Imperial Lakes experience could be transformed by technology

By Landcare Broken Hill

Lessons learned from Victoria’s use of interactive technology, apps and smart phones, could also underpin the experience at Imperial Lakes as the project continues to take shape.

A couple of weeks ago Broken Hill Landcare President, Simon Molesworth, was at the Victorian State Planning Conference which had sessions on the ways municipal councils, and local governments are applying themselves to environmental management, including their strategies for addressing the impacts of climate change.

There were impressive presentations on the use of technological innovation, providing tools for better land and environmental asset management.

The conference has provided many possible innovative technological approaches that we hope could be applied to the Imperial Lakes property where Landcare will be creating the Landcare Sustainability Hub and Nature Park.

Clearly, such technology comes at a cost, but with sponsorships and partnerships with organisations outside Broken Hill, some of the cutting-edge approaches now available could be secured for the Nature Park.

For example, smart phone apps by which the eco-tourism visitor experience can be enhanced.

For the proposed wildlife nature trail and proposed Nature Park arboretum trails a smart phone can be used to provide all sorts of real-time information, along similar lines to how many museums and art galleries now offer tours around their collections utilising smart phone.

Such as approach would enable scientific, Aboriginal and common knowledge to be given as one walks along the trails, bringing the bush alive with fascinating information.

Simultaneously acting as an educational tool and a stimulating digital tour guide in the palm of your hand, modern technology is not a gimmick but an essential tool, easily used by young and old.

The City of Greater Geelong (population 271,000), to the immediate west of Melbourne, is an example of embracing some very innovative approaches.

Geelong has adopted an impressive Smart City Strategic Framework, with several objectives:

promoting digital engagement with community working collaboratively with the private sector providers and with the community to design projects that directly meet local needs unlocking the value and benefits from data collected from smart devices to inform decision-making, guide investment, and focus on delivering benefit where it is needed most.

Smart technology is used to collect data that will inform decision making and project prioritisation.

Geelong has adopted an Urban Forest Strategy for the City, which is implemented through the latest technology. The Urban Forest Strategy flows from its Smart City Strategic Framework.

Here’s Geelong City’s Strategy:

‘The City’s Urban Forest Strategy is focused on enhancing the public and private tree population in the suburbs and townships across Greater Geelong.

The sum of all these trees and associated vegetation is called the urban forest.

Geelong’s urban forest is an extraordinarily valuable asset that is worth investing in. Our trees provide a vast array of environmental, social and economic benefits to the local community.

They improve liveability, support biodiversity, capture carbon and cool our streets. The City manages around 165,000 urban trees in our streets and parks and holds a wealth of valuable data on these assets.

The dashboard is a way to share this information with our community and demonstrate the work we are doing every day to make our city a greener and more enjoyable place to live, learn, work and visit’.

The Council manages 106,670 street trees and 46,459 park trees, as well as trees along rural roadways, reserves, waterways and bike trails.

They planted more than 2700 trees in 2020-21 as part of its annual tree planting program, and planted more than 500 trees this year in direct response to requests from community members.

The Council shares data on the trees it manages in its parks, reserves and streets via the new Urban Forest Dashboard, which features a map of Greater Geelong, allowing any citizen to zoom in on any city-managed tree to view its species, age, health and size. A true citizen’s project.

Geelong’s smart parks and gardens have devices throughout which provide real time data. In the Geelong Botanic Gardens, for instance, smart sensors generate real time data on soil and plant health.

In-ground sensors, developed by a Geelong-based start-up research company, provides information back-to base on soil moisture, soil temperature, air temperature, humidity and light. Amongst other uses, this data informs and automates irrigation.

Landcare has often advocated for the maintenance of tree hollows in both live and dead trees, pointing out that all parrot species and most owl species, and numerous marsupials only nest in tree hollows.

Geelong Council has established a community supported program called ‘Hollow Hunt’.

The Hollow Hunt project aims to build a clearer picture of tree hollow resources across Geelong with the help of community members.

The curiosity and enthusiasm of residents has been harnessed to locate and map tree hollows found in backyards, streets, reserves and parks right across Greater Geelong.

Data generated through this project helps the city, scientists and policymakers to better understand and protect these important natural resources.

The Geelong community is encouraged to hunt for a hollow anywhere in Geelong.

Via a link accessed though a smart phone or computer, community members fill in a data sheet and forward their photo for uploading.

The data is mapped and interactive for the community to use. The Council has created a list of locations where tree hollows may be found, with their database listing 412 tree hollows have been registered.

Another example of technological innovation provides data on the amount of carbon stored in trees and provides an understanding around how much each tree is offsetting.

The Victorian National Trust has a Trees for Life project at its national heritage listed property, Rippon Lea in Elsternwick, Melbourne, which will see the commissioning of an interactive smart phone app available for free download by visitors.

As well as identifying Rippon Lea’s trees, by species, age, and size, it will quantify the amount of carbon stored in individual trees and the energy use (electricity, vehicle, etc) the tree is offsetting.

This data updates annually as the trees receive their annual arborist assessments. This is a great management tool, as if a tree must be removed, the land manager knows how many new trees must be planted to make up for the tree that has been removed.

Geelong is much bigger than Broken Hill but we hope that with the potential growth mining and other ventures may bring in the next few years, these innovative ideas can be adapted so the whole community can be involved through modern technology in protecting our natural habitat.

We also hope that some of these ideas can be modified and adapted to enhance the experiences we hope to offer at Imperial Lakes. It is great to live in a time of so many new technological advances and ideas.


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