Planting a future for schools

Ainslee tree and sign.

The Schools First Street Tree Planting project is an innovative climate and health initiative led by Maroondah City Council to adapt existing tree planting operations to equitably support active travel to school, and strategically improve tree canopy across the municipality.

The program utilised work begun in 2017 by Maroondah City Council’s Transport and Sustainability Planner, VicHealth, and local school communities to identify a one kilometre radius of safe walk and ride to school routes around 17 participating local schools.

The council teams identified an opportunity to make these routes safer and more appealing by adding trees for shade, shelter, greenery and a physical barrier between pedestrians and the roadway.

To prioritise this planting, Council’s Strategic Environment Planner developed a desktop analysis to identify those schools that have lower levels of tree canopy and foliage cover and high heat vulnerability, combined with higher levels of socio-economic disadvantage.

Eleven schools were prioritised through normalised scoring by applying a combination of the following data to the walking catchments and walking routes for each school: tree canopy and foliage cover (using technology that uses machine learning to detect foliage cover from aerial imagery); number of primary-age children within each school’s walking catchment (using ABS data); and relative socio-economic advantage and disadvantage (using SEIFA (Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas) derived from ABS data).

Approximately 600 opportunities for tree planting across three locations were identified in 2022.

During and after the planting period, high levels of positive feedback were received from schools and the surrounding residential communities in these planting areas. The short-term benefits have been clear to see, with more school children choosing active transport options to travel to school, and families able to get outside and enjoy greener, more shaded streets. A full analysis is yet to be undertaken.

The Schools First Street Tree Planting program has reshaped the prioritisation of street tree planting and canopy renewal planning across the municipality. By 2026, the 11 identified school routes will be planted out.

In the coming decade, the safe walk ride routes of all 33 schools across the municipality will be identified and prioritised for planting.

Local kindergartens, health precincts, community hubs and signed walking trails are also being prioritised for planting as part of a liveability-driven prioritisation of planting opportunities.