A RESILIENT CITY - What should Canberra look like in 2060?

Edwina Robinson, 7 July 2016

Quinli Stormwater Park ASla

Qunli stormwater park in the north of China. Photo: ASLA

By 2050, approximately 70% of the world will live in cities.  

The Rockerfeller Foundation pioneered the concept of 100 Resilient Cities (100Rc). This project is dedicated to helping cities across the world become more resilient to the challenges of the 21st century such as climate change, food insecurity and homelessness.  

City resilience or urban resilience is:

the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.

100 Resilient Cities

In May 2016, Melbourne joined the 100Rc and has appointed a Chief Resilience Officer, Toby Kent. His job it is to develop a road map to deal with the cities challenges.

Melbourne Resilience Challenge

Sydney is a member city as are our New Zealand neighbours, Christchurch and Wellington (Canberra's sister city).

Developing a resilience plan requires identifying the acute shocks and chronic stresses that may impact the city and its residents. Acute shocks include heatwaves, drought and flooding and unpredictable events like terrorism and disease outbreaks. There are a range of chronic stresses that may impact on a city, such as water scarcity, unemployment, crime, food shortages, housing affordability and inadequate transport.

Canberra is not part of the 100Rc – but that shouldn’t stop us from developing a bespoke resilience plan.

We need to ask the question - how do we create a smart; sustainable (environmentally, socially, economically); vibrant; caring city that responds to future challenges?

So while we are fortunate with our inland location unthreatened by sea level rise - we have our own challenges.

Canberra 2060 

Will Steffen from the Climate Institute painted a picture of Canberra in 2060 – as a carbon neutral city (to be achieved by 2020) with excellent public transport infrastructure and buildings and landscapes designed to cope with heatwaves.

Electric bus in Japan WikimediaElectric bus, Japan. Photo: Wikimedia

Getting around Canberra has become easier and cleaner. Canberra is served by a combined electric light rail-bus public transport system and personal vehicles are electrified, with multiple charging points in homes and in the city. Our path network is expanded which encourages more walking and cycling and therefore a healthier population. Canberra is twinned with Queanbeyan with 750,000 people living in the region. New development is centred around the town centres and transport routes rather than greenfields sites.

Climatic stress is one of Canberra’s greatest threats. A Heatwave Evacuation Plan is in place for the most vulnerable. The bushfire season is prolonged and drought is more prevalent.

cracked mud

Drought will become more prevalent with climate change. Photo: Wikimedia. 

Air-conditioners are banned and there is a stronger emphasis in planning on Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) and irrigating our cities vegetation.  

Will Steffen Article

Following from Steffen’s ideas – WSUD is implemented in Canberra’s new and old suburbs. Every suburb gets a wetland or vegetated waterway to get water back into the ground, cool the local climate and create an urban haven for wildlife.

Our urban open spaces alongside drains are no longer grass and feature trees but include a complex mix of native grasses and prickly shrubs to provide habitat and connectivity for small endangered birds and other animals.

As suggested by students at this year’s Parliament of Youth, every suburb gets a community organic food garden to reduce our food miles and build community. These food gardens and orchards could be coupled with urban wetlands which supply filtered water for irrigation.

We can learn from the cities in the 100Rc challenge and we need to start having our own conversations about resilience.

living sustainably

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