The ability to deliver a “sustainable transformation” of Australia’s cities is being hindered by federal and state governments due to perennial underfunding and lack of a national vision, a new report has found.
The study, by Future Earth Australia, addresses urban problems including transport congestion, inflated housing markets, the loneliness crisis, inequity in opportunities and biodiversity loss.
Presented at the State of Australian Cities conference in Perth on Wednesday, the report outlays a 10-year plan to combat current policy processes which deal with our cities in a “fragmented fashion”.
Developed by leading urban research and policy experts from across Australia, the report calls for a shift in who takes responsibility for improving our cities, creating connection across key sectors in order to fast track innovation in urban development.
“Australia’s urban researchers are stifled by institutional silos and disciplinary or sector-specific remits,” RMIT University director of the centre for urban research Professor Jago Dodson said.
“Conversations with stakeholders have highlighted the rich variety of local transformation and innovation taking place in suburbs and cities around Australia that is driven by individuals, small businesses, community groups and local government.”
“However, these groups have felt disconnected from each other across sectors and disciplines.”
In order to reconcile a growing population and need for higher density with improving the city's liveability, the report recommends that Australia sets a national vision for cities and establishes a national network of knowledge hubs.
It has also recommended the establishment of new partnerships across urban sectors and capacity building among researchers, practitioners and policy makers.
Future Earth director Tayanah O’Donnell said each Australian city and region has a distinct character, as well as strengths and challenges when it comes to delivering wellbeing for its inhabitants.
“These distinct qualities help us understand what drives sustainable development in different urban contexts,” O’Donnell said.
“The report is a bottom-up, cross-sectoral plan for achieving sustainable cities and communities across Australia by 2030.
“Government, industry, the research sector, peak bodies, the philanthropic sector and civil society all have parts to play in driving this change.
“We're clever enough, there's enough science and enough knowledge to say: ‘We can have green spaces and affordable, plentiful housing, and thriving cities and regions’ so that everybody benefits from that.”