National President's Message - 15 February 2016

Friends and colleagues,

Your institute hosted industry leaders from over 50 industry organisations on Wednesday 10th February at Parliament House in Canberra, which included addresses from the Minister for Environment and Local Government, Paul Fletcher; the Opposition Minister for Cities, Anthony Albanese; Australian Greens MP, Adam Bandt and the Assistant Secretary, Cities and Built Environment Taskforce, Kate Lynch.

Minister Fletcher firmly articulated the Australian Government’s continued commitment to cities, saying he would work with the Acting Minister for Cities, Greg Hunt and the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to implement the Government’s policy agenda.

Anthony Albanese pointed to the value of green infrastructure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, plus increasing the health and happiness in our communities, including our nation’s economic productivity.

Adam Bandt highlighted the opportunities by investing in our communities and public spaces, suggesting there are ways grow the natural ecologies of our cities through greener rooves, rooftop gardens and community-grown food.

Our CEO, Shahana McKenzie, was so motivated to initiate the workshop and a new Living Cities Alliance after Minister Greg Hunt’s speech to the Sydney Chamber of Commerce in early February, that in less than 20 days, demonstrated how much widespread support there is for greener cities. AILA’s leadership has been noted by many including Opposition Minister for Cities, Anthony Albanese, who said ‘AILA are serious leaders in the urban policy space and I think the fact we have gathered here from around the nation today is testimony of this’.

Further evidence of a successful day was the fact the event trended very high on social media, and was in the top ten on Twitter under the hashtag, #livingcitiesau. An extraordinary outcome for us!

The day was facilitated by Adam Beck from the Centre for Urban Innovation, who I’m sure many of you know, and he adeptly ensured the conversations, the discussions and the resolutions were representative of the diverse groups who assembled for this historic meeting. Ever the innovator, Adam made us all download an app called “Poll Everywhere”, which allowed delegates to instantly engage interactively, tapping into our smart phones as part of the exercises, providing instant feedback on various issues being discussed. It was highly effective.

Overall, the level of consensus achieved was impressive – agreeing that there are positive outcomes for greening our regions and cities – on reducing health costs, reduced energy costs, reduced heat island impacts, cleaner air and water, mental health benefits and increased visual and physical amenity.

The economics of cities, we now advocate, must now firmly include the benefits of green infrastructure. This was a clear outcome of the day.

On the plane to Canberra yesterday morning, I opened the paper to see a full page yellow advertisement from the Australian Government, welcoming us to the ‘ideas boom’. I strongly believe, and in part as a result our efforts yesterday, that if we can introduce the #ideasboom to #livingcities, Australia’s cities have a bright and sustainable future ahead.

As a profession, we have much to offer. Our next task is to collectively deliver the messages, shape and assist enacting policies, and deliver the outcomes. The Living Cities Alliance will provide the vehicle to achieve this. Watch this space for more in the coming months.

The next year, our 50th year, is proving to be a watershed year for AILA. I look forward to you all being part of it.

Daniel Bennett


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