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Publications archive - International Activities and Commitments

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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Australia's report to the UNCSD - 1994

Implementation of Agenda 21
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1994
ISBN 0 6422 0152 8

3.2 - Human settlements

Promoting sustainable human settlement development - Chapter 7 of Agenda 21

3.2.1 Progress achieved

3.2.2 Main activities

a. Programs for adequate shelter

National Housing Strategy

b. Programs for improving human settlement management

The Integrated Local Area Planning Program (ILAP)
Australian Urban and Regional Development Review (AURD)
National State of the Environment Reporting System
National Housing Strategy

c. Promoting sustainable land use planning and management

International cooperation

d. Promoting the integrated provision of environmental infrastructure
e. Promoting sustainable energy and transport planning systems
f. Promoting human settlement planning and management in disaster-prone areas
g. Promoting sustainable construction industry activity
h. Promoting human resource development and capacity building

3.2.3 Experience gained

3.2.4 Problems and constraints

3.2.5 Capacity building

3.2.1 Progress achieved to date in the implementation of objectives of Chapter 7 of Agenda 21

Australia is one of the most urbanised countries in the world, with 85% of its population living in urban areas. The rate of urban growth has resulted in severe environmental and social consequences which threaten the high quality of life currently found in Australian towns and cities.

Australia is developing a range of strategies to promote sustainable human settlement development. Some of the key developments are expanded upon in this section.

3.2.2 The main activities that countries are undertaking or planning to undertake in order to achieve these objectives

Australia's Federal, State and local governments have roles and responsibilities which affect land use planning. An integrated, informed and holistic approach to decision-making across the three levels of government is required, based on adequate and accurate information. All major proposals related to human settlements - residential, industrial and infrastructure developments - are potentially subject to some form of environmental impact assessment under State and Federal regimes.

CEPA has produced a report on the links between social equity and the urban environment which found that low socio-economic groups are usually disadvantaged in terms of access to sustainable housing, transport options and a pollution free environment.

a. Programs for adequate shelter

National Housing Strategy

In 1992, the Australian Government completed a two year National Housing Strategy, putting forward a comprehensive set of national housing and urban policies for Australia and setting objectives for expanding the range and supply of affordable and appropriate housing, developing efficient, effective land and housing provision and developing urban forms that create safe, sustainable, quality environments.

The primary program with shelter as an objective is the $A1 billion a year Federal-State Housing Agreement, which provides housing assistance for people on low incomes.

b. Programs for improving human settlement management

The Integrated Local Area Planning Program (ILAP)

Together with the 1993-96 Australian Urban and Regional Development Review, ILAP is examining the way in which strategic planning for urban areas, at local, State and national levels, should be undertaken to achieve an integrated, sustainable approach. The ILAP is a key program designed to build the capacity of local governments in urban management. Through a pilot study of 20 councils, the ILAP aims to build the capacity of local governments to reform their strategic planning and decision-making processes to ensure a more integrated, holistic approach with and between local governments, and at a regional scale, where integrated plans can be meshed with State Government plans. Stage 1 of the ILAP was due for completion in 1993. $A3.3 million over three years in further funding was approved in 1993-94 for the implementation stage of ILAP.

Australian Urban and Regional Development Review (AURD)

In 1993, the Australian Government announced the Australian Urban and Regional Development Review (AURD) which, over the next three years, will examine how to ensure that urban development in Australia meets national economic, social and environmental objectives.

Under the AURD, $A2 million has been committed over three years. The review will analyse urban and regional development issues and government programs across a range of sectors.

National State of the Environment Reporting System

CEPA is developing a National State of the Environment Reporting System, with urban environment indicators as a key component. The System is to be completed by 1995. The knowledge gained will provide a valuable tool for human settlement management. The Federal Government is piloting a project to support environmental electronic information exchange between local authorities as a tool for better local environmental management. Key urban issues such as waste and water quality and stormwater have been a focus.

National Housing Strategy

The National Housing Strategy 'Discussion Paper on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing' addresses key issues including access to housing, types of housing needed, control and management of houses and more effective coordination of housing and infrastructure.

c. Promoting sustainable land use planning and management

Local Government is improving the efficiency of its building and development approval processes through the Federal Local Approval Review Program.

The Federal Government is seeking to demonstrate improvements to the integrated provision of environmental infrastructure through such programs as the Building Better Cities Program. The four year, $A816 million program, begun in 1991, seeks to demonstrate integrated approaches to and more effective use of transport, housing and other infrastructure. This includes initiatives such as improved waste water treatment systems, retention and re-use of urban stormwater run-off. It is currently supporting 25 area strategies across Australia.

The National Urban Development Program commenced in 1992 with $A25.5 million over four years. The Program is geared towards promotion and an improved range of housing types, making more efficient use of land and infrastructure and reform of approval and planning processes at the local level. The Program includes promotion of the Australian Model Code for Residential Development (AMCORD) and the recent development of AMCORD `Urban` for higher densities.

The Indicative Planning Council operates at State and national levels and monitors demographic and housing trends and the availability of land supply. The Council advises on demographic trends and housing and land supply issues.

The draft National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity contains objectives and actions promoting the conservation of biodiversity in urban areas. These include undertaking bioregional planning, encouraging habitat retention and providing public information.

