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"Urban sprawl and the another-one-won’t-hurt problem"
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"Urban sprawl and the another-one-won’t-hurt problem"

Grant DuthieThe dream of suburban living in Australia, still heralded by many, has become a nightmare for the environment and many ordinary working families, reports Grant Duthie, 18, a Commonwealth Correspondent from the Gold Coast.

The great Australian tradition of the quarter acre suburban home is still a reality. The ingrained preference towards this satellite life continues to see families migrate away from the inner city.

Dizzying urban prices fuel this reality as many apartment developments cater to the rich and childless, while four-bedroom apartments are driven to extinction.

The situation is aided by the NIMBY (Not in my back yard)  urban dwellers whom have continued to win case and case against developers to block construction out of privacy or density concerns.

The idea is that families pushed to the edges experience breezy morning and afternoon commutes, zipping down highways and parking within a block of work. However it’s clear that suburbia developers who market this lifestyle have mislead us for too long.

Satellite communities have sprung up across Australia and place a gloomy cloud over the future of green spaces and wildlife corridors. This ultimately translates into worsened air quality and threats to already threatened biodiversity.

Arterial roads are being clogged by the car commute, adding hours on to daily journey times and placing strains and tensions on families and relationships. Such low-density living also creates a nightmare for transport infrastructure with small passenger catchments and low take-up.

The construction of wide-reaching communities places enormous strain on budgets for public services. Hospitals, fire stations and schools are often far away and cause a service nightmare, particularly in the case of an emergency.

It’s clear that something needs to be done.

Melbourne, soon to be Australia’s largest city, first established the concept of ‘Green Wedges’ in the 1960s under Premier Sir Rupert Hamer. It identified twelve key zones that were designed, implemented and endorses by all regional councils.

Created as the future ‘lungs of the city’, these recreational and agricultural spaces would constrict urban sprawl allowing for greater use of existing infrastructure and well planned public transit zones. They would improve liveability and environmental health and the wider credentials of the city.

However in this case study, what was a seamless and perfect solution to phase out urban sprawl became subject to changing government priorities and the oh-another-one-won’t-hurt pseudo-axiom.

Currently under assail again, the current Victorian Government is seeking to review ‘logical inclusions’ of development land for high growth areas and seeking to rectify ‘anomalies’. Despite the vision, perhaps the underlying fault was that a Green Wedge doesn’t carry authority like the status of a National Park.

But while this solution does work well in stamping out encroaching development and short-sighted mentalities, unfortunately it prohibits the capacity for existing agriculture and some recreational pursuits. Another major hurdle is the requirement that national parks must have some sort of conservation value attached and in many circumstances that is unattainable from historic deforestation and agriculture.

For the fortunate cities that have the capacity to zone wildlife corridors, I would urge you to do so. Future generations will thank you for giving them greater access to urban environments, allowing more time with shorter commutes to live and play.

The NIMBY phenomenon only exists because there is an option for developers to construct elsewhere, limiting this would halt this altogether socially and environmentally unsustainable choice for developers.

Simply, the only option left is vast regeneration projects on agricultural land. It is the fork in the road for this growing problem. This could later lend itself to national park zoning, and enable stronger more vibrant urban communities.

The forward planning of Sir Rupert Hamer makes him a master of conservation and sustainable cities. The leadership shown resonates with visionaries and his concept will undoubtedly be included in the perfect master plan for the future city.

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About me:

“My name’s Grant Duthie and I’m a high-school student on the Gold Coast of Australia. My favourite subject is geography, because it is so relevant and the focus is on conservation and sustainability, which are global issues affecting us all.

“Through my concern for the environment I have been lucky enough to have been given a number of opportunities to work with a number of organisations, such as Polar Bears International, and UN Youth Australia. In the future, I hope to work for the United Nations and make a thorough contribution to these causes.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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