Measuring Urban Green Space in Australia
Research by UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) and UTS Science provides insights into how we can grow towards best practice green space planning and management in Australia.
Plant RA, Cunningham R, Berry F, Madden B, Hageer Y, Huete A, (2017) Measuring Urban Green Space in Australia (PDF) Final Technical Report prepared for Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited by the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) and the Faculty of Science Climate Change Cluster (C3), University of Technology Sydney, Australia.
Australian cotton futures: building capacity for resilient and adaptive communities
Client: Cotton Catchment Communities Cooperative Research Centre
Institute researchers conducted research to identify if the cotton industry and community’s respective visions for the future of cotton in Australia match. A shared vision between industry and community is important: there is no future for cotton without it because the industry and community depend on each other. The project sought to: develop a baseline knowledge to support a visioning process with the industry and community representatives; identify key drivers for the future of cotton; understand how an industry vision compares to community vision and values; explore at what scale (local, regional, national) a visioning process would be most appropriate; and design and conduct community forums where community members can feed their ideas, issues, concerns and beliefs into a shared industry/community vision for cotton in Australia. The research found that community members feel cotton has a strong place in the social, environmental and economic life of their communities. It also revealed that the cotton industry’s vision of 2029 was slightly out of step with the future challenges and issues highlighted by the community. It could be important for the industry to include community vision more explicitly in future planning to remain a mainstay in cotton communities. The Institute conducted the study for the Cotton Catchment Communities CRC.
Best practice guidance on community reference panels
Client: Namoi Catchment Management Authority
Institute researchers provided advice on best practice community engagement to help them manage and facilitate the three Community Reference Panels, established to advise the Namoi CMA on the best ways to engage and receive feedback from the community for the ongoing development and review of the Catchment Action Plan and associated Investment Plan. The Institute’s work involved a desktop research study of existing best practice guidelines on community reference panels and similar engagement structures, principles and practice examples, and unpublished researched accessed by ISF. The review also drew on existing meta-reviews and also on previous review work on community engagement in local government, undertaken by ISF. The Institute and Namoi CMA worked together to prioritise and select the specific issues reported on so the final report best met the objectives of the client. Key areas reported on were: guidance on conducting effective meetings; facilitation; monitoring and evaluation; relationship building; learning and capacity building; and effective communication (within and about the panel). It provided key resources for each of these areas, and culminated in provision of various checklists, guidance documents and suggested panel activities.
Ecosystem Services and Natural Resource Management Practice: Where the Rubber Hits the Road
Land and Water Australia
The ecosystem services concept initially gained momentum amongst the Australian scientific community in the late 1990s. This research, commissioned by Land & Water Australia in 2009 and led by the Institute’s Dr Roel Plant, sought to investigate if the earlier Australian ecosystem services research efforts and findings have been adopted and utilised by Australian resource managers, highlighting factors that may have enabled or prevented this adoption. Combining a literature review, interviews and observations from Australian regional planning the research generated a snapshot of resource managers’ experiences in engaging with the ecosystem services concept. Results of the research suggest that thinking about biodiversity and ecosystems as providers of economic value has broadly found its way into Australian natural resource management practice but that the ‘language’ of ecosystem services is not necessarily new, clear or practicable. For the ecosystem services concept to be used meaningfully and effectively in Australian natural resource management (NRM) in the future, a concerted effort at the nexus of NRM research, policy and practice will be required. This requires a shift away from the ecosystem services valuation controversy towards embedding ecosystem services thinking in participatory planning processes, recognising that, in the face of unascertainable outcomes of action, rational choice is best preceded by a process of learning and reasoning.
Plant, R.A. 2009, 'Ecosystem services and NRM practice: where the rubber hits the road', Land & Water Australia Ecosystem Services Workshop, March 2009. View/Download paper (PDF 824.56KB)
Plant, R. & Ryan P. 2012, In press. Ecosystem services as a practicable concept for Natural Resource Management: some Lessons from Australia. International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management.
Engaging peri-urban communities in bushfire preparation and biodiversity protection
Nature Conservation Council of NSW
The research project engaged with four Sydney communities located adjacent to wilderness or bushland: Killingworth, Cowan, Westleigh and Waterfall. Processes were designed to introduce these communities to bushfire preparation that is sensitive to the natural environment, and to build capacity to undertake preparations at a property level. Detailed survey questionnaires were distributed to the four bushfire prone communities prior to community engagement workshops designed to involve the community and allow dialogue about risk and the risk response. Institute researchers interviewed participants before and after the workshops and used both qualitative and quantitative social research techniques to analyse the data. The research examined: community perceptions of the risk posed by bush fires; attitudes to preparedness and values toward local biodiversity; and how to balance the risks between safety and protecting the nearby bushland. This project was highly commended at the 2013 Resilient Australia Awards.