The Save the Bush Program concentrates on conservation of remnant vegetation and the maintenance of biological diversity. The project promotes and supports activities to protect, manage and investigate remnant native vegetation outside national parks and reserves.

The One Billion Trees Program aims to have a least 1 billion trees planted by 2000 in both rural and urban locations.

The National Landcare Program and the Decade of Landcare Plan (see Section 3.3.2).

The Rural Adjustment Scheme, funded by both the Federal and State Governments and administered by the States/Territories, aims at returning non-viable farmers to viability when this is possible and to adopt viable farming practices, or provides assistance to farmers without a long-term future in farming to leave the industry.

The Coordinating Council on the Release of Commonwealth Land was established in 1993 to report to Government on the release of Commonwealth land and to address issues associated with decontamination, concessional sales, heritage and use classification.

The National Local Government Environment Resource Network and the Local Government Environment Information Exchange Scheme are providing information and support to local government and communities for better environmental management.

A Centre for Integrated Resource Management (CIRM), a joint venture of the University of Queensland and the Queensland Government, has recently been established and is concerned with a program of integrated resource management aimed at sustaining the land itself as well as land use.

International cooperation

Australia's Interim Policy Statement on ESD in International Development Cooperation (see Section 2.3.2.a) notes that the quality of the urban environment in the developing world is an increasingly important issue for the aid program. Australia has relevant expertise in areas such as land title registration, urban infrastructure, land use planning and waste management.

Australia has supported work being undertaken by ESCAP and the ADB to develop a regional approach to the extensive and diverse issues which are emerging in the Asia Pacific region. Australia participates in the United Nations Commission for Human Settlements (Habitat) as an observer and contributes to UN development agencies which coordinate activities with Habitat.

Various programs are being implemented to build the capacity of some aid recipient countries in land use planning and management. An example of this is Australian funding to the Land Titling Project and Bangkok Land Information Systems projects in Thailand. These two projects focus on strengthening institutions involved in land planning and administration, with particular emphasis on training and on transfer of improved technology.

d. Promoting the integrated provision of environmental infrastructure

Other projects and programs which focus on urban environment issues include:

e. Promoting sustainable energy and transport planning systems in human settlements

Australia's activities under this heading are governed by the NSESD (see Section 1.1). They include the implementation of travel demand strategies and management techniques, such as the integration of land use and transport planning with an emphasis on minimising the need for fossil fuel-based transport.

The AURD Review will consider the relationships between energy use, urban form, transport and housing design.

f. Promoting human settlement planning and management in disaster-prone areas

Within Australia, human settlement planning and disaster management rests/through the Constitution, primarily with the States and local government. States and local governments are responsible for formulating disaster management plans on a State, regional and local scale, including hazard identification. The Australian Government through the Department of Defence has a coordinating and oversight role, with plans in place to deal with any and all emergencies except for nuclear space debris.

Australia through its overseas programs supports post-disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation, both in terms of planning and implementation of reconstruction activities. Australia provided planning and investment programming assistance to the Philippine authorities to address the devastation caused by the eruption of Mt Pinatubo. A program of long-term reconstruction activities has been undertaken on the Indonesian island of Flores in the wake of a major earthquake. Australia also contributed to relief and reconstruction activities in a number of South Pacific countries, including Western Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, following major cyclone damage.

g. Promoting sustainable construction industry activity

The Australian Housing Industry Development Council is a forum for joint Federal, State and industry advice to the Federal Government. It promotes strategic planning of urban development and advances regulatory reform and innovative housing. It has been asked to examine the recycling of building material and the preferred mechanisms for the disposal of builders' rubble.

h. Promoting human resource development and capacity building for human settlements development

The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute was established to promote research into social, and economic aspects of housing and related issues. The ILAP and the National State of the Environment Reporting System have key institutional capacity building elements, particularly in terms of supporting integrated decision making.

Other research agencies are:

3.2.3 Experience gained, particularly experience from which others may benefit

Australia has undertaken or is embarking on some unique processes aimed at promoting sustainable development. These include the process for developing the NSESD (see Section 1.1), the current ILAP and the AURD Review. The experience and thinking behind ILAP and AURD is outlined in Section 3.2.2.b. It would be valuable to any developing country in establishing its own programs aimed at achieving an integrated approach to sustainable human settlements.

All major issues identified in Agenda 21 Chapter 7 are being addressed to some degree by current policies. In particular, the AURD Review offers significant potential to address human settlements in an environmentally sustainable manner. To date the environmental focus of the Review is on stormwater pollution, water quality, waste management and air pollution.

Pricing issues associated with resource and other environmental attributes are being considered by Australian governments (e.g. water pricing, road user charges and charges for disposal of waste at land fill sites) and will play a key role in the direction of any reform in urban development and management.

3.2.4 Specific problems and constraints encountered by governments at all levels, including local Agenda 21 activities and activities related to major groups

Access to environmental information to support local decision-making can be improved. Local government will carry the responsibility for implementing the majority of elements of any urban and/or environmental policy, yet its financial and resource capacity remains low.

The concentration of Australia's population along the coastal fringe presents unique problems, including the impact of human settlement on marine ecosystems.

3.2.5 Assessment of developments in capacity building

The current primary Federal initiative on capacity building is the ILAP. It has the potential to encourage fundamental changes to the way in which Australian urban areas are planned and managed. Other national programs are the National Local Government Environment Resource Program and the Local Government Environmental Information Exchange Scheme.