AILA, which provided submissions to the Government to consult into the plan, is concerned that Australia has fallen behind in leadership compared to governments around the world, "Top marks for the bold statement within, but as Mr Birrell states in his opening, “…the Plan will only be as good as the commitments and leadership that follow”. Unfortunately on this occasion, the Australian Government has fallen behind leadership of governments around the world who are embracing green infrastructure as a formal asset class, to be valued and recognised for its ability to strengthen the sustainability and resilience of urban and regional communities."
AILA CEO Shahana McKenzie said of the recommendations made into the plan, "We support the reference in the Plan that “Infrastructure can do more than just get us from A to B”, yet the infrastructure priority list contained within the plan is largely a list of projects that help get us from A to B. The plan fails to build on its stated ambition of “…providing broader social and environmental benefits and help create a more sustainable and fairer Australia”. Of the more than 90 infrastructure projects listed as a priority, only one has a direct reference to active and healthy living. None of the projects directly reference green infrastructure."
"Furthermore, with more than 70 recommendations within the Plan, only a small handful truly provides substantive guidance, with most providing little substance, or meaningful guidance. Recommendations like “Governments should aim to grow the population of our smaller capital cities”, verge on being meaningless. Clear actions, responsibilities and funding are lacking from the Plan and therefore places this good work at risk of ‘bookshelves’."
Looking to the future, McKenzie said, "We hold hope that when the Plan next gets updated, in five years’ time, that the government has been able to harness that “strategic and ambitious approach to infrastructure” and acknowledge the value of green infrastructures contribution to a healthy, liveable and resilience nation".
In response to reviewing the plan in detail, AILA congratulates the Government on:
- Producing, in a short period of time, a comprehensive document seeking to position Australia to be productive nationally, and a regional and international competitor.
- Taking a proactive approach to acknowledging and strengthening the much needed infrastructure enhancements in remote and indigenous communities.
- Its openness and willingness to listen and learn, of the diversity of interests and demands that multiple stakeholders would have presented.
- The Plan’s positioning of Australia as a competitive contributor to the vibrant Asia-Pacific regional economy, ensuring that employment and social opportunities are maximised.
But AILA also raises the following concerns in relation to the plan:
- Unfortunately, the Plan fails to act on its vision on taking a "strategic and ambitious approach to infrastructure".
- While there is acknowledgement of Australia's natural environment in the second sentence of the Chairman’s introduction, the plan overall fails to embrace the value green infrastructure brings to more sustainable, healthy and resilience cities and there is not a single reference to ‘green infrastructure’ in the entire document. Encouragingly there are two references to ‘green space’.
- Even when the Plan identifies strategies such as removal of on-street parking to create great network efficiencies, it fails to leverage the greater social benefits by enhancing place making and embracing world class urban design. This reinforces the Plan’s negligence in acknowledging walking and cycling as a mode of mobility, and critical to providing the important ‘last mile mobility’ that is often forgotten and results in most efficient functioning of broader regional transit networks.
- The Plan has lost the opportunity of embracing green infrastructure as an accelerant for greater livability, and a mechanism for promoting healthy cities and building resilient attributes in our existing and proposed infrastructure projects.
- The Plan acknowledges that as our communities grow and become more dense, that there is a need to "provides access to high-quality public spaces, including parks, community facilities and cultural precincts”.
- The Plan’s continual reference to growth and densification, and recognition that we must “deliver high-quality, higher density living, connected by world class infrastructure services”, lacks the necessary investment strategies around creating spaces, places and human connections to local services and everyday living requirements. The ’20 Minute’ city, a strategy employed by many of the world’s leading sustainable cities (such as Portland, Oregon), fails to be mentioned.
AILA is the growing national advocacy body representing 2500 active and engaged landscape architects, promoting the importance of the profession today and for the future. Committed to designing and creating a better Australia, landscape architects shape the world around us. To find out more visit aila.org.au