The Garden of Villages – a new approach to Regional Development in Peri Urban Areas

Tomato (Tamatar)Garden of Villages™ is an integrated system that delivers sustainable regional development. It is a leading innovative and wholistic approach to tackling the issues of food and water security – a paradigm shift in the way that village and farm development is integrated, facilitated by new funding structures, advanced training programs, and the application of clean technologies to farming methods.

We take the seeds of the world’s best master planned sustainable cities and cross them with our experience in rural towns, and with developing and operating intensive sustainable farms. The resulting vigorous hybrid is the Garden of Villages™. Integration of food, living centres, energy production, industry, water capture and recycling establishes new paradigms. Garden of Villages™ has been designed to transition regional and rural areas close to growing cities into vibrant, secure food growing, processing and distribution centres.

These village scaled “food baskets” protect and enhance land of high agricultural value, produce high quality clean fresh food, catch rainfall and reuse water after appropriate treatment, generate energy from solar and gas sources, are hubs for light food processing and preparation of food for market that minimises waste in rapidly growing cities, and provide quality employment in regions. We are building our first Garden of Villages™ in the Mary Valley, Queensland. We have support of universities and we are identifying master farmers and supporting technology businesses to participate.

The project has earned recognition and support of local, state and federal government. Over time we will help create a global network of sustainable productive family based farms and villages producing and securing food, water, energy and homes for millions while managing waste efficiently and effectively.

Dr Julian Bolleter, Assistant Professor, Australian Urban Design Research Centre will speak at the Making Cities Liveable Conference, 17th – 19th June 2013 at Novotel Melbourne St Kilda


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.

Healthy Cities Conference to examine “Creating Regional Cities – harnessing social capital”

In 2007 Jeffrey Bridge wrote the following article… how much progress we have made?

Over the past decade, environmental sustainability has emerged as a prominent theme in the community development literature. In fact, the concept has become a standard feature of most economic and social development plans. Most models of sustainable community development stress the importance of widespread participation in the decision-making process.

Unfortunately, community studies document numerous barriers to broad involvement and the high level of activeness envisioned by proponents of sustainable community development. In searching for ways to overcome these barriers, scholars and policymakers have embraced the idea that we can enhance efforts to create more sustainable communities by increasing the local stock of social capital. We examine this line of reasoning in light of what we view as the most important conceptual issues surrounding the relationship between social capital and sustainable community development.

We conclude that before social capital is endorsed as a central component of public policy, much work remains to be done in terms of developing a more precise definition of the concept, situating it within extant theories of community, constructing better measures of social capital, documenting the activities and networks most important in building social capital, and gaining a better understanding of the forms of social capital that are most important in developing sustainable communities.

You can download the full paper here

The 5th Healthy Cities: Working Together to Achieve Liveable Cities Conference

June 6-8 2012 Geeelog, Victoria, Australia

Healthy Cities Conference heads to Geelong in 2012

Healthy Cities Conference 2012 – 6th to the 8th of June Mecure Hotel and Conference Centre, Geelong

The 5th Healthy Cities: Working Together to Achieve Liveable Cities Conference will be a platform for Government and Industry sector professionals to discuss causes, effects and solutions that relate to population health, sustainability,  natural resource management, transport, climate change, urban design, bio security and more.

Conference host Geelong, is Victoria’s second largest city and offers a diverse range of food, wine, cultural and recreation attractions and colonial history.  A waterfront city, it is also the major gateway to the Bellarine Peninsula and  Great Ocean Road.  Beautifully preserved historic buildings capture the region’s colourful past at towns such as Queenscliff, Port Fairy and Portland. There are a number of National Trust properties open to the public which offer a  fascinating insight into the early colonial days.  Geelong takes full advantage of its unique north-facing bay with fabulous waterfront eateries, landscaped Geelong beach-gardens and walking paths set against the backdrop of  Corio Bay.

Issues that will addressed at the conference include;

  • Healthy urban design
  • Food security, buying local, urban agriculture
  • Connecting people and places
  • Urban renewal – green buildings
  • Harnessing social capital
  • Education, motivation and incentives for behaviour change
  • Government and business leadership
  • Regional Cities – interconnectivity – technology – heritage
  • Population growth
  • Political cycles
  • Urban landscapes, public spaces, natural resource management
  • Working with climate change, energy consumption, generation and other challenges
  • Innovation, process Vs people
  • Urban planning and social equity

The Conference will examine public policy and social/community outcomes and consider what actions we can take to positively influence the ongoing debate.

There will be over 80 Keynote Presentations, Concurrent Sessions, Case Studies, Regional Study Tours and Posters.

Mayor Cr Mitchell

“This is a fantastic opportunity for professionals in the public and  private sector,” said Mayor Cr John Mitchell.    

“Everyone from social planners and urban designers to waste  management professionals and environmental groups will benefit  from attending this conference,” he said.

 “The conference will feature a variety of presentations and  workshops that will trigger plenty of new ideas and solutions for the future development of our region.”

“I look forward to listening to some of the speakers and seeing the innovations and strategies that come out of this national conference,” said Mayor Cr Mitchell

Who Should Attend

Policy Makers, Politicians, Senior Public Servants, City Governance Personnel, Public Health Administrators, Academics, Waste Management Professionals, National Resources Administrators, Planning Professionals, Environmental Groups,  Engineers, Urban Designers, Consultants, Social Planners, Disaster Management Groups, Elected Representatives, Mayors, Non-Government Agencies, Community and Industry Groups, Students, Coastal Resource Managers, Place Makers,  Sustainability Practitioners

Committee 2012

  • Philip D. Allsopp, RIBA, FRSA Co-founder of Transpolis Global, Arizona USA
  • Cr Debbie Blumel, Sunshine Coast Regional Council Qld , Chair of Regional Development Australia Sunshine Coast and represents Queensland local governments on the National Sea Change Taskforce
  • Ms Elaine Carbines, Chief Executive Office, Geelong Region Alliance, Vic
  • Dr Kate Kerkin, Director K2 Planning, Vic
  • Stuart Ord, Director, Healthy Parks Healthy People, Vic
  • A/Prof Susan Thompson, City Futures Research Centre, University of NSW
  • Peter Sugg, CEO, Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association, Qld

National Library of Australia – Canberra

The conference papers will be included in the PANDORA Archive to provide public ccess to them in perpetuity.  The Library will take the necessary reservation action to keep the papers accessible as hardware and software  changes over time.  The Library will catalogue the papers and add the records to the National ibliographic Database (a database of catalogue records shared by over 5,200 Australian ibraries), as well as their own online catalogue. This will increase wareness of the papers/authors among researchers.