Stage 1 of the $2.4 billion Parramatta Light Rail, expected to open in 2023, will connect Westmead to Carlingford via the Parramatta CBD and Camellia. To offset the loss of any trees that may be removed as part of the project, Transport for NSW has launched a green initiative to plant at least 3500 new native and non-native trees over four years.

3500 new trees for Parramatta

The four-year Parramatta Light Rail Tree Planting and Neighbourhood Improvement program, in partnership with the City of Parramatta Council, will see at least 2500 new native and non-native trees planted in Parramatta streets, parks and reserves to make the local environment significantly greener. Separately, Transport for NSW expects to plant a further 1000 to 1500 trees as part of the Parramatta Light Rail project. By 2023, there will be more trees in Parramatta than before as a result of the light rail tree planting program.

Why are new trees being planted?

Trees are being planted to replace any trees removed to enable the construction and operation of the light rail, at a ratio of between 2:1 to 8:1. New trees will be planted both in and around the Parramatta Light Rail route, in streets that urban heat mapping undertaken by the City of Parramatta Council has shown are some of the hottest in the local government area.

How many trees are being removed?

Transport for NSW remains committed to retaining or replacing trees wherever possible. In 2017, the Parramatta Light Rail Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), publicly exhibited for community feedback for eight weeks, estimated that between 1900 and 2650 trees could be removed as part of the project. This is because some trees are in the path of the planned light rail network, and others require removal to enable associated construction work; for example, where excavation would significantly impact tree roots. The majority are not large or rated ‘high retention value’.

Mature fig trees along the route

It is likely that a cluster of fig trees within Cumberland Hospital Campus East (at the corner of Bridge Road and Warrinya Avenue), North Parramatta, and three mature fig trees on the western boundary of Robin Thomas Reserve will need to be removed. Opportunities to mitigate this loss are being explored.

How is a tree’s ‘value’ determined?

The trees that will need to be removed vary in size and species. The majority are not large or rated ‘high retention value’. A ‘retention value’ of ‘high’, ‘medium’  or ‘low’, determined by an independent arborist using a combination of environmental, cultural, physical and social values, is assigned to each tree, or group of trees, according to the Institute of Australian Consulting Arboriculturists (IACA) Significance of a Tree Assessment Rating System (STARS).

Vegetation Offset Strategy

Transport for NSW is working with the City of Parramatta Council to develop the Parramatta Light Rail Vegetation Offset Strategy, the aim of which is to improve biodiversity outcomes across the Parramatta local government area (LGA), offset amenity impacts and contribute to urban greening. The offset strategy includes a range of measures including the planting of new street trees, bush care, biodiversity plantings and landscaping.

Size and species of new trees

Transport for NSW is collaborating with the City of Parramatta Council on the selection of new tree species, size and planting locations. Current species include crepe myrtle, spotted gum, brush box and magnolia. A mixture of native and exotic tree species has been chosen to provide habitat, shade, colour and diversity. This follows careful consideration of current tree performance in the local Parramatta area and the specific constraints of each street, such as overhead power lines and underground services.

Further initiatives

Transport for NSW welcomes innovative ideas for the recycling and reuse of timber. As part of the project’s commitment, timber from 13 trees recently removed from outside Parramatta Gaol has been given to the Deerubbin Local Aboriginal Land Council for repurposing in artworks and historical displays.