Kanganomics: a socio-economic assessment of the commercial kangaroo industry
The kangaroos are iconic species. They embody the Australian spirit of uniqueness, resilience and adaptability to a harsh landscape. Kangaroos influence the health of different ecosystems by fertilising nutrient poor soils and spreading the seeds of native grasses and plants. They are also a key drawcard for international tourists visiting our shores. Despite these benefits provided by kangaroos, millions are killed to provide products such as meat for human or animal consumption, and hides and skins for the production of leather goods. This report provides a comprehensive analysis of the economics of the commercial kangaroo industry in Australia. The research explores the value of the industry to the Australian economy; the production process; direct employment; key trading countries and export earnings as well as an assessment of domestic demand. View/download report
Knowledge-Based Biodiversity Mapping for Valuation of Ecosystem Services from Peri-Urban Agriculture
Irstea and UTS collaboration
This project places the issue of conservation and restoration of bio-diverse (agro-) ecosystems in the context of local land use planning. The project's scientific objective is to advance techniques for knowledge-based biodiversity mapping and valuation, allowing better informed and socially accepted planning decisions at the local scale. Building on the latest developments in geo-informatics and participatory modelling, the research focuses on methods for integrating formal knowledge (e.g. soil fertility maps, habitat maps) and local ecological knowledge (LEK) as possessed by farmers, fishermen, land managers, citizens, local historians, etc. Using two peri-urban case studies in Southern France (Bassin de Thau and a second area in the Nîmes region), laboratory-based and participatory mapping techniques will be employed to empirically explore stakeholders’ values around the roles that peri-urban agriculture can play in conserving and restoring biodiversity - and indeed safeguard their livelihoods for the future. Dr Roel Plant maintains a project blog at: http://knobimap.blogspot.com/
Natural resource manager capacity in the Murray Catchment
Client : Murray Catchment Management Authority
This project took a meta-analysis at regional scale of the results of a series of participatory capacity assessment workshops with natural resource managers. In collaboration with Murray CMA staff, Brent Jacobs and Nic Mikhailovich conducted workshops in eight social-ecological systems (SES) throughout the Murray Catchment with a diverse range of NR managers. The key NR manager groups represented in the workshops included large extensive cropping and grazing enterprises, small-scale farming enterprises and life-style blocks, NRM volunteers (such as bush regenerators and Landcare members) and members of a local Aboriginal community. The meta-analysis identified the existence of widespread constraints to the capacity of NR managers to adopt improved NR management practices throughout the region; and, common themes in calls for action by NR managers in the Murray area. The regional indicators of capacity were used to guide formulation of a series of broad goals for the Murray Catchment, for incorporation in the Catchment Action Plan. The development of goals from information gathered through a bottom-up process,such as the one used in this study, ensures ownership and broad support for action on NRM that is consistent with community needs.
Jacobs, B. 2012, 'Natural resource manager capacity in the Murray Catchment', Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS, Sydney, Australia, pp. 1-30. View/Download
Natural Resources Planning for Climate Change: Extreme Climate Events and Communities
This research focused on the management of natural resources for extreme events in the South East region of NSW. Natural resources directly support the livelihoods of rural society and underpin much of the economic activity of rural and regional Australia. The impact of extreme climate events such as bushfire, floods and drought in rural and regional areas can be devastating and disruptive to social and economic activity. A series of 8 workshops were held in the South East with participants drawn from the communities of the South East of NSW representing farmers, landholders, emergency service volunteers, local and state government, business owners, Indigenous peoples, financial institutions and a range of non-government organisations such as Landcare. The workshop discussions were framed around the Prevent-Prepare-Respond-Recover (PPRR) cycle which is embedded in NSW emergency management planning. The framework provided a way to engage rural and regional communities in responses to extreme climate events. In practice, variations among the types of extreme event hazards within specific landscapes and the capacity of individual communities of the South East most often means that the PPRR cycle does not accord with the lived experience of a community. A key research finding is that despite the intrinsic value of natural resources in supporting rural and regional communities, they are rarely explicitly considered in the management of extreme events, which may result in unintended and long-term consequences for the preservation of natural resources. The key to improved management of natural resources for extreme events appears to lie in prepare and prevent phases of the cycle and may require new partnerships between EM services, local government, regional-based State agencies and rural and regional communities
Jacobs, B. and Boronyak-Vasco, L. (2015) Natural Resources Planning for Climate Change: Extreme Climate Events and Communities, Report prepared for South East Local Land Services.
