City of Melbourne Councilor David Risstrom has a strange obsession. He wants to remove every last non-native Australian tree from Melbourne. This is not news, he said this last year and after a study found that native birds prefer native trees (you don't say!), he is at it again. Specifically though I want to address this quote:
"It's time to get over the cultural cringe (of planting exotics)."
The cultural cringe is a bizarre phenomenon, it seems to exist only in the minds of the people who don't like it. Whereas in this case, as in most others, there are perfectly sensible reasons for preferring something exotic.
Melbourne's gardens and streets were never intended to be purely exotic, and they never have been. They were laid out according to the principles and fashions of landscape and urban design, using whatever species could be obtained, and whatever species would serve the purpose of the designer. But even then they were Australian in nature. The original layout of Flagstaff and Fitzroy Gardens reflected "the importance of shade, the need to check the incursion of dust from unmade roads, and hot summers with limited water".
There has never even been a rejection of native species. The popularity of Heidelberg school painters and poets glorifying Australia's native species in the late 19th century and after Federation meant planting native species was popular then, as now, and at various other times in between. As such, native - though often not Victorian - species are common in all our parks and streets, for their unique qualities, their colour and beauty, and because as evergreens, they maintain their foliage.
Where exotic species are used it is because they provide their own advantages. The shade in summer and sunlight in winter provided by a deciduous tree is a very important and pleasant part of Melbourne's character, beauty and liveability. This view of Princes Park shows the general treatment that has always been searched for. On the one side of the path, gum trees and other Australian natives around the sports fields, on the other, elms. Complementing each other, and giving the advantages of both. Cr. Risstrom should find a better way to spend his time. There are dozens of environmental and urban issues of far greater importance: streets galore with little or no trees at all, council policy that is increasing the number of automobiles in the city, and pedestrian and bicycle spaces that are barely serving their job. Leave the birds to sing in the suburbs where noone leaves their house on foot.
29th August, 2004 01:43:00