2 March 2011 – The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council this week called  for a federal minister and department for cities and urban development to meet the nation’s urban challenges.

Speaking at the Green Cities 2011 conference in Melbourne on Tuesday ASBEC president Tom Roper said there was an urgent need for “bold leadership and a streamlined, coordinated approach” to urban management policy.

“We are facing a future of transport gridlock, rising greenhouse gas emissions and eroded quality of life unless we take decisive action. An integrated and collaborative approach is mandatory if we are to foster a culture of innovation and excellence, and ensure our cities are liveable, affordable and sustainable,” Mr Roper said.

ASBEC’s list of urgent actions included:

  • A federal minister for cities and urban development to drive the reforms needed to better connect urban built environment policies and programs across all levels of government.
  • A cities and urban development cabinet committee of federal ministers whose portfolios involve decisions or activities pertaining to urban centres.
  • A COAG cities and urban development ministerial Council involving representation by state and territory treasurers and planning ministers, and local government
  • A cities and urban development non-government organisation roundtable to ensure business and community groups have a direct voice to government on issues involving our cities.
  • A department of cities and urban development tasked with developing and co-ordinating policy which involves urban outcomes

Romilly Madew, chief executive of the Green Building Council Australia and chair of the Cities task group, said the ASBEC call to action included a matrix that plotted 45 Australian government programs, strategies and initiatives that impact the built environment.

“While the Australian Government’s commitment to national urban policy is welcome, we are particularly concerned by the lack of co-ordination between the three levels of government in Australia, resulting in inconsistently-managed programs and policies across eight state and territory governments and more than 500 local governments,” Ms Madew

“Business and the community are looking to the Federal Government to join-up their forthcoming policies on population, cities, regional Australia and sustainability,” chief executive of the Property Council of Australia Peter Verwer said.

“Cities of all shapes and sizes are the centre of action. A linked up, coordinated approach is needed to meet the challenges of managing growth, improving quality and liveability and transitioning to a low carbon economy while maintaining wealth creation,” chief executive officer of Australian Institute of Architects David Parken said.

“With industry working together like never before across the design, development, operation and management of Australia’s built environments, it is essential that our governments match this initiative and fully support our call to action,” according to the chairman of the Facility Management Association of Australia, Steve Taylor.

“It is clear that a coordinated approach to urban policy development is required to meet Australians ’desire for sustainable and liveable cities, to make our cities more resilient to climate change and environmental disasters and to maximise the opportunities of our cities as drivers of Australia’s productivity and innovation,” Mr Roper concluded.

ASBEC cited as an example the European Union’s report of 2010, The urban dimension in European Union policies which states that ”Cities and metropolitan areas are the engines of economic development”.

The EU established the Inter-service Group on Urban Development in December 2005. Chaired by the Regional Policy DG it:

  • Promotes an integrated approach to sustainable urban development when programming and implementing the assistance of  structural funds
  • Identifies initiatives under the various EU policies aiming to support sustainable development of urban areas and to ensure the necessary cooperation between the Commission services in this respect
  • Ensures partnership between the Commission, the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions, the associations of towns and urban areas and establishes regular discussion and exchange of views on urban issues.

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