by Andrew Starc
15 June, 2010 – The Australian Conservation Foundation’s first sustainable cities index today nominated Darwin as Australia’s most liveable city among a list of 20.
But though Darwin was a clear winner on several measures, particularly biodiversity and air quality, the index ranked the city amongst the worst performing for ecological footprint – 18th – and preparedness for climate change – 15th.
Across the board, Australian cities did not fare well with respect to sustainability.
According to ACF executive director Don Henry, poor marks were result of wastefulness, booming populations and poor planning.
“Australia’s major cities consistently rate among the most liveable, but liveability is not the same as sustainability,” Dr Henry said.
“Australians use more water and energy and own more cars per person than the citizens of almost any other developed country.
“Many decades of being wasteful with resources, combined with booming population growth, poor planning and a lack of infrastructure investment has come at a real cost to our economy, society and environment.”
ACF’s Sustainable Cities Index tracks the performance of Australia’s 20 largest cities across 15 indicators: air quality, ecological footprint, green buildings, water, biodiversity, health, density, wellbeing, transport, employment, climate change readiness, education, food production, public participation and household debt.
Apart from the overall ranking, the Index ranks each city from one to 20 for each individual category; one being the most sustainable and 20 being the least.
Brisbane also scored well in the index, ranking second for the number of green buildings relative to population size, with 40 Green Star certified projects, but faring badly with respect to its ecological footprint, where it ranked 17th.
Melbourne, which ranked seventh overall, was ranked fourth for green buildings, with 57 Green Star certified projects as of February 2010. The city hovered around the mean with respect to air quality, ecological footprint, water, biodiversity and preparedness for climate change.
Ranked 12th overall, Sydney came first for sustainable density, with 2461 residents per square kilometre, while the city’s air quality, ecological footprint and preparedness for climate change were ranked 17th, 16th and 12th respectively. Sydney also ranked sixth in water and ninth with respect to green buildings, with 46 Green Star certified projects as of February 2010.
Tied equal 14th with Ballarat, Adelaide ranked third for green buildings, with 19 Green Star certified projects as of February 2010, but ranked 15th and 19th for ecological footprint and water respectively.
Ranked last overall, Perth placed was also last for three categories: ecological footprint, water and transport. For air quality and green buildings the city was placed 15th and 13th respectively. For climate change preparedness it was ranked ninth and the one positive was a ranking of fifth for biodiversity.
Perth came last on the list because of a very high ecological footprint per person and the amount of water supplied to houses relative to annual rainfall.
While Perth’s public transport system is better than many cities’, it still scored poorly on transport with 641 private vehicles for every thousand people.
Canberra came in fifth, with Melbourne ranked seventh and Sydney twelfth, with most cities clustered around the middle of the scoring range.
Dr Henry said: “Our cities could be transformed into clean, efficient places with great public transport and happier, healthier residents.
“In this federal election year it’s up to our political leaders to prove they have the plans to deliver world class public transport systems, clean up Australia’s vehicle fleet and make our cities truly sustainable.”
Click here to view the complete Sustainable Cities Index.
The Fifth Estate – sustainable property news