Green Visions: Nature as infrastructure

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A number of recent industry campaigns and major policy documents from both state and local government levels promote nature’s critical role in supporting economic prosperity, health and wellbeing.

Although much has been written about a green infrastructure design-led approach for urban environments, it was not until recently that major policy documents have included measures that promote nature as a key driver for the built environment.

On both state and local government levels, policy and planning directives increasingly reflect the acceptance of nature-as-infrastructure’s critical role in underpinning economic prosperity, health and wellbeing.

The New South Wales Government’s A Plan for Growing Sydney promotes the delivery of the Sydney Green Grid project, a framework to create an interconnected network of open space throughout metropolitan Sydney.

The City of Melbourne’s multi-million-dollar Urban Forest Strategy aims to almost double the canopy cover in the city by 2040 and Horticulture Innovation Australia’s 202020 Vision aims to create 20 percent more green space across the country’s urban areas by 2020

The national 202020 Vision campaign

The 202020 Vision campaign is a collaborative plan for a 20 percent increase in Australia’s urban green space by the year 2020. To achieve this, the campaign brings together industry, government and individuals by providing them with the knowledge, resources and networks necessary to meet this shared goal.

Started in 2013 by Nursery and Garden Industry Australia and Horticulture Innovation Australia (at the time known as Horticulture Australia Limited), 202020 Vision has grown to include over two hundred and fifty partner organizations and two-thousand-plus individuals participating in one hundred and fifty (and growing) listed projects throughout Australia.

The roadmap shaped by the campaign team involves six steps: create a network, promote the benefits, identify the issues, unearth the solutions, write the pathways and prove that it is possible.

In order to substantiate claims and evaluate the program’s success, the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney, used satellite imagery to map tree canopy, and has analysed 139 local government areas lying within Australia’s most densely populated urban areas.

The report “Benchmarking Australia’s Urban Tree Canopy” provides a starting point for councils, developers and decision-makers to better understand the existing tree canopy in their local areas, as well as guidance on how to measure it.

What is inspiring to see is how state, local and non-government organizations within Australia are acknowledging the role of green infrastructure in addressing the challenges of the twenty-first century. The benefits apply to business, landowners, authorities, retailers, city dwellers, tourists and developers.

Nature as infrastructure is proving to be more cost effective, more resilient and eminently capable of providing a range of benefits – health and wellbeing, productivity, community connection, local commerce, cooler cities, better water management and cleaner air.

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