Achieving sustainability

Sustainability is crucial to Canberra’s future and integral to the ACT Government’s vision for a future Canberra. People Place Prosperity: a policy for sustainability in the ACT defines what sustainability means for the ACT and commits the Government to embedding the principles of sustainability into the way we do business. It underpins the development of The Canberra Plan and The Canberra Spatial Plan.

People Place Prosperity states that the concept of sustainability has three key components:

  • recognition of the interdependence of social, economic and environmental well-being;
  • a focus on equity and fairness, and that we need to take account of the effect of our actions on others in an interdependent world; and
  • recognition that meeting the needs of today must not be at the expense of future generations being able to meet their own needs.

The understanding of sustainability adopted by the ACT Government is one that recognises the need for a long term perspective, the need for responsibilities and benefits to be shared equitably, and the interdependence of the economy, environment and society. A key issue relating to the application of sustainability principles is the development of a framework that resolves the conflicts between various principles in relation to specific actions or policies.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in its 2001 urban renaissance review of Canberra, noted that a sustainable city was one that was able to:

  • maximise its competitiveness in a globalising economy;
  • strengthen social cohesion;
  • sustain quality, diversity and the character of place;
  • reconcile partnership and leadership;
  • achieve flexibility in decision-making;
  • create better city-regional linkages;
  • empower communities;
  • manage urban growth better, both at the centre and periphery of urban areas;
  • plan for its future with clear goals and priorities;
  • adopt an integrative strategy that reconciles economic, social and environmental objectives; and
  • promote rules and incentives that foster more sustainable practices.

The Canberra Spatial Plan responds to the OECD report by seeking to achieve a true urban renaissance city through a range of integrated initiatives. The Canberra Spatial Plan will strengthen Civic as the central business district (CBD). It will limit the continued dispersal of the urban form. It will achieve a more compact series of districts principally within the ACT and hence closer to the central employment areas, including the CBD. The Canberra Spatial Plan will also achieve a more sustainable urban form by providing increased opportunities for higher density residential development in central locations thereby reducing travel distances and the consumption of land, water and energy. It recognises changed employment patterns and locations and seeks to reinforce a central employment area supported by a series of centres that are connected by public transport and provide diverse employment opportunities.