National President's Message - 2 February 2016

The long drive

Holidays, for most of us anyway, are now probably a distant memory. If you’ll indulge me though, I’d like to share my experiences from my recent sojourn…

Our recent family drive, the annual trip to Sydney and the Central Coast of New South Wales (to places with quaint names such as Woy Woy, Patonga, Pearl Beach and Budgewoi) from Adelaide, is a comforting reminder of the diversities of the Australian landscape.

Our favourite part of the trip – as identified in a Bennett Family poll (sample size 5 – 2 just over 40, 3 under 12) – revealed the southern Great Dividing Range, with the beautifully smooth dual carriageway, as the best part of the long drive (between Albury and Bowral). The Range is a fantastic part of Australia, starting around in SA, and stretching as far north as QLD. The rise and falls in this stretch are pronounced, perhaps not mountainous, revealing an ancient form with pockets of remnant landscapes, but mostly reshaped by the adaptive hand of the early settlers. The effect is revealing the landform, and framing some spectacular views.

Approaching our old friend, Sydney, the impact of the growing pains on our biggest metropolis was evident. The widened Hume, the complex sprawl, the interchanges with other motorways and the sheer numbers of people entering and leaving were a bit of a shock.

Many would say this is a good sign of our cities as economic powerhouses – and in part, they are – however what are we losing in the process? There was scant evidence of the undulating Wianamatta Shale terrain that I remember being able to see on this same drive only two years ago, with the Sydney Sandstone outcrops, the framed views and vistas. Bit by bit, the drive seems to be screened with noise walls and colourbond fencing. We need to work harder to keep some of the landscape that makes our places familiar…

As we start AILA’s 50thyear, I’d like to remind us all of this – Australia’s cities are bastions of our great commonwealth, signposts of one of the world’s greatest democracies. A time when the pressures on our cities are now recognised by all, that more people on earth now live in urban areas than not. The time of the Anthropogenic is here.

Never before has human society faced such challenges – the challenges of disruption, the challenges of growth, the challenges of an adaptive and emerging new economy, the challenges of a changing climate, and other unkown challenges…

Your national council is energized by the year ahead. Our very first and perhaps most important piece of advocacy is to host a national event in Canberra on 10 February with Minister for Cities Greg Hunt, Shadow Minister for Cities Anthony Albanese on living cities. This political and industry focused gathering will raise the critical importance of green infrastructure on the back of Minister Hunt’s announcement of a national Tree Canopy Policy.

I look forward to reporting on the outcomes of this historic forum, hosted by AILA, in coming weeks.

Until then, welcome back!

Daniel Bennett

Registered Landscape Architect

National President, Australian Institute of Landscape Architects

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