Frequently asked questions

Does our group need to become a registered not-for-profit (NFP) group?
You don’t need to become a NFP to run a crowdfunding campaign for a micro-forest. I would recommend against becoming a NFP now because of the associated administrative load. When you  apply for grants you can ask an established NFP to auspice your grant.  

What sort of land do we need?
A piece of low habitat urban parkland with as few trees as possible.

What sort of land zone do we require?
In the ACT we choose parks located in Urban Open Space as we knew the government is likely to approve these projects. We avoid conservation or heritage listed land or land of special significance (ie the Parliamentary Triangle in Canberra). For the ACT land zone information is available at www.actmapi.act.gov.au

Does it matter if the site has a slope?
Flatter land is preferred but don’t necessarily discount steeper sites.

What size is a micro-forest?
The micro-forest could be as small as 5mx5m (two car spaces) in a pocket park or a 1500 plants micro-forest on approximately 1000-1500m² of land. The park where we built our pilot micro-forest was almost 8000m² or 0.8 hectare. The bigger the patch, the more cooling and the more habitat provided. The plants at the Downer Micro-forest only occupy 5% of the park.

How much will it cost?
The cost of your project will depend on the size of the micro-forest. At 2020 prices 1500 plants + water harvesting + earthworks was around $35,000. Beware of assuming that a smaller micro-forest, say 500 plants will be 1/3rd of $35,000. A significant proportion of the costs associated with these projects are engaging experts to make it happen. For example, your community consultation will cost the same regardless of the number of plants used.

Why is it so expensive to plant 1500 plants?
Building micro-forests is much more than whacking 1500 plants in the ground and hoping for the best. It’s about building community and building local leadership and stewardship. It’s also about creating great conditions for the plants so they can thrive, using water harvesting and great soil preparation. And using experts to do the job really well. I recently designed a garden on a block of 1200m² in Canberra. It included some water harvesting features, soil preparation and paving and a small stone wall. The construction cost came out at $80,000! I regard $35,000 as great value for the community.

How do we raise funds?
The project will be funded through a mix of crowdfunding, grants & business or private donations.

What sort of plants will we use?
The Miyawaki method uses native species using a dense planting method, approximately 3 plants per m². One of the decisions your group must make and this depends on your region’s future climate will you use native plants adapted to a hotter, drier climate (like Downer and Watson micro-forests) vs endemic (from the local area) plants.

Do we need to use experts or can we do it ourselves?
You will need to engage experts eg a Community Facilitator, a Landscape Architect, a Water Harvester and Earthworks specialists to comply with local authority rules. Experts hold appropriate qualifications and insurances.

Do we have to get approval?
Definitely. You don’t want your guerilla planted micro-forest bulldozed by local authorities. A group of residents in Buderim on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland planted fruit trees and other edibles on their nature strip. Some of the resident refused the council’s demands for them to take out private insurance for their beautification works. The local council, in a fit of pique, destroyed a number of the nature strips. What a pity.

How do we get more help?
I’m finalising the updated handbook ‘How to build a community micro-forest in 8 steps’ based on my experience creating the Downer and Watson Micro-forests. The handbook will be available online in early 2022.