NEWS FROM THE FRONT DESK: A few years ago, Mirvac released an impressive new strategy on sustainability called “This Changes Everything“.
It was a hugely ambitious piece; way ahead of its time. This real estate investment trust nominated a huge number of extraordinary goals. Much of the industry huff-huffed: “way over the top” and so on.
Today, the whole world is starting to realise it needs to change everything. And there’s action everywhere. In fact forget the economic malaise on the television news check out our pages and other green news starting to infiltrate all walks of life: it’s all good, strong positive, unstoppable stuff,
It happens when we’re on the precipice and our choice is to fly or fall.
We don’t think humanity wants to repeat the mistakes of the Easter Islanders, where they chopped down the last tree because, well, someone needed to stay warm. You can guess what happened next.
Right now is our moment to fly, to seize the rising opportunities everywhere to defy the global slow down and rising interest rates.
Champing at our backsides is the need for change – the immediate and terrifying urgency.
The energy crisis just the latest climate driven emergency. And for many there’s the rising fear that this is the new normal, after three years of climate disasters, gifted by the policy vacuum of denier-land behmoths, focused on their immediate needs (to chop down the last tree).
The war in the Ukraine has, ironically, only served to underscore the need for Europe to disconnect from dependence on fossil fuels from Russia. And we’re getting the message loud and clear here too.
- The gas transition in our offices and homes is urgent
- Gas crisis: property sector to surge forward on electrification
The realisation that it’s time to “change everything” is starting to settle in very nicely indeed. Into big business, big investors, consumers and finally politicians. The teal wave at the last election made sure of that.
Business has joined environmental groups and the sensible corners of the property sector in calling for more energy efficient buildings, a transition to clean energy and support for the vulnerable in response to the gas crisis.
And even Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes who previously concentrated his energies on clean energy now gets that the built environment has a big part to play too.
MCB and wife Annie have pledged the eye-watering $1.5 billion of their personal wealth (estimated at more than $20 billion) to financial and philanthropic investments aimed at mitigating climate change.
But last month, when The Fifth Estate asked whether the fund will extend to start-ups in tackling sustainability in the built environment space, Mr Cannon-Brookes’ reply was a big “no”.
He had “no current plans” to transform the built environment the way he is attempting to transform the renewable energy space, or food waste, he told our disappointed reporter.
- Mike Cannon-Brookes loves renewable energy but he’s making the built environment feel like Cinderella
But this week he said “electrifying houses and buildings was also a key solution in the short to medium term”.
In New South Wales, Premier Dominic Perrottet is showing signs he’s sensitive to the mood swing in the electorate.
He’s probably thinking right now how much slack he is going to cut the more interesting ministers in his line up, like Treasurer Matt Kean.
And if he should elevate former planning minister Rob Stokes who he was pressured to remove by Easter Islander B team.
In the couple of weeks since the federal election, Premier Perrottet has set aside $1.2 billion commitment to renewable energy infrastructure, including a large grid-scale battery storage system on the Central Coast called the Waratah Super Battery.
He’s also set aside $500 million to upgrade the Central Coast train line, committed to expanding the Parramatta light rail, and mooted a bigger tram network for Newcastle.
Expect to see more such planet and people-friendly announcements as the next state election draws near.
But if the Premier is concerned about winning over those teal voters and also wants to assure people in Western Sydney he doesn’t want to relegate them to an environment that he wouldn’t want to live in, he could do well to listen to the Turnbulls, Malcolm and Lucy, who this week wisely suggested that Western Sydney should be as cool and as liveable as the eastern suburbs.
As The Sydney Morning Herald reported Lucy Turnbull told a Western Sydney Dialogue event that: “We’ve got to shift the way we conceptualise suburbia to be more climate change-resistant, more human friendly, more walkable, more cyclable, more medium density.
“If you think about, say, terrace houses in Paddington and Glebe, they were conceived and built long before there were planning regulations, but they are some of the most attractive, valuable property in Australia.
“So why can’t we relearn what we’ve somehow unlearnt with the advent of automobile dependence and [ensure] that green urban domain is better distributed throughout the city?”
- On why a sustainable built environment means retrofitting some permaculture principles to our cities
- Australia’s “greenest” buildings aren’t actually that green
And here’s some good news for Premier Perrottet: the hard planning policy work for creating a cooler, greener, more walkable western Sydney with sustainable medium-density apartments and master planned communities has already been done.
It was neatly set out in the Design and Place SEPP, crafted by former Planning Minister Rob Stokes and shelved by planning minister Anthony Roberts in April (that B team again).
In fact, we helpfully saved all the policy documents for him, after they were deleted from government websites. Mr Perrottet could just reach out and touch the SEPP, bring it back to life. He must be so tempted…
Here it is Mr Perrottet. You don’t have to go far.
Against this interesting little rising tide of green wokeness we see all around, revisiting the SEPP would certainly be a wise idea.
And if the NSW premier is still in thrall to Easter Islanders then perhaps we need to suggest that the new Prime Minister take a look at the situation.
Mr Albanese might be tempted to take a leaf out of Bob Hawke’s playbook when he stepped in over state rights to enact protections for the Franklin River and Fraser Island.
He might decide we need a national urban planning framework that protects people from flood and extreme heat by preventing development in vulnerable places or mandating protections such as tree canopy covers and light cool roofs, as the SEPP did,
Thing is that if the states can’t protect the people then a higher order needs to step up and take responsibility. Someone powerful enough to ignore the bleatings of vested interests.
- Major planning battle brewing in NSW over walkable communities and sustainable homes
- Down the memory hole: Design and Place SEPP documents pulled from government websites
- On why it’s time for the new feds to take a leaf out of Bob Hawke’s playbook and get involved in land-use planning
This changes everything for you
The house of fossil fuels is tumbling. People are now turning to the beautiful things that can replace it.
It’s probably why our Urban Greening event on 28 July is striking such an exciting notes.
(Wait till we reveal our other speakers)
Instead of worrying about how to keep the filth from our homes and bodies and nature, there’s a growing movement concentrating on the lush, clean, green and socially generous things we can work on instead.
As they say if you want to change everything don’t focus on what you want to get rid of, focus on what you want.
Sooner or later, you’ll get it.
Easter Island, we’re looking at you, and we get your message.
UPDATED 20 June 2022 at 15.25 AEST to amend a detail about Mirvac’s “This Changes Everything” strategy.