From ‘Seven Little Australians’ to the Burnside café: Urban Planning and Trees in Adelaide, Australia (16684)
Australians have a vexed relationship with trees: they are frequently constructed as treacherous, untrustworthy and frightening objects in the landscape, with the potential to cause death. The battles over tress, such as the fight for the Wet Tropics, the Tall trees in Western Australia, and the old growth forests of Tasmania indeed typify one of the most contested ideological landscapes in the nation’s history. In Australian cities, another dimension has emerged, where the tree is becoming representative of both death and life via a contest between occupational health and safety and environmental sustainability, or between green and green.
This paper explores how this relationship is being played out in the Australian city of Adelaide, and and draws on a series of case studies where the ‘tree’ has taken centre stage and become a place of discursive engagement about a number of other important issues, inspiring debate and conflict by stakeholder within the city of Adelaide. Results are based on a discourse analysis of historical documents, media reports, council minutes, public submissions and a series of in depth semi structured interviews with local government arborists, planners, members of ENGOs, industry and rate payers about these issues. It concludes with some reflections on what this relationship means for urban social sustainability, environmental governance and urban adaptation. I argue that it is time to re-visit and assert the notion of the tree as an emblem of environmental sustainability, and make a call for the finding of new ways to re-engage the community and challenge local democracy on environmental issues at local scale.