100 Presenters to Examine Healthy, Liveable and Sustainable Cities

Paula Drayton

Paula Drayton

Join us in Melbourne in June.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for professionals in the public and private sector to examine the challenges and solutions needed to develop the Liveable Cities of tomorrow. The Conference will also examine public policy and social/community outcomes and consider what actions we can take to positively influence the ongoing debate.

Many aspects of urban design and new approaches to city form are based on the concept of liveability. These approaches recognise that design and structure can be very influential in the life of a town or city and indeed to the building of community in and of itself. They also create novel contexts for a community to develop in a more sustainable way.

“Last year, Melbourne vaulted Vancouver to become the best city in the world to live, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Survey. What better City to host our conference.

We will be joined by the Sustainabilty in Business Association’s – Sustainable Transition Conference, offering delegates an extensive range of topics with 100 presentations over three days including Keynotes, Concurrent Sessions, Case Studies and Posters. ” Paula said.

I look forward to welcoming you to Melbourne.”
Paula Drayton – Conference Chair

6th Making Cities Liveable Conference will be held in conjunction with the Sustainability Conference “SustainableTransformation” bringing a new era of collaboration, information sharing and professional networking.

The conference is being held from the 17th – 19th June 2013 at Novotel Melbourne St Kilda.

Two Conferences! Three Days! One Location!


Three major floods, four reviews, but still lessons to learn

By Karen Hussey and Jamie Pittock

The last few years provided plenty of data to help us reform our approach to floods. With devastating flooding in Queensland and Victoria in 2011 and 2013, we should have learned a great deal about which approaches to flood mitigation work and which are less effective. A review of four recent Australian studies of mitigation and adaptation, and a comparison to overseas recommendations, shows we are lagging behind international practises in a number of important areas.

The Australian approach

We looked at four recent reviews of flood mitigation and adaptation in Australia: the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry, Brisbane City Council’s Flood Response Review, the Victorian Parliament’s Inquiry into Flood Mitigation Infrastructure in Victoria and the Victorian Floods Review.

These reviews varied greatly in scope, and all produced a comprehensive list of considered and much-needed recommendations to improve Australia’s resilience to floods in the future. But one surprising fact was none of them dealt with future climate impacts. Some didn’t even mention climate change. Government reviews are expensive, but the cost is justified if they identify reforms which improve society. By not taking into account the risk of future climate change and its exacerbation of flood risk, governments are missing an opportunity to include those risks in the current reform agenda.

Australian governments take the attitude that we can re-make flooded communities exactly as they were before. As soon as a disaster is declared, federal funds are made available to rebuild to “pre-disaster” conditions. There is little or no expectation that infrastructure should be made more resistant to flood damage. In the United States 15% of federal funding is allocated for “betterment”; here there are virtually no resources to plan for, relocate or strengthen flood prone infrastructure to make it more resilient.

The Australian approach to “flood proofing” communities is to build levees. Levees essentially take the same body of water and squeeze it into a smaller space. They don’t encourage evaporation, and they push water to higher levels. They work well in small floods, and under those conditions are very effective at protecting communities. But in recent years we’ve seen bigger floods, and these are likely to get worse. In bigger floods the levees are often overcome, and the potential for serious damage becomes much greater than it would be without them.

“Non-structural” or “ecosystem” approaches to flood mitigation work much better than structural measures like levees. But in Australia, we rarely consider these types of measures.

International ideas

Internationally, the story is very different.

In our research we also looked at flood reforms in the USA, China and the Netherlands. In all three, climate change was a driving force behind their significant recommended reforms.

All of these countries recognise they have reached the limit of what levee banks can usefully achieve. Instead, they have instigated a range of reforms built around the concept of ecosystem management.

The first of these is “making room for the river”. The river channel is widened or deepened to allow more water to flow through while remaining within its bounds. Flooding of surrounding areas is reduced.

Since its devastating floods in the 1990s, China has been restoring flood plains, buying land around river channels and relocating people to higher ground. This has happened most famously as part of the Three Gorges Dam development, which attracted a lot of negative media coverage. But we’re finding that years after relocation, people have shifted to crops that are less prone to flood damage which, combined with being on higher ground, means they’re hit by floods less often, and they’re better prepared to deal with those that come along.

