National President's Message 9 May 2016

9 May 2016

‘Anything that can be Xeroxed begins to lose its value’

Friends and Colleagues,

As many of you would know I follow and comment on cities regularly. I recently started re-reading a great little book called ‘Landprints’, a collection of the late George Seddon’s finest essays from his many books as well as his early Landscape Australia essays.

Seddon had a seductive method of exploring notions of place through a landscape lens. In his 1979 essay, ‘The genius loci and the Australian landscape’, he discusses the internationalisation of cities, and laments the loss of their unique landscape qualities, replaced by ubiquitous, globally available tree species, with the resulting ‘…homogenising effect all over the global supermarket…reducing regional diversity in urban form, architecture, food, dress and even vegetation’.

He states the pattern of cities reducing their landscape diversity, using examples from the tropics, where ‘from Cairns to Chang Mai’ the street tree palette has been reduced to half a dozen tree species, and we are in danger of losing our contextual uniqueness.

Fast forward three and half decades and we’re now arguing for more liveable and greener cities, and this is our opportunity to call into the debate the benefits of our uniqueness of creating and designing landscapes around the world to achieve better, more liveable and greener cities. Our collective approach to design and delivery is now more important than ever, and our efforts continue maximising advocacy is full steam ahead!

On this topic, AILA was invited to attend and contribute to the launch of the Prime Minister’s Smart Cities Plan in Melbourne last week. This included participating in a session on Liveable Cities hosted by Environment Minister, The Hon. Greg Hunt. The plan is out for consultation here and AILA will be preparing a response to the Smart Cities Plan, based on continuing development of the plan to include the benefits of green infrastructure.

AILA continues to advocate on the benefits of green infrastructure to the Australian Government, and the Smart Cities Plan offer us the chance to reinforce the importance of greener cities. Australia needs stronger national GI policies, compared to recent initiatives in the United States and Scotland, where Government is mandating use of tools and investment in green infrastructure.

Details of Scotland’s new incentive-based green infrastructure fund can be found here; essentially the fund will deliver a number of high improvements to the quantity, quality and accessibility of green space and other green infrastructure throughout Scotland, targeting the most deprived communities.

In the United States, the Federal Government’s General Services Administration has adopted the SITES ratings tool for its capital construction program. The chair of the USA’s Green Business Certification Inc said ‘Land is a crucial component of the built environment and can be planned, designed, developed and maintained to protect and enhance the benefits we derive from healthy functioning landscapes. The U.S. General Services Administration adopting SITES for its use is an important demonstration of environmental leadership’. Information on this initiative can be found here.

With the looming Federal Election all but confirmed for July 2, AILA is preparing a ‘responder’ for the major parties, which outlines AILA’s key policies. We will be working hard over the next 9 weeks to ensure our collective position on a wide variety of issues for landscape architects is out there. Please make sure you are all on social media sharing AILA’s policies and providing comment to all the parties on what matters to you. We’ll share the responses from the major parties and provide a report card in coming weeks.

A few weeks ago I mentioned our rollout of AILA films, and I am pleased to release the next in the series, appropriately titled ‘How do Landscape Architects shape our cities, towns and regions?’ This is a film to show and send to all your local Federal Election candidates!

As always, we do very much value your ideas, thoughts, comments and constructive feedback. As always, I’m always happy to hear from members, so please drop me a line if you wish to discuss.

Have a good week!

Daniel Bennett

Registered Landscape Architect

National President

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