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New software reflected in healthy street trees

Street trees in the Armidale region are about to get some added cloud assistance – of the digital variety.

Management of the region’s urban street trees is being improved by a new cloud-based software system being implemented by Council.

An audit of the region’s thousands of street trees is underway as part of the move to using the Reflect Asset Edge system, which will provide instant access to information about the location, variety, age and management history of every tree.

“The software will bring many benefits to how we manage street trees, which are central to the unique image of our region,” Council’s Public & Town Spaces Project Officer, Richard Single, said.

“It will enable us to respond more quickly to customer enquiries and strategically plan our tree planting and maintenance. It records the health of individual trees and work undertaken on each tree, enabling us to access with a single click of a mouse a list of trees requiring maintenance and those that might pose a safety risk.

“The switch to Reflect will also make our tree management processes virtually paperless, so we’ll be saving trees along the way as well.”

Tree inspection reports will be submitted on smart devices, customer service enquiries will be submitted electronically and crews out in the field will use tablets to guide and document their tree lopping and removal.

Mr Single said that would streamline many processes and, with Reflect automating the mapping and maintenance schedules of each tree, would enable Council to more closely monitor and manage its urban trees.

“It should accelerate urban tree management at every step, from the time it takes to do a tree inspection, to quickly identifying how a tree needs to be pruned and taking a photo to document how it has been done.

“It will help identify when tree maintenance or removal can be done as part of other works in a location, also saving valuable time.”

He said Reflect’s ability to map each tree throughout their lifetime would, over time, provide a much clearer picture of how long each variety survived in particular locations and the optimum level of maintenance required.

Council currently has a program of inspecting each tree every five years and has a tree replacement strategy based on general estimates of each variety’s lifespan.

“That can be refined based on data compiled by Reflect, to achieve a more cost and time-efficient inspection and maintenance program. Reflect will also identify when damage to a tree could warrant more frequent inspection during its lifetime.”

Mr Single said Reflect would also help Council get the right mix of different tree varieties, “to ensure we have the best type of tree for each location and plenty of diversity”.

“Having high densities of a variety can leave them more prone to the spread of pest and disease which, when an outbreak occurs, can result in the loss of a large proportion of your tree population,” he said.

“One of the most important benefits of the software is the legal protection it offers Council if there’s an incident involving a street tree, because Reflect can show we have taken the right steps to maintain that tree.

“Those records also provide transparency in management of street trees, to allay community concerns when the time comes to remove or replace a tree.”

With around 13,000 street trees in Armidale alone and more than 20,000 throughout the local government area, the audit is being undertaken in zones. Auditing of the first zone, covering Donnelly Street to Barney Street in Armidale, is on track to be finished early next year so the system can by operational in mid 2021.

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