Better policy key to water sensitive urban design

A new study has confirmed the over-arching importance of strong planning and environmental laws in water sensitive urban design (WSUD).

Researchers for the Co-operative Research Centre's for Water Sensitive Cities have completed an initial assessment of the role that statutory planning regulations and processes play in facilitating or constraining the adoption of WSUD.

Planning and environment group Maddocks Special Counsel Barnaby McIlrath co-authored the issues paper and said there were large variations between planning policy frameworks for WSUD across the states.

“In some states, such as Victoria, environmental policy for water quality is integrated with planning legislation so that decision makers have to give effect to state environment policy for water quality,” McIlrath said.

“That mandatory, performance-based approach has certainly assisted in the mainstreaming of WSUD.”

McIlrath said that although the uptake of WSUD was increasingly common, there were differing degrees of support across state and local governments, and the urban development sector.

“In some states we're seeing that, while their policy frameworks might be very good, in their intentions they remain quite discretionary,” he said.

“This can lead to inconsistent or ad-hoc approaches to implementation.”

The review is part of the Statutory Planning for Water Sensitive Urban Design Project, which will release a set of recommendations for developing a best-practice approach to WSUD later this year.

“That's not just confined to planning policy but we are looking to some extent to the challenges posed by fragmented institutional and governance arrangements affecting stormwater and water recycling,” McIlrath said.

“We're very interested in continuing a conversation with stakeholders about what WSUD policy is going to look like in 10-15 years and how to get where we want to be.”

The project is looking at everything from infill development policy, to funding arrangements, and resources for new planners.