All three countries have changed the way they manage their floodways. Where cities and towns are vulnerable, the government diverts the river into agricultural land around the town. In a flood season the city is protected and agricultural areas are flooded instead. The farming communities are paid by the government to forgo income during floods, but still use the land at all other times. Australian research has shown that for graziers, more frequent flooding can actually improve farm incomes.

What could Australia learn?

Australia has dabbled in ecosystem approaches and relocation, but often in an ad-hoc way.

Critics of ecosystem approaches point out that it’s all very well to deepen a river upstream, but if you don’t deal with the towns downstream, flooding there will be much worse. For ecosystem approaches to work, management and planning have to be undertaken on a much larger scale.

In the southern Murray-Darling Basin, the government proposes removing constraints such as bridges and dams to allow for bigger peak environmental flows (that is, floods). This work is very promising, but what about the rest of the Murray-Darling Basin and, indeed, the rest of the country?

Currently, we don’t have coordination and integration across jurisdictions within and between states. But rivers don’t respect administrative boundaries: when you’re developing ecosystem approaches, you have to use the natural environment as your point of reference.

There have also been a few examples of relocating communities: Grantham and Gundagai being the most notable. This relocation is expensive, but as floods become bigger and more frequent it’s something Australia needs to do more often. The financial and social costs of retaining and rebuilding flood prone towns over and over and over again will soon add up. When the taxpayer is picking up the bill, at some point you must decide whether rebuilding is an economically viable solution, or whether in some situations relocation is the more sensible approach.

And of course we must take account of future climate risks. While none of these reviews seriously studied those risks, change is happening elsewhere. The Australian Rainfall and Runoff Guide is one of the most important national reference guides, and is used by planners and builders to help them allow for floods. It’s currently under review, and future versions will take account of the effects of both natural and anthropogenic climate change. This attitude should spread to all flood reform.

Karen Hussey receives funding from the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility.

Jamie Pittock receives funding from the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility.

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Walk it out: urban design plays key role in creating healthy cities

Professor Billie Giles-Corti

Residents of new housing developments increased their exercise and their wellbeing when they had more access to shops and parks, a new University of Melbourne study reveals.

The ten year study found that the overall health of residents of new housing developments in Western Australia, improved when their daily walking increased as a result of more access to parks, public transport, shops and services.

Lead researcher Professor Billie Giles-Corti, Director of the McCaughey VicHealth Centre for Community Wellbeing at the University of Melbourne said the study provided long-term evidence that residents’ walking increased with greater availabi

“The study demonstrates the potential of local infrastructure to support health-enhancing behaviours,” she said.lity and diversity of local transport and recreational destinations.

The study examined the impact of urban planning on active living in metropolitan Perth, Western Australia. More than 1,400 participants building homes in new housing developments were surveyed before relocation to new homes and approximately 12 months later.

The study found that for every local shop, residents’ physical activity increased an extra 5-6 minutes of walking per week. For every recreational facility available such as a park or beach, residents’ physical activity increased by an extra 21 minutes per week.

“This means that where there is an environment that supports walking with access to multiple facilities residents walked much more,” Professor Giles-Corti said.

These findings could inform public health and urban design policy demonstrating that people respond to an environment that is supportive of physical activity.

“Given that being physically active reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, which are both huge costs to the health system, these results could have huge implications for government policy such as the Victorian State Government’s new Metropolitan Planning Strategy,” Professor Giles-Corti said.

The study was published in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

Two Conferences! Three Days! One Location in 2013

6th Making Cities Liveable Conference, in conjunction with the Sustainable Transformation Conference, is being held from the 17th – 19th June 2013 at Novotel Melbourne St Kilda. The collaboration brings together National, State and Regional delegates to explore, exchange ideas and network.

The joint conference will be a platform for Government, Industry sector professionals and Academics to discuss causes, effects and solutions. Delegates will have access to an extensive range of topics with over 90 presentations across three days including Keynotes, Concurrent Sessions, Case Studies and Posters. www.healthycities.com.au

Planning and design of master-planned communities for healthy living

Due to growing health concerns linked to inactive living, a number of new masterplanned communities in South East Queensland are creating supportive environments for physical activities. Varsity Lakes in Gold Coast is an example of such community which provides both infrastructures and programs to encourage active living. The objective of the paper is to examine the relationship between built environment and healthy communities through a review of current literature.

