David Risstrom - Greens Melbourne City Councillor 1999-2004
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ACHIEVEMENT: Growing Green, a 50 year plan for environmental sustainability for Melbourne Parks, Gardens and Open Spaces has been adopted by Council following significant community consultation.

TARGET DATE: June 2003 PROGRESS: Achieved.

DESCRIPTION: As a Green Councillor on Melbourne City Council, David initiated this forward looking plan for the City of Melbourne's Parks and Gardens nearly two years ago. The plan is called 'Growing Green'. The plan is for a 50 year timeline for Melbourne's Parks and Gardens, though could also extend to influencing private land owners.

Growing Green was passed unanimously by the Environment, Community and Cultural Committee on Tuesday 4 February 2003, and passed by the full Council on Thursday 27 February 2003.

The final Growing Green document can be downloaded as a word file (220 KB word file). If you would like to receive a printed copy of the plan, please contact Parks and Recreation on 9658 8845 or e-mail domsie@melbourne.vic.gov.au.

As Chairperson of the Growing Green Perspectives group, it has been great to see so many people involved in thinking long term about how Melbourne can reduce its impact on the environment towards contributing to environmental sustainability through biodiversity and a reduced ecological footprint. My description of Growing Green being a success is when it becomes normal again to hear native birds singing on the way to work.

The final report to be considered by the Environment, community and Cultural Development Committee on Tuesday 4 February 2003 is downloadable as a PDF by clicking here: Final Report On Growing Green.

Some of the current priorities in the plan include:
* reclaiming a proportion of existing road space for planting, open spaces and creating small open spaces;
* adding social value to the City by enhancing public places as community spaces;
* ensuring that all uses of parkland including events, are sustainable in the long term;
* investing in infrastructure to improve the environmental sustainability of parks and recreational facilities;
* exploring the potential to reduce energy inputs in the management of parks and recreational facilities;
* reducing the use of potable (drinking) water for management of parks, street planting and recreational facilities, potentially leading to reduced green grass areas in summer;
* increasing the overall planting diversity in open space and streets;
* increasing the level of biodiversity, especially native bird life in the City; and
* influencing other agencies to achieve improved environmental outcomes.

Consultation on the final draft environment plan closed on 19 August 2002. The final plan, as amended by the consultation, was passed by the Environment, Community and Cultural Development committee on 5 February 2003 and will be put before Council later in February for adoption.

Some idea we would like considered include:

Information being made easily available to residents on which indigenous plants they can plant on their own properties to induce animal and bird habitat and to reduce water consumption requirements.

Native plants attract native birds and butterflies, need no watering once established and use no pesticides or fertilisers. Central medians and nature strips planted imaginatively will bring back our natural heritage and establish a bit of the bush in the city.

Using pesticides means toxic chemicals on the ground and washed into the stormwater system as well as dangerous conditions for the pesticide sprayer. We will explore non-toxic methods of weed control.

MEDIA: Click here on the article 'Bid to Make Gardens More Australian' in The Age on 4 February 2003.

The Herald Sun on 6 February ran a column by Andrew Bolt on page 19 called 'Park plan is eco-racism'. I've reproduced the article here for your edification:

Not content with pushing policies that turn our forests into ashes, the Greens plan to destroy city parks, too.

David Risstrom, the Greens councillor on Melbourne City Council, is working to have the city's famous European parks, like Treasury Gardens, replaced with native species.

Such eco-racism seems at odds with the Greens' open-border policies on illegal immigrants, but Risstrom's excuse is that European plants - and the grass - are too thirsty to keep going.

That's the Greens for you. First they fight against dams and then they raze our gardens when we run out of water.

Well, here's a simple reason the gardens should stay as they are. Because they are pretty and we adore them.

The Age editorial, reproduced below, makes valid observations about the importance of people's sense of place, and the debate that the release of Growing Green has facilitated.

