Additionally, trees reduce wind intensity in urban environments which helps reduce infrastructure damage. By increasing green corridors in urban areas supports the natural protection and food sources for our fauna, such as birds, tree dwelling animals and insects which are all environmental keystone animals in the food chain.

Pedestrian Network Planting

Council Officers Tree Planting

Tree Canopy Enlargement

What has feedback of community been?

The Greater Shepparton community are largely supportive of the Urban Forest Strategy. By having this overwhelming support shows the community understand the benefit of trees in the urban environment.

The total area in which tree canopy cover was assessed totalled 115 km2 (11,463 Ha) across the Greater Shepparton City Council LGA

Clear correlation of canopy cover to radiant temperatures was demonstrated across the LGA and in areas as low as one hectare, suitable for strategic management purposes

Sample image demonstrating the canopy cover determined by OPO AI alongside a geospatially linked thermal image (Tatura)

Greater Shepparton City Council Tree Planting Site 2022

Greater Shepparton City Council Tree Planting Site 2019

What are the next steps for you and Shepparton Council? And how can people learn more about your work?

Our strategy has another 15 years to run. By using AI data, we can map out key locations to plant. Industrial areas have been identified as areas lacking in canopy cover, so we are thinking strategically to implement planting programs into these hard surface precincts. If you are interested in Councils strategy head to the Greater Shepparton Council website to read more about our Urban Forest Strategy.

Final Takeway?

The expectation is when trees are planted the effect is instant. Yes, this is the case to a certain extent, but the reality is the true benefit will take 20+ years when the trees mature.  Everything we are doing now will benefit this generation and the next.

Thanks for sitting down with OPO!

For non-technical experts and the general public, can you dig into the details a little more about the risks we face and how council policy and your work is of great value?

Council recognises importance of canopy cover in an urban environment. The Greater Shepparton community is very interested and supportive in the work Council is doing.

Risk around unpredictable weather, short sharp storms and tornado activity in recent times has shown we are definitely going through some environmental changes. Not only locally but also nationally and internationally. Our region has experienced some natural events which are still quite raw in our community.

Trees can take up and store a lot of water, so it is really important that these assets are in an urban environment, as well as for shading, cooling and amenity too. 

Preparing Regional Cities for Rising Temperatures

With the Australian summer approaching and El Nino. How do you think the work will reduce heat risk and benefit the community now or the coming years?

Already established trees are playing a big part in providing amenity for our community. With the Urban Forest Strategy only 5 years old we will see the true benefit in 20+ years when the trees mature. Simply, we are planting for now and for the future.

What are you most proud of with the work you’ve been doing across urban forestry and how do you see the future of it all?

Council are most proud of fact that we have executing the Urban Forest Strategy annually with great success. We also have a One Tree Per Child Program (OTPC) that further supports Councils commitment to climate change.  The OTPC program plants 15,000 plants / trees per year. By greening the Shepparton region increases biodiversity which is so important for the environment locally and nationally.

Eric, tell us, what are you working on right now?

As Coordinator Arboriculture I am responsible for all matters related to trees which includes maintenance, compliance, budgeting, development sites, stakeholder engagement, electric line clearance, annual tree planting programs and our urban forest strategy. 

You’ve been working on the City’s Tree Canopy Cover & Thermal Image Assessment: Urban Forest Benchmarking Project Years 2017 & 2022. Can you tell us about this?

In 2017 Greater Shepparton City Council adopted the Urban Forest Strategy (UFS) to become a more attractive, vibrant and liveable region with well-connected green spaces.  


The main aim of the strategy is to increase the urban forest canopy cover by 40% in all towns by the year 2037. Actions to achieve this has been identifying vacant tree spaces within the urban areas and replanting with suitable species, planting large canopy trees where possible, ensuring planting is equitable across the region and engaging and collaborating with landholders and the community. 

Through our analysis, what surprised Council in our findings the most was the loss of trees on private land. Some of which could be attributed to the October 2022 floods, while others were miscellaneous. Ongoing, Council will review the data carefully and investigate the cause and implement changes based on our findings.

We sense an opportunity here. 

Yes, opportunity is in the data. We can see heat island effect, and we can now use the data to plan and find the particular areas where trees would be most beneficial. Our partners Active Green Services supported by OPO are helping us through thermal imagery and canopy cover data, making it easily accessible and at a low cost.

OPO’s Tree canopy and urban heat island data was used in your strategy. How do you see near real-time analytics helping greening experts such as yourself now and into the future?

It would be of benefit for LGA’s to conduct thermal mapping of their region. To have real-time data to identify areas for targeting particular planting areas – reducing the heat island effect. Having the thermal mapping at your disposal helps identify areas such as public, private, industrial land and roadways for improvement. Using the data indicates where Council has made gains and where we can make improvements and shows the value of trees in the urban setting.

Active Green Services worked with OPO and provided your report benchmarking 20 urban and peri-urban areas of the Greater Shepparton City Council for the years 2017 and 2022. What did you learn from this? 

Thermal imaging demonstrates the correlation between tree canopy cover and relative radiant temperatures. AGS and OPO have been fantastic to help highlight this using AI technology.

What this means is, we can use the data to accurately plant trees where heat island areas were identified in the report and where trees are being removed. We can then educate the community on the importance of retaining trees in an urban setting.

We recently sat down with Shepparton Council’s Eric Heeps on the topic of rural green infrastructure. Read the compelling story of their trees strategy here.

3 min read



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22nd November 2023

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