Inspire : Public Works Jan Feb 2014
40 Public Works Professional January-February 2014 HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN INTERESTED IN THE FIELD OF SUSTAINABILITY? It's been a progression through my career, from technical roles in water resources and food plain management, to a more holistic approach. As time goes on, I've realised you can't just have a narrow specialisation, you have to deal with all those other considerations and come up with more holistic solutions that address multiple objectives. WHAT DOES SUSTAINABILITY REALLY MEAN? There’s a formal defnition of sustainability as using resources in a way that doesn't deny opportunities to future generations. But more than that, sustainability is multidimensional; not just fnancial or technical, but also social and environmental and even taking into account governance, which is about having appropriate procedures in the rule of law and ethics and equity, and those sorts of things. In reality, sustainability means different things to different people and I think that's the challenge -- people have different ideas about what it means to them, so they're not always using the same language. WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF SUSTAINABILITY INITIATIVES IN PUBLIC WORKS? Local councils around Australia did some wonderful things a few years ago (and are continuing to do so!) in water conser vation. We had a drought in eastern Australia between 2003 and 2009 and a lot of councils were very short of water, Goulburn Council in southern NSW for example closed all its sporting felds and the swimming pool. In response, a lot of councils came up with clever ways to sustain their parks and gardens, using stormwater har vesting and those sorts of things. In South Australia, councils were really involved in aquifer storage and re-use, pumping rainwater into aquifers and pumping it back later when required. Also in terms of energy conservation, particularly during the period when energy prices were rising at double-digit rates, a lot of councils looked at things they could do both passively and actively to reduce their energy bills. WHAT CHALLENGES DO COUNCILS FACE IN ACHIEVING THEIR SUSTAINABILITY GOALS? I think headwinds coming from conser vative state governments, which are often pulling away support policies that previously encouraged and supported councils on their sustainability initiatives. For example, in New South Wales and Queensland there used to be sea level rise planning benchmarks that said when planning coastal developments you should assume the sea level will rise by about a metre by the end of the century. That provided a reference that councils could use to say no to coastal The conference is going to be a great opportunity to raise the pro le of sustainability in local government.
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