At a glance
Several key areas of management of the built environment affect the livability and efficiency of our cities, as well as their impact on the natural environment.
The first and most important of these is land use. The spread of our urban areas and the balance between residential, industrial, retail and green spaces are critical to the wellbeing of human residents, the environment and biodiversity. Getting the balance right is challenging—for example, although infill rather than greenfield development reduces the spread of cities into rural land, it can also reduce the amount of private green space within cities, which reduces residents’ wellbeing.
Other key areas include traffic, water supply and quality, energy, and waste and pollution. These can create increasing pressures on our built environment as our urban population grows unless per-person reductions in consumption and waste are significant. The development of innovative technological solutions—such as recycled water systems and renewable energy microgrids—can offer some relief for these pressures, but leadership and coordination will be important to achieve their potential. This is also the case in disaster management, which is an area of increasing importance in the context of climate change.
The complexities of arrangements for managing the built environment in Australia make it difficult to coordinate effective outcomes. Currently, many of the planning and delivery functions for our cities are characterised by complex and overlapping processes, and lack clear lines of accountability. The extent and depth of understanding vary by built environment component. The complexity and interrelationships that influence urban footprints are poorly understood because of a lack of data. Planning for the built environment continues to occur, but it is complex to coordinate or integrate across government. As with planning, processes in management of the built environment lack cross-sectoral approaches and coordination. For example, a recent review of the national urban water planning principles reported that integrated urban water management was limited by fragmented responsibilities for different aspects of the water cycle and for overall urban planning. Recently, however, the Australian Government established a portfolio for Cities and Digital Transformation in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which seeks to ‘work with all levels of government, industry and community to ensure we have a coordinated and effective approach to long-term planning’.
The effectiveness of management of the built environment is measured against the same variables as used in the other SoE theme reports: understanding, planning, inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes.
Each of these has been assessed by expert opinion against the key pressures discussed in Pressures affecting the built environment. It is acknowledged that the arrangements for management of the built environment are complex, with various levels of government having responsibility for different elements of the built environment, and various authorities and departments within a level of government having responsibilities for different aspects relating to the built environment.