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National Leadership Needed for Urban Greening

Posted by LNA Master Landscapers Association on 6 July 2016

Many experts agree that the most glaring omission from this year's federal election was the lack of concrete support offered by both major parties for the protection and development of green space and infrastructure in Australia's cities and urban environments.

Whilst there has been some acknowledgement of this need by the Turnbull Federal Government policy documents, such as the Australian Infrastructure Plan, the Smart Cities Plan and the Sustainable Cities Investment Fund, they have not been coupled with recommendations for action.

A new report has just been published by the 202020 Vision Campaign, of which the LNA is a member and supporter. The 202020 Vision Campaign represents a network of over 400 members and organisations who aim to see an increase in urban green space by 20% by the year 2020. The report is a three-part Policy Guide, with the third part, Top Ten Opportunities, written and researched by Josh Byrne and Associates. It outlines the top 10 challenges preventing greener and more liveable cities from being developed in Australia. These challenges are:

  1. Absence of federal policy
  2. Lack of State, Territory and Local government drivers
  3. Excessive clearing
  4. No recognition of urban green assets as a carbon sequestration resource
  5. Insufficient protections
  6. Insufficient support from ratings tools
  7. Poor asset management
  8. Removal for road works
  9. Competing council priorities
  10. Lack of space in residential developments.

To read the full 202020 Vision Policy Guide, click here.

As indicated by the first point in this list, there is a clear and strong need for a strengthening of government policy and regulation to help protect existing greenery, as well as increasing it. A dedicated policy needs to be implemented and in so doing, assist State and Local governments to create real change in our urban landscapes. The lack of leadership from above has led to frustration and confusion as State Governments and Councils struggle with the competing priorities of urban infill, transport infrastructure and protecting the environment.

Whilst some of the better councils are managing this balance well, others could certainly use improved regulatory structures. The report found that there is widespread support from buyers and constituents for highly-sustainable buildings and the development sector is also likely to respond to better government regulations and examples to follow.

Ensuring that all new developments of a certain size meet urban greening criteria would be an excellent start. In countries such as Germany, nearly a third of all German cities have regulations to support green-roof and rainwater technology. Existing developments could also be incentivised to implement appropriate green infrastructure too. These kinds of policies help to address environmental issues such as the heat island effect and rainwater absorption, as well as air quality in our cities.

Developers need to be encouraged through regulatory change to consider how they can maintain and create green space to alleviate the pressures of urban development. Following the example set by architects and developers such as the award-winning ASPECT Studios and Landscape Architecture, or Sekisui House, significant portions of the land allocated for development can be reserved for planting eco-gardens to improve the environment and the health and wellbeing of the community. Home owners can also be encouraged to think greener with well-designed developments.

However, the key recommendation from the report is that the Federal Government needs to lead this initiative with clear policies and appropriate regulations for protecting and enhancing green spaces and infrastructure in Australian cities. The policies and regulations in place currently at State and Local levels vary greatly and have led to a piecemeal and confused approach to urban greening, diluted by conflicting priorities. The LNA and 202020 Vision are firmly advocating for true leadership and dedication to be displayed on this issue for real change to be seen and maximum impact achieved.

The above blog has been written based on an article by Anna Anderson featured on the Domain website, entitled 'Issue of ever-shrinking green space in cities missing from election campaign. To read the full article, click here. Some portions have also been sourced from an article 'Lack of federal policy among Top 10 challenges impacting urban greening: 202020 Vision report' featured on the Architecture and Design website. To read the full article, click here.

Author: LNA Master Landscapers Association
Tags: Industry News

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