10 Built environment | Key findings

State of the Environment 2011 Committee. Australia state of the environment 2011.
Independent report to the Australian Government Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
Canberra: DSEWPaC, 2011.

10 Built environment

Key findings

Australia's built environment faces many pressures and is only in a fair shape.

Australia's built environment is diverse. There are significant pressures on this environment driven by population and economic growth, and climate change. An increasing need for space and buildings (our urban footprint), increasing traffic congestion and increasing consumption are affecting the livability and environmental efficiency of the built environment. Traffic congestion, in particular, is of growing concern. However, growth in traffic may be levelling, and use of public transport is increasing. Residents are also concerned about the look and design of their cities; in the biggest cities, there are concerns about whether the cities are clean, well maintained and unpolluted. Climate change is creating new risks by increasing the likelihood of weather-related events such as mega-storms.

The Australian built environment consumes significant natural resources, although this may be improving.

The residents and industries of the built environment consume natural resources, including water, energy and land. Waste generation within the built environment also has an impact on the natural environment. However, emerging evidence suggests that increases in the use of energy and water may be slowing due to improved technology, and better understanding and recognition of the need to reduce human environmental impact.

Recent government initiatives aim to improve the uncoordinated management of the built environment.

Management of the built environment is characterised by complex arrangements involving all levels of government, as well as the private sector, and these arrangements lack effective coordination. Recent initiatives of the Council of Australian Governments to reform capital city planning, as well as the recently released National Urban Policy, seek to address this issue. There are also concerns that insufficient investment has been made in infrastructure.

The outlook for the built environment is mixed.

The expected increase in the physical size of cities and increased traffic congestion will have negative impacts, but these may be offset by improved management and more efficient use of natural resources.