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Planning the future

Orange Museum

Orange Regional Museum

In recent reports issued by Infrastructure Australia and the Greater Sydney Commission, a coordinated and collaborative approach is being called on to plan our cities of the future. Recurring themes of liveability, prosperity, resilience and sustainability are highlighted in both reports.

The Greater Sydney Commission’s plan ‘A Metropolis of Three Cities – the Greater Sydney Region Plan’ suggests that Sydney should be split into three sub cities within the Greater Sydney area. This would enable the unique factors of each region to be addressed to meet their own specific needs. Initiatives to improve liveability, transport, proximity to work and environmental sustainability would be tailored to each ‘city’.

As our cities are expanding up and out, the need and access to public places and green space is more vital than ever. The Greater Sydney Commission’s plan suggests that ‘every 10 per cent increase in tree canopy cover can reduce land surface temperatures by 1.13 degrees Celsius’. Whilst adding more gardens, tree canopies and turfed areas is ideal, it is not always possible in dense urban areas. Green space in built up urban environments can be increased through the addition of green walls, green roofs and green ground cover areas.

The plan also highlights the need to create and encourage ‘green corridors’ that link existing parks, bushland and waterways. Adding living infrastructure elements like green walls could also act as a ribbon of green, connecting green spaces and increasing the land areas of green corridors.

Linking existing infrastructure is a framework also adopted by the Sydney Green Grid strategy, developed by Government Architect NSW (GANSW). The strategy outlines new green space that will connect town centres, public transport hubs and larger residential areas to create the Sydney Green Grid.

GANSW has used the Sydney Green Grid strategy as a formative building block to develop a new draft policy, ‘Greener Places’. The new draft policy will provide a framework for the design, planning and implementation of green infrastructure to NSW’s urban areas. The policy has recognised the importance of green infrastructure to a city’s liveability, resilience, health and sustainability.

Infrastructure Australia’s report, ‘Future Cities: Planning for our growing population’ also recognises the importance of green infrastructure to liveability. The report findings have been developed based on modelled scenarios of a future prediction of how Sydney and Melbourne could look 30 years from now. The report suggests that green infrastructure is as essential an asset to liveability as is electricity, transport and water.

Gone are the days where green space is an ‘add on’ at the end of a development, rather living infrastructure is now recognised as a critical component of all urban planning strategies. The Victorian State Government has released the ‘Metro Tunnel Living Infrastructure Plan’ as part of their $11 billion Metro Tunnel project. The plan provides guidance on sustainability targets, climate issues and outlines the benchmarks for increasing tree canopies and green ground cover areas. Receiving community support and local council endorsement, the plan will deliver health, social and wellbeing benefits to Victorian residents and demonstrates the Government’s leadership and commitment to sustainability.

The strategies outlined in these reports and policies highlight the need for a people-centric approach that addresses liveability by increasing connectedness (to each other, our natural environment and to jobs and transport), restoring community where connections have been lost, enhancing transport networks to reduce travel time and providing resilience to environmental and economic factors that may cause uncertainty. The transformation of our cities will be done through the planning and policy recommendations that preserve and enhance green space, protect our natural assets and make our cities greener, more connected, liveable, prosperous and resilient.