Changing parks and our sense of place: The Age editorial, February 7 2003

Given that trees may take decades to mature and live for centuries, Melbourne's public gardens are a legacy from our predecessors. Similarly, future generations will thank us for wise choices in our plantings. Melbourne City Council has adopted a 50-year plan to use more native plants in a way that would transform the city's gardens and street plantings. In time, the cost of tending European-style gardens in a city with increasing demands on limited water resources is likely to force the issue. The environmental value of native plants is cited as another benefit, but Cr. David Risstrom's call to "start work on making Melbourne Australian" (is the city not Australian?) is a reminder that there are other debates to be had. Melbourne's gardens may hark back to another place and time, but they are a defining feature. Hastily remaking some gardens - Treasury Gardens is slated to become wholly indigenous - would change the city's character in a way that many people could not easily accept. This is not simply a matter of aesthetic tastes. Anyone who strolls through a city park on a sunny day will see how many people value a green lawn under shady trees. And as part of our Victorian heritage, parks such as the Fitzroy Gardens clearly merit preservation along with the finest buildings of that era. Yet we accept that architecture changes, and so should horticulture.

The city has in many ways changed more than its great gardens since these were established in the mid-1800s. As a result, our idea of a public garden is based on the 19th-century sensibilities that led in the first place to the importation of plants, animals and attitudes from another continent. What we tend to see as appropriate is an old horticultural vision that imitated mother England's grand estate gardens, which both drew from and influenced English landscape art. When European artists first came to Australia, they struggled to appreciate the landscape and vegetation; to modern eyes, their depictions are bizarrely Europeanised. Today, few of us have any difficulty accepting the beauty of the landscape and Australian artistic renderings of it, but this transformation of attitudes took place over generations. It is to the council's credit that it is looking ahead to managing the transformation of the city's green areas in a gradual and, one hopes, consultative manner. The creation of natural green spaces such as the popular Studley and Yarra Bend parks can help persuade the public, but this will not happen overnight or by "education" if this turns out to be a euphemism for bureaucratic edicts. The difficulties are illustrated by the debate over replacing the ageing poplars of Peel Street, North Melbourne - and what of the city's elm avenues, which rank among the world's finest remaining examples? Only a balanced and patient approach, over many years if need be, will win public support.

FURTHER INFORMATION: The final 50 year plan was put before Council in February 2003 for adoption. Further information on Growing Green can be found on the Melbourne City council website at www.melbourne.vic.gov.au. The final Growing Green document will be available on the Melbourne City Council website in the very near future.

The Gould League hosts an excellent website that allows you to design your own garden, giving emphasis to the values you want; ie, attracting birds, lizards and other animals, native and exotic flora, water saving, flowers, etc. It is well worth visiting, and a good reminder of what is possible: Flora For Fauna. The Aubudon Society provide an interesting American equivalent, with good ideas you can adapt to Australian conditions for increasing biodiversity on your own property.

YOUR COMMENTS: A number of letters have been published in the papers as a result of the release of Growing Green. I'll include them as I become aware of them.

The Age, Letters, 5 February 2003

We may not be London - but who wants to be Adelaide?

"Melbourne is not London. We have to stop wasting our energy trying to turn Melbourne into a place it will never be," Councillor David Risstrom proclaims (The Age, 4/2) in regard to Growing Green, the new park and street planting strategy for Melbourne.

What tosh! Melbourne isn't trying to be London. It's already a unique post-colonial city of its own, distinguished by the deep greenness from magnificent European plantings that have taken a century to create.

Now, however, it seems the native tree nazis are back, wielding the tiresome new-speak baton of "resource saving" - and everything is up for grabs.
Their bold new vision for Melbourne is ... wait for it: Adelaide! You know, Adelaide - scrubby native trees, dreary parched parks.
I hope you all like it, because that's fundamentally what they dream to make central Melbourne look like in 50 years.

