27 October 2010 – Resourced-based cities in the north west of Australia, linked to our regional neighbours and high-speed trains on the east coast could all be part of a vision for Australia, according to the new pre-policy document from the ADC Forum, majority funded by the federal government.

The ADC Forum’s Cities Report, also includes targets such as a 30 per cent reduction in carbon emissions and an increased population density around public transport corridors among a series of sustainability targets.

Released on Friday 22 October as a response to the ADC (formerly the Australian Davos Connection) Cities Summit held in March this year, the report sets out criteria and targets for Australian cities with respect to sustainability, livability and resilience, urging urban planners to meet the challenges of population growth, traffic congestion, water shortages and climate change.

One of the authors of the report, adjunct professor at the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at the University of Sydney John Stanley said that the efficiency of Australian cities will be enhanced by increasing density around public transport corridors as well as fostering the development of regional cities to help cope with Australia’s population growth.

“Increasing density in the middle suburbs, around public transport corridors, will drastically improve the efficiency of our cities while maintaining their livability,” said Professor Stanley.

“We need to look beyond our existing cities and consider the expansion of our regional centres, as well as the development of whole new cities.

“There is a case for resourced-based cities in the north west, which could be closely linked to our regional neighbours, while a high-speed train in the east coast corridor could turn regional centres into major cities.”

Some of the sustainability targets outlined in the report include:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions reduced by at least 30 per cent on 2000 levels – Without additional actions, Australian greenhouse gas emissions are projected to increase to 20 per cent above 2000 levels by 2020. ClimateWorks Australia (2010) has shown that Australia can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 25 per cent below 2000 levels at an average annual cost of $A185 per household, using technologies available today.
  • Reduce drinking water use by 30 per cent by 2020 – Pursuit of this principle would lead to greater capture of stormwater, more water recycling and sewer mining.
  • 100 per cent achievement of national air quality targets – A National Environment Protection Measure sets national standards for the six key air pollutants to which most Australians are exposed: carbon monoxide, ozone, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, lead and particles. The aim should be to meet all targets in all cities by 2020.
  • Solid waste disposal rates (all sources) less than 0.4 tonnes per capita – Medium-term targets of 80 per cent recovery for re-use, recycling and energy recovery of commercial/industrial and construction/ demolition waste and 65 per cent for municipal waste are already in place in some jurisdictions and further progress by 2020 should be possible.

Livability

  • Gross urban density to increase at least 20 per cent – Increasing densities in our cities will require them to achieve a faster growth rate. A 20 per cent minimum increase in gross densities is proposed to 2020 but this could arguably be set at a higher rate.

Australia cities’ resilience to climate change

  • All states are to have environmental targets and infrastructure plans in place by 2012 to access national infrastructure funds.
  • Develop a national plan to correct ecological deficit and program for urban areas
  • Direct substantial funding based an national assessment of outcomes and performance standards
  • Enact effective and integrated ecological sustainability into all government legislation, across all policy areas
  • National program of urban renewal of central activity districts and our major corridors
  • National energy efficiency retrofit program for buildings and industrial developments
  • “Catchment caps” for cities. Well-designed caps will promote innovative, forward-thinking investment in management of water scarcity.

Transport

The key policy objectives required to improve the productivity, liveability and sustainability of our cities, as they are affected by our city transport systems, are outlined in ARA et al. (2010):

  • More compact (walking and cycling friendly) urban settlements. This requires a much greater focus on delivering higher density mixed use, polycentric cities, with higher development densities along major trunk urban public transport corridors, while supporting strong CBDs.
  • Increased investment in public transport. Priorities should focus on improvements in trunk services to increase modal share and improvements in local services to enhance prospects for social inclusion, while feeding trunk services.
  • Investment in capacity for rail freight and inter-modal hubs, to assist a modal shift of freight towards rail, especially in congested areas, and for long haul general freight movement
  • Reallocation of road space to prioritise low emission modes (for example, high occupancy vehicle lanes). This initiative will help ease congestion costs as well as cut greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Behaviour change programs. For personal travel, these initiatives can be undertaken quickly, to shift mode choices towards lower impact options
  • Improvement of fuel efficiency – to drive significant cuts in transport greenhouse gas emissions. This is likely to require mandatory fuel efficiency targets, in line with European standards within a few years.

View the report here.