We and our stakeholders have a vision for Australian cities and towns:
Healthy people and places
Thriving protected ecosystems
Sustainable efficient resources use through adaptive infrastructure
Innovative strong economies.
But our cities and towns face some significant challenges: urban intensification, climate change and economic constraints. These challenges mean we cannot realise our vision using current approaches to planning and delivering urban services. We need to do things differently.
We have a plan to show how we can do things differently and achieve the sustainable, liveable, prosperous and resilient urban places we desire:
- We will drive innovations in resilient infrastructure and communities by harnessing technological breakthroughs and the power of engaged citizens to effectively plan for and respond to climate change.
- We will facilitate sustainable and efficient resource use via circular economies that integrate water and other urban systems, particularly in waste, transport, energy, housing, food and health.
- We will unlock new partnerships for funding to deliver the investment required to keep our cities among the world’s most liveable.
Water is at the centre of this plan. We have developed four programs to address industry priorities and needs, each combining research and adoption activities:
- The Mainstreaming Water Sensitive Practice program will help cities ensure water sensitive approaches become standard practice supported by strong community demand, robust science, technical capability, sufficient funding and supportive governance.
- The Integrated Urban Systems program will help cities manage water, energy and food resources as part of a circular economy. Using new technologies and contemporary urban planning and design practices, cities will adapt to climatic extremes and achieve density in a way that supports attractive, healthy environments and community wellbeing.
- The People and Place program will foster collaboration across organisations, sectors and communities to develop and deliver urban services that create inclusive, attractive, resilient places that reflect local community values.
- The Funding and Servicing program will help foster new partnerships, to unlock private investment in urban infrastructure. New financing and service models will share the risks, costs and benefits of integrated systems among stakeholders, and promote innovative hybrid solutions that deliver multiple outcomes.
We formally launched the bid for this new CRC at the 4th Water Sensitive Cities Conference in March. During a Q&A session at the conference facilitated by Professor Tony Wong (CEO, CRC for Water Sensitive Cities), our panel explained why we are embarking on this ambitious new venture.
For Ben Furmage (Chief Operating and Finance Officer, CRCWSC), the Transformative Cities CRC is about speed, scale and scope.
“Speed is about how we can make it quicker and easier for cities and towns to implement water sensitive practice. Scale is about showing how we can apply the lessons from small demonstration and proof-of-concept projects to much larger projects. And scope is about integrating urban water services with other urban services, such as waste, energy, transport, food, housing and health. We want to take the lessons we’ve learned about better urban water management, and apply them to more services on a much bigger scale.”
Our new Chief Research Officer, Dr Briony Rogers, agreed: “We need to keep focus on mainstreaming our agenda, and recognise that we’ve reached the tipping point where we must look beyond water to its nexus with all other elements, such as energy, waste, transport, food and so on. We need to develop partnerships with expertise in these other areas and pursue the new frontiers that are opening up”.
Greg Cash (new CRCWSC board member and Assistant Director General of Commercial Operations at Department of Communities WA) said we need to get over this tipping point to leverage the great knowledge we have today: “Our cities are going to adapt and change; we have to provide the mechanisms quickly”.
Terri Benson (Managing Director, South East Water and CRCWSC board member) summarised with, “The work of the CRCWSC has opened the door to new ways of planning and delivering better urban places. But we haven’t unlocked all the potential yet.”
For Paul Heaton (Director Water and Waste, City of Gold Coast) a new CRC “… can play a role in galvanising community aspirations and deliver what people want. But we can’t do it alone; we must find creative ways to partner and share value”.
All panellists agreed that hybrid solutions, new business models and systems and a continued focus on collaboration are the key to realising the vision for transformative cities.