Cooling streets: Bath St median strip top priority?


p2143-Anzac-Hill-flags-1By KIERAN FINNANE
Updated Tuesday 26 February, 1.00pm, with construction date of the median strip. See third paragraph.
A concrete median strip, where no-one walks or waits, will get top priority for planting shade trees if Mayor Damien Ryan gets his way.
The median strip runs down the middle of Bath Street between Parsons Street and Wills Terrace for about 180 metres.
It was constructed in 2009, during Mayor Ryan’s first term in office. He is the only member of council who is still sitting from that time.
This is not a high traffic area, except in the mornings and afternoons at Our Lady of the Sacred Heat school drop-off and pickup times, and to a lesser extent on Sundays with the Anglican church in the locale.
The concrete strip  and bitumen either side gets “red hot”, said the Mayor when he first floated the idea in the committees meeting a fortnight ago.
He wanted to put in mature drought hardy trees. He even had a species in mind, Celtis australis, which despite its name is not a native to Australia.
The tree-planting budget is underspent, in his calculation by some $100,000: “If we budgeted for it, we should look at spending it.”
He said straight up the median strip is “not somewhere people are going to sit underneath”; the idea was to “take some of the heat out of the CBD”.
This has been the subject of study by the NT Government. There exists a heat map, which shows the hot spots around town.
Attempts by Councillors Jimmy Cocking and Marli Banks to take advantage of that knowledge and see whether the Bath Street median strip is the really the priority spot for heat mitigation in the CBD fell on deaf ears.
Cr Cocking also wanted to look at the idea in the context of a more strategic approach to tree planting broadly, including keeping alive the ones that are already in the ground.
Council is committed currently to planting 750 trees per year, but there is no “reporting mechanism” on that, he told the committees meeting.
p2615 Tree Hartley Street 300The issue needs to be addressed across the entire town, he argued, including doing something about the mature trees that have died in the intense heat of this summer. He had counted some 15 to 20, mentioning trees in the mall, on the Northside, and around the basketball courts.
Council needed to “some assessment” of this.
Right: A sad tree in Hartley Street.
And would the cost of removing those trees come out of the tree-planting budget line, he wanted to know.
Deputy Mayor Matt Paterson suggested that that would be “absolutely overloading our officers” . The Mayor’s proposal was a “fantastic place to start”, once a report from the director was to hand.
Cr Banks argued that the report should weigh up areas across CBD and the different options of heat mitigation, looking at whether trees were the most appropriate heat mitigation strategy for particular locations.
Cr Eli Melky was supportive in principle of the Mayor’s tree-planting idea, but not of his approach to the budget. A reported surplus now would not necessarily be an actual surplus at the end of the budget process, which isn’t finally known until October.
Cr Jamie de Brenni saw no reason to wait: “The economy of Alice Springs is reliant on us spending our budget,” he told the committees meeting and this was “one of most proactive ideas we’ve had in a long time.”
This seemed to bring Cr Melky around: by looking at the variance between reported surplus and actual surplus last year, council could have a clearer idea of the money available.
Cr Glen Auricht in the chair of the committees meeting, somehow summed up this discussion as “we are all agreed this a very good project to move with” and “it’s got the support of the whole group”.  Once they had the financial information, they could “hand it over” to the Director of Technical Services.
Cr Banks did her best to make the case for her dissenting view and brought it up again in last night’s ordinary meeting: council knows the NT Government has a heat map report that identifies high heat areas across CBD, wouldn’t it be valuable before it spends money planting expensive mature trees to look at the whole picture. (Cr Melky said, from memory, that the cost per mature tree would be $7000 to $8000.)
Cr Banks wanted the recommendation before council to be specific about using the heat map.
Cr Cocking agreed: council could end up doing a trial down Bath St, but he wanted to make sure it was done in a strategic way.
Mayor Ryan, however, would not brook any changes and he had the support of Crs Auricht, de Brenni, Paterson and Jacinta Price, who was attending the meeting by phone. Cr de Brenni called for a division and this was the predictable split.
The resolution itself doesn’t specify Bath Street: “That the Director Technical Services provide a report to Council in regard to shading streets with trees, for heat mitigation, in consultation with the Acting Director Finance to determine an appropriate budget line.”
However, if the report confirms there is money available, Bath Street will be the go, as that was the mood of the chamber: It would be a “public display of council providing heat mitigation and a shady street”, said Cr Auricht, and the view  of the strip from Anzac Hill “would be amazing”, according to Cr de Brenni.


  1. I note a recent report on cool street paint in Salisbury SA. This paint came from the military research in USA and was designed to hide airstrips from infra red cameras. It has since been employed in streets in America and now Salisbury in SA.
    Alice Springs has been aware of cool white roofs so why not streets? This should be good for any street trees too and reduce the need for watering.
    I also noted in Bunbury WA that structures (flag poles) in the street enabled the removal of raised median strips. Trees similarly would produce a protected space for pedestrians mid street. This would also enable street water runoff to be directed to the trees.
    So by all means plant trees but don’t miss the opportunity to make other improvements.

  2. What a missed opportunity.
    Another fine example of our mayor and a majority of councillors making decisions on their “gut feelings” instead of referring to hard data, such as the Heat Map Report referred to by Cr Banks.
    If Cr de Brenni was to have a proper look over the town from Anzac Hill, he’d see that the view along the north end of Bath Street is “amazing” enough and in little need of improvement.
    He would also realise that screening off the ugliness that is the Plaza’s roof with tall gums would provide greater return for spending $100,000 of ratepayer dollars, improving the view from Anzac Hill enormously.
    Councillors need to realise that the Heat Map Report will surface, sooner or later, and that some of them may end up with egg on their faces.

  3. I don’t know the height of mature trees ($7,000 to $8,000 each), the article suggests no height.
    In my experience and depending on the height, these trees will require support until the root system matures enough to provide that support. Usually supported by cables attached to a anchors at ground level for several months.
    I wonder how this will be achieved.
    Maybe that smaller trees be used with a tree ring to protect them from vandalism until they reach maturity.

  4. Phil Danby’s comment has raised another issue for me and that is that future mature trees on the median strip will mean the loss of the now unobstructed sight-line towards the ANZAC monument, something that can only be seen along Bath Street due to its particular alignment.
    Have a good long look at the photo at the beginning of this story before that view is lost forever.
    More thought is required, and fewer hasty decisions.

  5. Sounds like a good way to ruin a perfectly good median strip. At the same time as block visibilty of anyone crossing the road near the school, church and housing. Block.
    How about growing trees in parks and reserves and not on roadways?


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