2020 SA Climate Leaders Award for tackling climate change

Published on 24 February 2021

Climate leaders

City of Onkaparinga’s efforts to increase tree and vegetation cover in its suburbs and townships have been recognised with a 2020 SA Climate Leaders Award for tackling climate change.

The awards, hosted by the Premier’s Climate Change Council and presented by the Climate Change Minister David Speirs on Monday night, showcase the innovative work taking place across the state to address climate change and build South Australia’s reputation as a climate-smart state.

Onkaparinga’s win in the government category recognised council’s Greening Onkaparinga program, which has seen vegetation cover increase by almost three per cent over the past four years.

Key to the program is council’s urban forest planting targets, which will see a 20 per cent increase in both tree canopy cover and urban green cover in public areas by 2045 (equal to 100,000 new trees in street verges, waterways and parks).

More than 35,000 have already been planted since the targets were identified in 2016.

City of Onkaparinga Mayor Erin Thompson said the award win reflects council’s commitment to tackling climate change, and the importance of trees to the health of our communities and the planet.

“Retaining and planting trees in our city is paramount for our wellbeing because they provide shade, beauty and shelter, and reduce the impact of radiant heat,” Mayor Thompson said.

“They also help clean the air, reduce stormwater runoff and provide habitat for birds and wildlife.

“Our community has consistently told us that caring for our environment and climate change outcomes are top priorities for them, so our tree planting program responds directly to those concerns.

“While we don’t do this work to win awards, it’s great to be recognised for our efforts, and it’s testament to the work of our passionate staff in teams across the organisation.”

Aside from its urban forest targets, council increases tree and vegetation cover and supports nature across the city in a number of ways including:

  • Using high-tech tree and heat canopy mapping to identify hotspots where trees are being lost
  • Using the above information, combined with social demographic data, to guide council priorities in where to focus its tree planting
  • Removing woody weeds and planting in council’s waterways and bush reserves
  • Supporting citizen science projects such as the Willunga Tree Trail with the Willunga Environment Centre

City of Onkaparinga’s 2020 SA Climate Leaders Award win comes in the wake of news that council slashed its corporate greenhouse gas emissions by 46 per cent since 2010-11, following a slew of energy-reducing projects.

Another council program, Climate Ready Schools—a partnership between Green Adelaide Education and the Cities of Onkaparinga and Marion—was a finalist in the Government category, recognised for challenging students and teachers to investigate ways to mitigate climate change in their school or neighbourhood.

It has been a big week for awards in Onkaparinga, with McLaren Vale also being ranked #6 in travel website Wotif’s annual Aussie Town of the Year Awards—the only SA town to make the list.