In June of 2019, Lord Mayor Clover Moore declared a climate emergency in response to the ongoing and worsening effects of climate change.

Then the pandemic hit with far-reaching and harrowing impacts on nearly every facet of the city, especially small businesses, the arts and tourism industries.

In an effort to revitalise the city now that the worst of the pandemic seems to be over, City of Sydney put out a call to artists for works that would reinvigorate the deserted laneways of the city. One such work is the Barlow Street Micro Forest by the Dirt Witches collective.

The installation contains over 30 species belonging to the critically endangered eastern suburbs banksia scrub, as well as beehives containing sugarbag stingless native bees. It serves as a poetic reminder of the 5,300 hectares of scrub that once stretched between Botany Bay and North Head.

The forest is a temporary installation, however Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Scully is hopeful that the public response will secure the micro forest’s permanency.

“I’m hopeful that the forest serves as a new way of doing things. I think it aligns really well with our Greening Sydney Strategy,” says Jess.

Sydney is the only capital city local government that has managed to increase its green canopy in the last decade.

“We have done so by setting targets and planting a tree in every possible public space that we can. But we’re getting to the point now where we need people to plant those trees in their yards. We need to green buildings and put more green cover on and around buildings,” says Jess.

“We also need to green spaces that haven’t been greened before, like laneways.”

The most recent City success is the approval of amendments to traditional restrictions on heritage terraces that impeded those wanting to put solar panels on their rooves.

“About 38% of city of Sydney government area is considered to be a heritage or protected conservation area. We have always prioritised heritage needs and protections. We’ve now got to balance that with the fact that we’re in a climate emergency.”

Thanks to Jess’s motion, those wanting to use solar panels and other infrastructure like rainwater tanks in heritage conservation areas, can simply apply for an exemption to the development application process.

“I would love Sydney to have a fair and creative and inclusive recovery. I would love this very difficult moment that a lot of people are experiencing, to be the moment where we decide we can work better.

“We tend to hear a lot from the same people, but we tend to hear very little from people who have kids, people who are working age, people who are students, people who rent. I think we will get a better city with more creative solutions and ideas if we hear from those people.

“It’s a responsibility that we have if we want to live in a city that we love, but it’s also a great opportunity to make sure the city is shaped for all of us.”

For more information on the newly released Greening Sydney Strategy, head to the City of Sydney website.

Cover image: The Dirt Witches Collective at Barlow Street Forest. Image supplied by City of Sydney.