Resilience for pesticide management in NSW rivers
Funded by: UTS challenge grant
Institute researchers were able to put forward recommendations for policy reform after their study revealed weaknesses in the control of pollution from chemicals used in per-urban agriculture. Agricultural chemicals are a notoriously intractable source of environmental pollution. Offering enhanced agricultural productivity, they simultaneously risk degrading the ecological basis upon which agriculture depends. The research considered chemicalisation as a cause of the erosion of aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem resilience, focusing on the Hawkesbury-Nepean River and the small-scale horticulturalists who supply Sydney’s fresh vegetable markets. These horticulturalists work under the pressure of urbanisation, retail monopolies, indifferent land-use planning, and often without access to information about pesticide use in the languages they understand. Interviews were conducted with actors within the ‘assemblage’ of institutions with responsibility for agriculture, water quality, and environmental protection, in order to assess the effectiveness of pesticide governance in the Greater Sydney Basin. Pesticide pollution was found to be far from being ‘tamed’: it is rarely measured nor monitored, neither is it a priority of any particular agency. Public health, the long-term viability of local farming and the ecological well-being of the Hawkesbury-Nepean River are mutually consistent goals, hence the researchers’ recommendations focussed on bringing these vital elements together to eliminate the current system of ‘organised irresponsibility’.
Plant, R.A., Walker, J.R., Rayburg, S., Gothe, J. & Leung, T. 2012, 'The wild life of pesticides: Urban agriculture, institutional responsibility, and the future of biodiversity in Sydney's Hawkesbury-Nepean River', Australian Geographer, vol. 43, pp. 75-91.
View/Download from: Publisher's site
Teeing off on carbon connections biodiversity
Client: Hawkesbury Nepean Catchment Authority
Research was undertaken to determine the factors that support and constrain the adoption of improved practices on golf courses in the greater Sydney region with particular reference to biodiversity, habitat and carbon storage. The research team designed and conducted a participatory self-assessment workshop and an online survey of golf course superintendents, staff and club managers from across the Sydney metropolitan region. Additional data was generated from interviews with key stakeholders. The research found that more than half the golf clubs surveyed contain endangered ecological communities or threatened species. Most of the golf course personnel that took part in the survey believe that managing biodiversity on golf courses is important, agree that biodiversity enhances the experience of playing on a golf course, and had taken some action towards improving the management of biodiversity on their course. The project will assist the HNCMA and Golf NSW to formulate effective investment and support programs for building the capacity of golf course personnel to improve biodiversity practices.
THINKK Kangaroo Think Tank
THINKK is an innovative and ground breaking think tank established by the University of Technology Sydney, with support from the Sherman Foundation, the Sydney Lord Mayor's Salary Trust and other philanthropic sources and based at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, to undertake independent research on kangaroos in Australia. THINKK aims to integrate science and policy, and its mission is to foster understanding amongst Australians about kangaroos in a sustainable landscape. For more information visit the THINKK web site.
Value based land remediation of contaminated sites
Client: Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assesssment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE)
Institute researchers explored opportunities for land remediation to move towards sustainability by shifting the focus of remediation decision-making processes from risk mitigation to enhancing value. Policy and legislation for contaminated land ultimately aims to generate a net benefit to society by taking into account all costs and benefits to landholders, developers, local business, the community, and the environment. However, commercial development and public health concerns are currently the two key drivers for remediation of contaminated land in Australia. Current practice does not encourage regulators and industry to ground clean-up decisions in a robust analysis of the values that stakeholders may seek from remediation processes, and how stakeholders’ held values might play a role in this. The study was grounded in institutional theory and employed Ostrom’s Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework. Furthermore, the project used a case study approach to canvas how public and private parties currently interact with regulators and/or other institutions in deciding on site cleanup in Australia and selected Asia-Pacific countries. CRC CARE commissioned the project, and it complements CRC CARE legislative reviews in Australian and Asia-Pacific jurisdictions.