Trees in the urban context perform a vital function for the health and welfare of city’s across the world. Dunedin is not alone in the vital environmental and aesthetic services that they provide in the city landscape. In fact to some extent trees are often undervalued for the essential biological services that they provide that enhance to both human and biodiversity health. Such ecological services include creating biodiversity corridors, reducing water run off, and absorbing carbon dioxide . Importantly too, is their physical impact on the urban landscape where they soften the hard edges of human design and architecture in city’s where our opportunity to converse with the natural world may be limited. This landscape impact of where trees improve physical amenity in suburban streetscapes can actually in turn increase the value of peoples property. How many times in real estate advertising do we see comments regarding “leafy suburbs” or “awake to hear the birdsong” which are accompanied with a hefty price tag. Urban trees have a significant impact on our lives and our lifestyle and their importance to Dunedin should not be underestimated.
The Dunedin Amenities Society has recently reviewed and submitted to the NZ Transport Agency on the proposed “Separated Cycle Lane Proposal” for the Cumberland one way system. While there has been much public debate over the cost of this project in relation to need and safety, there has been scant discussion on the removal of many of the street trees with this project. Many of the trees in the Cumberland Street area have taken years to establish and will face the axe with the implementation of this project in either of its forms. The proposal along with the paucity of information on the impact of such removals shows a poor understanding of our city’s urban environment and the need to provide aesthetic and biological connections to the wider city landscape. Surely now is the time to show the world some innovation that reflects how we value and understand the physical world we rely upon. As environmentalist David Suzuki wrote “ultimately we need to recognize that while humans continue to build urban landscapes, we share these spaces with other species.”