Trees: an investment worth making 

Mikhail Manuel, Claremont

Trees are the crowning jewels of the southern suburbs.

The oak canopy of Newlands Avenue, the willows along the Liesbeek Trail, and the champion trees of Ardene Gardens.

These green giants were planted decades ago; it is a beautiful legacy that we must continue. To do this, we must view trees as an investment. It is rare that one gets to enjoy the full glory of a tree’s growth to maturity in one lifetime.

It really is the next generation that benefits from our prudence. Hence, the temptation is ever-present to brush off the positive impact and importance of tree planting.

The lure of living our lives for today’s gain competes with the sacrifice of investing for the future. This is true for the juxtaposition of spending money today vs saving for tomorrow. And it is true for the competing need for urban densification today vs investing in space, beauty, and cleaner air for tomorrow.

As residents, property owners, and developers we need to strike the correct balance.

The City of Cape Town boasts a tree-management policy which allows residents to request for trees to be planted in their neighbourhoods. All that is required is the completion of an application form. In addition, the City is willing to donate trees to schools and community greening projects. However, planting trees to contribute to our beautiful heritage has its complexities. 

The successful investment faces two challenges – space and water. The pressing need for urban densification and the small profit margins in the Cape Town property markets incentivises developers to remove as many trees as possible and to plant shrubbery instead of turning our streets into tree-lined avenues.

Including that one extra apartment offers the opportunity for more affordable prices and increased profits. Therefore, faced with the opportunities of a growing city economy and the pressures for affordable property, it is difficult to expect developers to prioritise tree planting. However, it is an investment which developers must include.