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Here’s why investing in green infrastructure has big payoffs for urban planners

Property development regulators are being urged to start prioritising green infrastructure following a study assessing Sydney’s population growth and housing density.

The research found that better funding and regulation regarding green infrastructure – including natural drainage, tree canopies and green walls – will be essential to ensuring urban centres stay liveable.

UNSW Masters of Urban Policy students produced the study following the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s (IPART) call for public submissions to its review of the costs developers pay to provide water infrastructure to new developments.

“There is a common misconception among developers and governments that green infrastructure costs too much. We’ve been able to show that when green infrastructure is valued accurately that is not the case,” UNSW Urban Policy student Alex Lawrie said.

“Often green infrastructure solutions reduce the overall cost of stormwater in new developments and keep maintenance costs down over the long-term.”

Lawrie said the researchers are asking the NSW Government and IPART to seriously consider transitioning to a new valuation of green infrastructure.

“All around the world we have found that when leaders get behind green infrastructure, it tends to happen. We see this in cities like Vancouver, Manchester and Singapore where leaders have taken a long-term approach to greening their cities, with big payoffs economically, environmentally, and in community health and wellbeing,” Lawrie said.

As housing prices continue to rise, developer contributions are becoming more contentious and could add roughly the same amount as stamp duty to the cost of housing, Lawrie said.

“Developers pass these charges on to home buyers sometimes with mark-ups of up to 400%," he said.

“Green infrastructure connects blue and green spaces dotted around our city. Using developer charges to bring nature back into the way we service our suburbs with infrastructure can bring down the cost of housing.”

Delivering sustainable infrastructure in Sydney’s suburbs can help the city maintain its global city status too, Lawrie said.

“Green infrastructure can be Sydney’s saviour. Our global competitors such as London, Singapore and Vancouver are all moving in this direction. We risk falling behind if we don’t go down this path,” he said.

Are you based in Melbourne or Victoria? Then come along to our joint industry event with the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects on Thursday, 30 November. During this event, held in Melbourne, you will find out more about the Victorian Government's new Integrated Water Management Framework and how it will help local governments and water sector partners to meet this objective. Register here.

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