Sustainable Urban Development: Responding to Extreme Events

Australia, particularly Queensland, has recently been struck by a sequence of extreme weather events. Cyclone Yasi and the floods of December 2010 / January 2011 saw more than 75% of Queensland officially declared a disaster zone. The impact on infrastructure and homes was devastating but the scale of the tragedy became that much more apparent as news of human fatalities was relayed by Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh.

Sustainable urban development is a useful concept in considering opportunities to alleviate the impact of extreme weather events, and extreme floods in particular. Sustainable urban development provides a framework focused on creating urban communities where both the current and future needs of residents are met. There are two important principles—resilience and connectivity—that underpin sustainable urban development.

By defining the risks associated with potential extreme events and translating those risks into planning and design solutions urban planners attempt to increase an urban feature’s capacity to absorb change. This capacity, otherwise known as its resilience, allows it to persist in the face of the change and thereby improves its sustainability.

The elements of the physical, biological, social and economic system in which we operate are fundamentally connected. This interconnectivity is relevant in all systems, but particularly in urban environments, where the proximity of the component elements and the frequency of interactions are higher.

These high-level principles point to four areas of response available to help manage the impact of extreme flood events before they occur. Looking particularly at existing and future developments and structures, this paper will discuss the management imperatives needed to ensure our urban fabric is planned, designed and constructed to not only respond proactively to extreme weather events and the ‘human contribution’, but also addresses the need to remove the barriers to decision making when related to complex, interacting systems.

Mr  Matt  Coetzee,  Development Manager – Community Development  Aurecon

Healthy Cities: 4th Making Cities Liveable Conference – Wednesday 27th to Friday 29th July  2011 Noosa Qld, Australia

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