Key considerations for planting plans

  • Species

    Tree species diversity is important to maintain a healthy tree population. The greater the diversity, the more resilient our urban forest will be to threats – particularly the effects of climate change, and pests and disease. Ideally, we need no more than 30% from one family, 20% from a single genus or 10% of trees from a single species. We also need to take steps to protect the natural diversity of our local indigenous fauna through the use of locally-sourced plants.

  • Size

    With bigger canopies and root systems, larger trees maximise benefits such as carbon sequestration, stormwater management and shade. However, smaller trees are also valuable in places where space is restricted.

    We’ve listened to feedback from residents and have designed these tree planting plans using a recession plane model, so we can manage the impact of shading on neighbouring properties and sports fields.

  • Canopy cover

    We’re aiming for 40% canopy cover across our parks. In some parks this will be higher, and in some parks lower, depending on how the park is used and the space that’s available for planting. For example, in parks which don’t have sports fields, we’re making sure we retain some open spaces.

    While we’re aiming to get as much as we can done in this planting season, planting within each location will be progressive and not necessarily involve planting all trees shown in a plan within a single season.

Equitable tree coverage

Currently, our urban forest is not spread across our communities evenly, so the benefits are not felt by everyone to the same extent.

Distribution of canopy cover across Ōtautahi Christchurch at 2018/2019

Distribution of canopy cover across Ōtautahi Christchurch at 2018/2019

Benefits of urban trees

Types of trees being considered around Ōtautahi Christchurch

We haven’t listed the tree species within the plans. That’s because we want to get your feedback on what is important to you. Different tree species have different attributes such as providing a food source for native birds and insects or adding colour to a park. It is important that we try to match these to what the people who use the park want. We will still be selecting tree species to meet some of the cities wider objectives such as increasing the visibility of native trees or maintaining a healthy diversity of tree species.
  • Natives

    One of the objectives of the Urban Forest Plan is to increase the visibility of our native species, one way to do this is to plant more native species within our parks. We are also creating a network of native forest patches across the city, this is a method where patches of native vegetation are spaced at strategic locations across the city to help our bush birds return and connect us with nature.

  • Exotics

    While we receive a lot of messages requesting an increase in native species, we also hear from people who are concerned that they will loose the large exotic trees that are so prominent in parts of our city. Although there will be a focus on planting more native tree species within our parks, we will also continue to plant exotic trees as well, particularly in parks which have an existing character or heritage theme.

  • Pest species

    All trees provide benefits, however some also have the ability to become a problem. Pest trees are those that are likely to spread to spaces they are not wanted. Council works closely with our biodiversity team to ensure we maintain an up to date list of trees that are or likely to become a pest species.

Planting guidelines we will follow

Recently closed tree planting plans

Contact Us

Have questions or want to learn more about a project? Contact us below:

Phone 03 941 8999 (0800 800 169)