Queenslanders urge to rewild artificial grass strips

by | Dec 21, 2023

Image: abc.net.au

Hundreds of Queenslanders have signed a petition urging the state government to stop rolling out fake grass on publicly owned land and infrastructure.

Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) uses artificial turf on parts of its network, including on narrow median strips and traffic islands at intersections. It is now facing calls to stop the practice, with a new petition lodged before state parliament that attracted more than 850 signatures in only five days.

Principal petitioner Gayle Dallaston from the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Community Brisbane Northside group raised concerns about the heat generated by artificial grass.

She described artificial grass as “really, really hot” and wants native plants to be used instead of fake turf.

“It [artificial grass] just soaks up the heat and reflects it back instead of cooling our cities and making it a bit more liveable. It takes away the opportunity to plant something better there for a start. We should be planting trees and habitat on any spare land that we have. They have got to stop doing it and start planting better,” Ms Dallaston said.

According to one research paper published in 2016, artificial turf has been recorded to heat up to 72.4 degrees Celsius, compared to natural grass with the same sun exposure reaching half that at 36.6 degrees Celsius with a faster heat dissipation rate.

Ms Dallaston’s petition calls on the parliament to do “all in its power” to immediately cease the installation of artificial grass on all public and government land.

Professor Richard Fuller from the University of Queensland’s School of the Environment said studies had found artificial turf heated up extremely quickly. He also warned of the effects of artificial grass on biodiversity.

“Nature depends on plants and animals. And the vegetation on the surface is incredibly important. In many ways, it [using artificial turf] is the same as concreting over a patch of soil. Ecologically, it is basically the same thing,” Professor Fuller said.


Leaders in rewilding

The Sunshine Coast is a leading example of how nature strips are being ‘rewilded’ as low-maintenance native plants are taking precedence over concrete and artificial grass. The environmental group Backyards for Biodiversity South East Queensland (SEQ) launched in the region in late 2022 and has been actively helping residents and businesses promote biodiversity by stocking and planting locally indigenous flora.

Backyards for Biodiversity SEQ president and retired Sunshine Coast Council principal environment officer John Birbeck told Sunshine Coast News that the group aims to make local backyards and the region’s suburbs rich with wildlife again.

“We must think globally and recognise the big issues of climate change and, just as seriously, biodiversity loss, and then act locally,” he said.

“We can bring our nature back. It starts with thinking about ecology. Local native plants evolved here in a myriad of colour and forms, with a diversity of wonderful animal life.”

Unfortunately, apart from the more popular species of natives, the average Australian gardener tends to know more about imported species of flora than the diverse range of natives available. This is where hardware and garden centres can step in and provide suggestions for native alternatives in and around the home.

As indoor plants in particular have increased thanks to COVID, Griffith University published the paper, Native Plants for Indoors and Small Gardens in South East Queensland earlier in the year. The paper is an excellent resource for staff to refer to in recommending native plants to customers, with advice and suggestions to make plant selections easier whether it be for indoors or the garden.

As stated in the paper from Griffith University, “Growing native plants is an excellent way to create a sustainable and beautiful garden, while also benefitting the environment and preserving local biodiversity.”

The full paper can be viewed and accessed here: https://www.griffith.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0035/1778219/Native-plants-for-pots-and-gardens-booklet-Final-low-resolution.pdf