Nature in the City
SEE-Change nature-based projects
SEE-Change’s Executive Officer, Edwina Robinson was invited to appear as an Expert Witness at the ‘Nature in the City’ enquiry led by Suzanne Orr, Member of the Legislative Assembly. The findings of the enquiry will be published late in 2019.
Since 2008, SEE-Change members have been involved in a range of nature based projects that enhance open space and urban waterways, provide food security, community education and connectedness such as the:
- City Farm, Turner (The former SEE-Change Executive Officer and other SEE-Change members were active in establishing this site)
- Canberra City Farm (Members of SEE-Change’s Board were key to setting up the site adjacent to Jerrrabomberra wetlands and continue to play a role in its governance and operation)
- Jerrabomberra wetlands – a project officer (funded through SEE-Change) runs regular working bees at the wetlands
- Banksia St, O’Connor wetland (the Inner-North SEE-Change group worked with the ACT Government on the community engagement process for this wetland and were instrumental in organising the community fair on the site in 2009).
- Dickson wetland (members of the Inner-North SEE-Change were involved in the community fair at this site and the current SEE-Change project officer volunteered at wetland working bees and for Waterwatch).
- Transition Street projects, such as Evatt bike path Transition Streets and Gilruth St Transition Streets
In 2017, SEE-Change received an ACT Environment grant of $43,000 for the Birdscaping CBR: bringing back birds, butterflies and bees. The grant was supported by Professor Kate Auty, the ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment. In her letter of endorsement, the Commissioner said “I regard this proposal as commendable ….. the work will deliver environmental outcomes and the alignment of such opportunities is beneficial to the broad Canberra and ACT community as well as the environment”.
The aim of the project is to revegetate sections of urban open space along Sullivans Creek in O’Connor to attract small insectivorous birds and pollinators into the suburbs. Although Canberra’s urban open space has many mature trees underlain by mown grass it lacks an understorey to support smaller species and favours larger more aggressive birds.
Thousands of native grasses, groundcovers, climbers and shrubs were planted by the community in 2018. Once the project is completed it will serve as a model for other community groups to continue to revegetate urban open space to create either linear habitat corridors or pockets of vegetation that link our waterways to bushland reserves.
We have discussed the possibility of replicating the Birdscaping model upstream at the community run project, the Lyneham Commons.
Living infrastructure is vital for a warming city
SEE-Change endorses principles raised in the ACT Government’s February 2018 information paper on the Living Infrastructure Strategy, in particular: “…. Living infrastructure will play a key role as the city adapts to the impacts of climate change.”
This is one of the key challenges that our city faces – dealing with a warming climate and enhancing natural systems within our cities while continuing to develop.
In the rush to redevelop there is a lack of innovation and an emphasis on maximum return on investment. There are exceptions of course, the New Acton redevelopment is a good example of new built form which integrates vertical gardens and some exciting landscape associated with restaurants like Mocan and Green Grout and A Baker.
Along Constitution Avenue, attractive rain gardens have been installed. But these innovations are the exception rather than the rule.
Unfortunately new developments, like the multi-storey Nova apartments on Antill St, Dickson lack street trees to provide summer shade and are composed of built materials that contribute to the urban heat island effect.
A Living Infrastructure Plan should demonstrate how we link home gardens (which comprise a significant proportion of urban/suburban habitat), to our streetscapes, parks, waterways (including our lakes) and nature reserves. The Living Infrastructure plan should be a series of live documents that are updated and adhered to.
In line with our cities leadership shown on renewable energy, SEE-Change advocates that the ACT becomes a partner city with the Biophilic Cities Program. At present there are 16 partner cities worldwide including Fremantle, Portland and Wellington. This platform allows cities to showcase innovations and learnings and can ensure Canberra remains a liveable city in a warming climate.
Setting a target to becoming a biophilic city would spur a new way of thinking about urban development by design professionals and students, developers, builders, ACT government and the community.
“Biophilic cities are cities of abundant nature in close proximity to large numbers of urbanites. Biophilic cities value residents innate connection and access to nature through abundant opportunities to be outside and to enjoy the multisensory aspects of nature by protecting and promoting nature within the city.”
SEE-Change has the capacity to lead a transformational change in the relationship between the ACT Government and community to help them deliver the cities living infrastructure strategy.