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ASBEC calls for a Minister for Cities

THE Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) has called for a federal Minister and Department for Cities and Urban Development to support Australia in meeting its urban challenges.

ASBEC, the peak body of leading organisations committed to a sustainable built environment in Australia, released its 'call to action' last Tuesday at the Green Cities 2011 conference in Melbourne.

"We have developed this call to action to highlight the urgent need for bold leadership and a streamlined, coordinated approach to urban management policy," said ASBEC President, Tom Roper.

According to ASBEC, Australia's urban challenges, such as population growth, congestion, housing affordability, climate change and environmental disasters, demographic change, social marginalisation, infrastructure decline and environmental degradation, will only be successfully addressed through an efficient, effective and nationally-harmonised government response.

"We are facing a future of transport gridlock, rising greenhouse gas emissions and eroded quality of life unless we take decisive action. An integrated and collaborative approach is mandatory if we are to foster a culture of innovation and excellence, and ensure our cities are liveable, affordable and sustainable," Mr Roper said.

ASBEC's list of urgent actions includes:

  • A Federal Minister for Cities & Urban Development to drive the reforms needed to better connect urban built environment policies and programs across all levels of government;
  • A Cities & Urban Development Cabinet Committee of federal ministers whose portfolios involve decisions or activities pertaining to urban centres;
  • A COAG Cities & Urban Development Ministerial Council involving representation by state and territory treasurers and planning ministers, and local government;
  • A Cities & Urban Development NGO Roundtable to ensure business and community groups have a direct voice to government on issues involving our cities; and
  • A Department of Cities & Urban Development tasked with developing and coordinating policy which involves urban outcomes.

According to Romilly Madew, Chief Executive of the Green Building Council Australia and chair of the Cities task group, the ASBEC call to action includes a matrix which plots 45 Australian Government programs, strategies and initiatives which impact the built environment.

"While the Australian Government's commitment to national urban policy is welcome, we are particularly concerned by the lack of co-ordination between the three levels of government in Australia, resulting in inconsistently-managed programs and policies across eight state and territory governments, and more than 500 local governments," Ms Madew said.

"Business and the community are looking to the Federal Government to join-up their forthcoming policies on population, cities, regional Australia and sustainability," said Chief Executive of the Property Council of Australia, Peter Verwer.

"Cities - of all shapes and sizes - are the centre of action! A linked up, coordinated approach is needed to meet the challenges of managing growth, improving quality and liveability and transitioning to a low-carbon economy while maintaining wealth creation," said David Parken, Chief Executive Officer of Australian Institute of Architects.

"With industry working together like never before across the design, development, operation and management of Australia's built environments, it is essential that our governments match this initiative and fully support our call to action," said Chairman of the Facility Management Association of Australia, Steve Taylor.

"It is clear that a coordinated approach to urban policy development is required to meet Australians' desire for sustainable and liveable cities, to make our cities more resilient to climate change and environmental disasters and to maximise the opportunities of our cities as drivers of Australia's productivity and innovation," Mr Roper concluded.

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