Australian Green Development Forum

Submitted by Webmaster on Wed, 01/03/2006 - 09:30

A forum on sustainable development was held in Cairns yesterday. It introduced an organisation, the Australian Green Development Forum (AGDF) which appears to be a lobby group for the development industry. Membershipto the AGDF is open to the community groups and the public and the AGDFclaims to be aiming for a balanced membership. Toboost membership in the northern region, the AGDF is offering a 50%discount on membership fees to the end of March, whilst it establishesa northern chapter.Membership fees are $275 for individuals (only industry professionals would pay this), community groups $110 and students $55. The last 2 categories have no voting rights (balanced membership!).However, if you can pay $11000 for a foundation membership, you would automatically be on a State executive committee. If you want to see the direction the development industry is moving in – you need to be part of this group.The primary purpose of the AGDF seems to be convincing governmentregulators that they the solutions proposed by development consultantsare in fact green. Sometimes the solutionsthey propose are in fact far better than existing practice andregulators are often very slow to allow these improvements.Facilitating the adoption of better solutions is a very legitimate and worthwhile cause.Howeverthe AGDF is likely to be about providing development solutions to allenvironmental issues – providing a bandaid for every cut. Thereis an environmental paradox, the more environmentally sensitive ourdevelopments can be made, the more development can and will happen. Areas that could not be developed before will be opened up. Asthe AGDF is aiming at partnership with the government and thereby toinfluence regulatory system reform, we could also end up with aregulatory system that just can’t say no to even inappropriatedevelopment. Not being able to say no is already a weakness in a lot of existing legislation.Therecertainly needs to be other green development forums that are notdriven by large players in the development industry, such asFutureOfCairns.Perhaps the greatest benefit that the AGDF could bring to Cairns is to keep Cairns aware of the advances in technology and thinking that are taking place in other parts of the world. Keeping Cairnsdevelopers and development consultants aware of what can be done meansthat they will have no excuse for planning second rate developments. And Cairns City Council will have no excuse for accepting second rate environmental performance. Oneof the key concepts put forwards was that once the coming watersqueezes and energy squeezes arrive (5-10 years), cities, buildings andhouses that are not water, power and transport efficient will beshunned by the market because they cost more to run.Future of Cairns has previously discussed some of these squeezes and their impact on CairnsThe key note speaker, Gary Lawrence (International Urban Strategist), explainedto the 150 people at the forum how to make a town plans for sustainabledevelopment (or how to make cities more liveable in Gary’s words).It was very refreshing to see how Gary highlighted the need to find ways to discuss planning issues with the public. The example was Seattle City, and Garysaid they paid bus drivers to come to planning seminars and that thebus drivers then told the travelling public all about the planninginitiatives. The basic principle is that you inform the people in anyway you can, youlisten to their informed responses and then if you go back to them andtell them what the final decision was. Ifthe decision was not what the people wanted, you still go back and youtell them why the decision varied from what they wanted. This just doesn’t happen in Cairns City and if the AGDF could bring Cairns up to the Seattle standard of public consultation, that would be a huge leap in the right direction.

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