By Dr Donnell Davis, NCWQ Habitat Adviser
Habitat is all about the right to shelter. Shelter includes our cohesive communities and sustainable cities. United Nations Habitat is now led by a woman, former Governor for Penang in Malaysia, Ms Maimunah Mohd Sharif who convened special events in Asia in 2019, and the World Urban Forum last week in Dubai.
The World Urban Forum saw professionals, NGOs, financial institutions and local government representatives from cites of 90 countries. While innovation was focussed on technology for smarter cities (for better faster, safer infrastructure and transport systems), the practical innovations came from Planners for Climate change (P4CA) and community groups for affordable and adequate housing for vulnerable populations. Vulnerable people include students, families, sole parents, ageing and the disabled. https://wuf.unhabitat.org/sites/default/files/2019-08/programme.pdf The solutions may look sensible, but there are many practical issues to address to be effective as medium or long term living. Ideally, people wish to be independent as long as possible in safe quality surroundings, with connectivity to work, shops, schools, health services and recreational places. Tiny housing, mobile housing, granny flats, fonzie flats, and co-housing provide only part of the puzzle.
Climate change is impacting different cities in different ways. Coastal cities may be vulnerable in many ways with storms, cyclones, sea level rise, inundation, tidal waves and in Australia, dense populations fighting for different uses of the thin strip of fertile land on our coastal plans. While rural towns contend with either too much or not enough rain (CSIRO 2020), raging bushfires after early or extended droughts(WWF), economic downturns (ABARE), primary industry stresses, loss of children migrating to cities for education and not returning to the family home (ACOSS), ageing farmers, and loss of food crops because natural systems are changing.
Locally these things are not being met with sufficient good governance. In Brisbane city, several decisions for town planning have been seen as milestones. On the one hand we have a suburb that has prohibited development that does not fit with preserving the character of the street and neighbourhood, thereby keeping the timber and tin and the Queenslander style, for renovations and for new infill development. On the other hand, code assessment of new developments mean a tick a box approach to building that does not require third party review of plans, thereby fast tracking construction. The assessment codes interpretations range from esoteric to prescriptive. So what? Your new neighbours can build to the boundary and may prevent sunshine or fresh ventilation to your older home, without consulting you about their plans. The unintended consequence is unhappy neighbours resulting in long processes in the Planning and Environment Court when it is too late to find a compromise.
In the Redlands, there are proposals to privatise public land, meaning that public access to the foreshore with RAMSAR endangered species, will be sold to private hospitality investors to control the access, foreshore, littoral zone, and part of the passage to the Moreton Bay Islands. This has been a concern for residents for years and an inquiry has been launched in the Queensland Parliament. ‘Longevity by Design’ involved 15 teams of urban design professionals, community members and ageing advocates, who designed futures for living longer in the Redlands for Maclay Island, Russell Island, Mount Cotton, and Victoria Point. Each provided something special but few addressed the innovative recommendations arising from the World Urban Forum. However, there is hope for affordable, healthier, connected, cohesive futures for older people and a ‘Blue Zone’.