As you might expect, their Growing Green strategy demands, for instance, only natives for median strips. Yet most of the natives will be as exotic to Melbourne as an elm, and cast a tenth of the vital summer shade. And as for lovely lush green grass to lounge on - forget it. You'll have browned and burred kangaroo grass, or equivalent, and be grateful for it.

At bedrock, this whole strategy isn't about "Growing Green" or saving resources: it's about garden fashion, which, like fashion in clothing, can be as faddish and fickle as - well, the pink shirt David Risstrom is proud to sport on a website. But unlike clothing follies, which can be easily discarded, the fads of garden fashion will be with us for generations. That's why we need to vigorously protect our great parks and boulevards against them.

The great central green swathe of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Alexandra Gardens and Kings Domain, the avenues of Parkville, East Melbourne and Alexandra Avenue may have been inspired by Europe - but now they are wholly Melbourne, part of its very soul, deeply loved, and unique in their individual way.

Peter Jordaan, Richmond


The Age, Letters, 6 February 2003

Adelaide defends its beautiful parks

It is laughable, but even more hypocritical, that Peter Jordaan (5/1) should make such broad, sweeping statements about Adelaide in relation to the debate about European versus native tree plantings in Melbourne.

In Adelaide we have a strong mix of European and native flora in and around the city, but mostly plantings of the former in the centre along major streets, particularly on North Terrace, where large and imposing plane trees dominate the footpaths. On War Memorial Drive the scene is the same, while in the parklands that Mr Jordaan so eloquently described as "dreary parched parks", there is an emphasis on balanced planting, with large gum trees interspersed with oaks and elms.

I invite Mr Jordaan to come to Adelaide for a special tour - I will happily drive him around and show him what I mean. It is always best to make statements based on accurate analysis.

And just for the record, I am thoroughly in support of Melbourne retaining its European plantings; they are what make the city so beautiful.

Nick Raman, Glenalta, SA


Bring back the humpy

Apparently, 19.9 million square kilometres of native flora is not enough for those suffering from arboreal cultural cringe. We are to celebrate the cultural diversity resulting from the influx of people from all parts of the globe, except when it comes to a few hectares of trees.
While we are at it, let's get rid of that inappropriate Victorian architecture and replace it with truly native streetscapes based on the bark humpy, the wattle and daub hut, and the rusty galvanised iron shearing shed.

Philip Shehan, Brunswick


The Age, Letters, 8 February 2003

Maintaining our indigenous heritage

The character of a city is more than its capacity to grow green leaves. When we plant an Australian tree we are accepting our Australianness and the uniqueness of its flora in a dry continent, and we are contributing to our heritage.

The City of Melbourne has a vision of an environmentally friendly heritage for future generations to experience. Our children will enjoy indigenous landscapes with indigenous creatures - kookaburras in schoolyards, a tawny frogmouth in the park and cockatoos screeching overhead. This is the heritage being restored along the Merri Creek through more than 15 years of planting indigenous plants. After all, heritage is not a static concept, it is an evolving one.

The discussion about whose concept of heritage is best is not the issue. The question is how we blend the European heritage with our indigenous heritage. The answer is by using appropriate species in appropriate places.

Judy Allen, Indigenous horticulturist, Fairfield.


This e-mail was sent directly to me on 7 February 2003. I have modified swear words where they are used.

Hello David

Who the hell do you think you are f*cking with the identity of this fine city. Elm trees have been an inherent part of Melbourne for far longer than you and your brainless vision for its future. Weeds grow really well without requiring much effort but you wouldnt (sic) want a garden full of them would you david? If you want to hear native birds screeching in native trees why don't you go back to whatever third rate sh*t hole you came from and leave Melbourne in tact for those who appreciate its quality.

See ya


Cool Green Tip Of The Week -

23 April 2017: Only those who decline to scramble up the career ladder are interesting as human beings. Nothing is more boring than a man with a career: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918 -1956.

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