Synthesising these findings, a conceptual framework is developed for supporting active and healthy living in master-planned communities. The three key factors are;

1) place
2) program
3) partnership

This framework is then applied to Varsity Lakes as a case study area for validation.  The paper identifies key challenges and opportunities Varsity Lakes face in its role in promoting active and healthy living and draw implications for the planning of future master-planned communities.

Bhishna Bajracharya, Associate Professor of Urban Planning, and Linda Too, Associate Professor of Urban Development, Bond University presented at the 2012 Liveable Cities Conference, you can download the full paper, “peer reviewed”,  in the conference book of proceedings from the event website. www.healthycities.com.au

Related articles

Biggest European health study identifies key priorities in 26 cities

Researchers have announced the results of the largest ever health and lifestyle survey of cities and conurbations across Europe – including five British urban centres.

The research examined and compared the health, life expectancy and lifestyles of the populations of 26 European cities (the Euro-26) and found major differences, not only between cities, but within individual urban areas too.

The pan-European study, led in the UK by the Universities of Manchester and Liverpool, identified key priority areas for each city studied that the researchers hope policymakers will address.

In England’s Greater Manchester and Merseyside, for example, depression and anxiety were identified as problem areas, along with cancer and respiratory disease – both of which were higher in these conurbations than the Euro-26 average. Obesity among Manchester and Liverpool’s populations was also higher than the average of those cities studied, as was heavy drinking among the population’s youth and binge drinking among adults.

more… Biggest European health study identifies key priorities in 26 cities.

Fat of the land: how urban design can help curb obesity

5 July, 2012 Billie Giles-Corti and Carolyn Whitzman, University of Melbourne

Billie Giles-Corti and Carolyn Whitzman discuss ways to change our obesogenic environment through urban design while Jo Salmon looks at the role physical activity and exercise play in healthy lifestyles.

OBESE NATION: It’s time to admit it – Australia is becoming an obese nation. This series looks at how this has happened and more importantly, what we can do to stop the obesity epidemic.

Compared with our grandparents, feeding, clothing, and entertaining ourselves has never been easier: a one-stop weekly shopping centre trip in a car, facilitated by convenient parking and light-weight maneuverable shopping trolleys that allow us to whiz around the supermarket with ease.

In fact, these days people don’t even need to leave home to do their food shopping, order takeaway food, bank or pay bills, shop for clothing or household goods, “visit” with their friends, read the newspaper or amuse themselves. Using the internet or telephone, activities that used to involve some level of activity or a short walk, can be done with “anywhere, anytime” convenience.

Read the full article in The Conversation here

Putting the horse before the cart” A case study of the development of a public policy framework in local government – Public Health

In public health there has been an increasing shift in opinion that strategies for improving quality of life and community well being need to be focused outside of the health arena. Local Government is ideally placed to make a difference in the lives of its communities.

Health promotion goes beyond healthy lifestyles to wellbeing and The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (1986) defines it as the process of “…enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. To reach a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, an individual or group must be able to identify and to realise aspirations, to satisfy needs, and to change or cope with the environment”.

Health is a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living and is a positive concept emphasising social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities. Local Government is an important link in the chain of the social determinants of health and is in a position to make a significant impact on the well being of its communities.

In this case study the organisational and political support for this policy framework are high and this research demonstrates that involving staff and elected members in the policy development process, can have an immediate impact on participant’s perceptions of quality of life and community well being. This involvement has also given participants an opportunity to gain further insights and an improved understanding that community well being should not be driven by departments of health and that Local Government is in fact a key player in keeping people healthy.

The development of this policy has fostered strong relationships between senior staff and the elected body of this council and the developed framework has the potential to further influence both organisational culture and the decision-making process.

Ms Barbara Erichsdotter (SA)
Consultant, Health Research International

5th Healthy Cities: Making Cities Liveable Conference 2012
The Mercure Hotel and Conference Centre,  Geelong, Victoria – 6th to the 8th of June – 2012
URL: www.healthycities.com.au