Impact Testimonial

Karen Sweeney

Name: Karen Sweeney

Title: Urban Forest Manager

Organization: City of Sydney

Please outline your work and how our research on green space and health has been helpful in supporting your activities.

We have been focusing on improving the quantity and quality of our canopy cover across the City of Sydney for nearly two decades. In a just and fair city, we consider it’s vital that everyone contributes and has access to the many benefits canopy cover provides.

In developing our Greening Sydney Strategy, a key question we needed answered was how much canopy is required for the community’s health and wellbeing, and to cool our city. We couldn’t believe our luck with the locally based research from the PowerLab. The research was clear, 30% canopy in a 1.6km area. We could apply this across our entire local government area to assess how well our urban forest is serving the community. The land use within the CBD and inner city means that achieving 30% in all areas is a real challenge, but the research provided a framework in which to assess the canopy cover and identify priorities for more equitable access and develop targets for canopy cover in streets, parks and properties towards this goal.

Applying this research spatially has also transformed our urban forestry approach. We developed the City’s Urban Tapestry method, which uses a newly established grid of uniformly spaced reference points (i.e. 2660 points over a 100 metre grid spacing) across the local government area to measure, summarise and compare data uniformly across an area. Aside from its current application of equitable access to canopy and green cover for community health and wellbeing, the method will be explored to assess the resilience of our urban forest – including species diversity.

What are your team/organisational goals over the next 3 to 5 years and how might our research on green space and health continue to be useful?

Our focus over the next 3-5 years is implementing the Greening Sydney Strategy – particularly increasing canopy and green cover for the community.

We have a diverse community, with diverse needs. The broad range of health research available (covering topics such as heart disease, sleep and loneliness) helps us to create messages that appeal to different members of our community. Understanding how their health can be improved and promoting this as part of our canopy and greening programs will be important to gain community acceptance for increased greening. The more health research that supports this the better!

It is also time to update our Urban Forest Strategy, which was written a decade ago. Phil Julian, the City’s Senior Tree Coordinator, is currently writing the next Strategy and we are looking forward to applying the research in more detailed levels to improve our community’s health and wellbeing.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

The City’s Greening Sydney Strategy can be viewed here:

We also developed a story map to make the strategy more accessible and interactive, which you can access here:

Access to tree canopy within 100m

Access to tree canopy within 1600m