Inspire : Public Works Sept Oct 2014
38 Public Works Professional September-October 2014 WHAT ORIGINALLY DREW YOU TO A CAREER IN PUBLIC WORKS? I'm a professor of sustainability, but in 1976 I was elected to the Freemantle City Council and worked closely with the engineering and planning departments over the next four years. I really learned an enormous amount about how decisions are made and how environmental issues, energy issues and social issues are incorporated into economic planning, which is sustainability. YOU NOTED IN YOUR KEYNOTE AT IPWEA'S SUSTAINABILITY CONFERENCE IN JULY THAT PEOPLE'S RELIANCE ON CARS IS DIMINISHING. HOW DO YOU SEE THIS TREND DEVELOPING? It's interesting the history of that term 'automobile dependence' because I grew up in an Australian suburb and I thought that was the way everyone lived. When I went to Holland to study in 1972, I bought a car on the frst day I got there and hardly ever used it because I was living where you could walk everywhere. The following year I was in San Francisco when the Arab oil embargo occurred and suddenly there was no fuel and everyone was incredibly vulnerable to this change, but in Holland generally there was hardly any change because the cities were already able to function without cars. So I started to study cities at that point and collect data on them and realised there was a very distinct difference between cities based on their transport, planning and their urban sprawl. We came up with the data that showed the exponential relationship between transport and land use patterns for the frst time. That book and those papers that came out in the eighties defning automobile dependence continue to be the basis for much planning now. People don't want to live in a car dependent suburb if they can possibly avoid it. It's a very big cultural change and one that has become a global phenomenon. YOU HAVE WORKED ABROAD AND STILL TRAVEL WIDELY. WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM YOUR TIME OVERSEAS? I go to Asia increasingly, 'A' because it's closer and 'B' they are the heart of the new economy that is emerging and they are taking it very seriously. Making green cities is their agenda so there are things to learn from them. It is extraordinary to see how quick things have changed from [China] being a bit of a laughing stock in how they build their cities to being a leader. We can learn from anywhere because human beings are always inventing their future and cities are crucial to that. We learn from each other. I like to tell stories as well as collect data. I think stories change the world more. YOU ARE COMING TO THE END OF FIVE YEARS WITH INFRASTRUCTURE AUSTRALIA. WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES THE ORGANISATION IS TACKLING TODAY? For me, the two big things are that we're got to get away from coal and we've got to get away from oil. Gas is a transition fuel. It will help us. We have got to get renewable energy into our power systems and we have got to get trains and bikes and buses into cities a lot more than we do cars. What we found was the beneft cost ratios of doing both of these things were very attractive. The politics of doing it has always been hard. Very hard at the POSITIVE THINKER PWPro caught up with Professor Peter Newman, Director of the Curtin University Sustainability Policy (CUSP) Institute at IPWEA's Sustainability Conference to talk sustainability in public works. BY JILL PARK People don't want to live in a car dependent suburb if they can possibly avoid it.
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