Making Cities Liveable Conference

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Government, academic and industry professionals from across Australia descended on Brisbane last week for the 10th meeting of the Making Cities Liveable conference.

A range of topics were discussed under the theme of ‘Collaborate, Innovate, Mitigate and Connect’, including targeted presentations on liveable neighbourhoods, the new urban agenda and responsible resource management.

The conference aimed to bring together people from different social and academic backgrounds, such as policy makers and researchers, in order to create a platform for open ended discussion and debate on the need for liveable cities, and their benefits to citizens.

The conference also came in the wake of the UN’s New Urban Agenda, which formed the basis for a number of speeches delivered by the keynote presenters.

Dr Natalie Allen, who has dedicated her doctoral research to the relationship between delivering urban intensification and maintaining or enhancing the quality of urban life for residents, delivered an insightful and intelligent presentation on liveable neighbourhoods.

Dr Allen’s presentation was focused on “questioning how higher density living, and attached forms of housing in particular, are connected to the urban growth management aim of delivering enhanced liveability for residents.”

She said Australia and New Zealand are currently addressing two main priorities: transitioning to quality compact cities and intensification models.

Both endeavours aim to concentrate growth in walkable cities, with an overarching goal of increasing housing in existing neighbourhoods.

“When we think about it, it’s actually a transition to a much more fine grained approach to urbanism and density, rather than focusing on big centres in the CBD’s.”

“So essentially we are asking people to change their understanding of housing demand, and choose to live in higher density attached housing typologies.”

Dr Allen’s research, which includes 57 qualitative interviews of citizens from four different suburbs across Auckland, suggests developing cities for liveability should focus on three main criteria, the most important of which was convenience.

“Convenience, by way of proximity to neighbourhood amenities, was the most important factor when it came to how residents understood liveability.”

The amenities of greatest concern to the interviewee’s of Dr. Allen’s research were all the services and infrastructure that are used by citizens day-to-day, such as parks, and those that contribute to “neighbourhood satisfaction”.

“If we know how significant amenities being integrated into the neighbourhoods as they intensify are, in terms of people being able to trade off their private space in exchange for access to a range of all these amenities…are we being strategic enough about how this happens and how amenities are distributed?”

“I’m not too sure that we are.”

Elsewhere, in the Terrace Room, presentations were honing in on Liveable cities and centres.

Ms Josephine Raftery delivered a presentation on the changing face of Toowoomba and why other towns should use its liveability standards and lifestyle choices as an example of what the ideal city looks like.

Toowoomba’s desirability lies in its parks and gardens. The area also has suburban gems like hidden laneway cafés and bakeries.

Ms Raftery said the fertility of Toowoomba’s soil is unlike anywhere else.

We have amazing parks and gardens – this is what Toowoomba’s known for. It’s the garden city,” Ms Raftery said.

“All of Toowoomba is built on good quality agricultural land.”

Mayor of Southern Downs Regional Council, Ms Tracy Dobie, spoke about the cities amalgamation and the impact it has had on the liveability of the region.

Ms Dobie said the Southern Downs’ has been coined a ‘Rurban’ council due to its rural and urban characteristics.

The region’s leading industry is agriculture, including horticulture and intensive livestock production.

Ms Dobie said the local government plans on using industries such as these to expand the region and create employment opportunities for a rapidly increasing population, which is expected to grow by 15% over the next decade.

“We have the capacity to expand. This infrastructure – such as aerodromes, water storages and recreational facilities – are underutilised and our goal is to get the best possible yield from them to assist in influencing the future prosperity of our region,” she said.

According to Ms Dobie, the Southern Downs’ most valued attributes range from its landscapes to freely accessible recreational infrastructure.

“The most valued attributes of the Southern Downs region are the country lifestyle, attractive rural landscapes, a sense of community wellbeing, the relaxed style of living, access to recreational infrastructure and relative accessibility to Brisbane,” she said.

“We want to retain all of these, but at the same time, have strong population growth and change the demographic makeup of our region.”

Mr Alberto Costa, of Veolia ANZ, presented an integrated resource management approach to smart cities.

“Every time the population grows, there is huge pressure on resources,” Costa said.

“We need to talk about how we manage resources. And then we have a few focal areas that we highlight which is how a city can be more liveable.”

Veolia’s five focal areas for their integrated resource management strategy have been formed with the creation of smart cities in mind.

These smart cities are either liveable, inclusive, smart, circular or resilient.

Mr Costa spent a considerable amount of time discussing the benefits of the circular approach, which is concerned with reducing resource consumption and other resource management endeavours.

“A circular economy is something which is getting a bit of traction across the world,” Mr Costa said.

“It is really about how you maximise your resources in terms of properties.”

Mr Costa’s abstract also identifies recycling and prolonging the lifespan of materials as an important part of a circular economy.

Each approach is depends on a cities individual needs and requirements.

Other presentations of note at the Making Cities liveable Conference included Peter Anders’ presentation on energy efficiency, generation and recovery; Ms Amanda Newbury’s investigation into engaging with the local community in order to develop a plan for the Cairns region; and YIMBY Queensland’s speech on the benefits of density ‘done well’.

The Making Cities Liveable conference once again proved to be a valuable experience for all involved.

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