At Healthy Cities Illawarra (HCI), we recognise the importance of balancing health, environmental, social and economic needs in urban planning. Using our expertise and experience in public and environmental health, HCI has taken part in a number of consultation processes to help form the future shape of urban areas in the Illawarra.
For example, HCI played a large part in the development of Kiama Council's Municipal Health Plan in 2004 as well as in 2010. HCI provided input towards the development of Wollongong's new Local Environment Plan and Development Control Plan during 2009. HCI also took an interest in the West Dapto Urban Land Release and the Wollongong Mall redesign proposal in 2008.
Our aim is always to improve both environmental protection and the creation of liveable neighbourhoods. "Liveable neighbourhoods" are those with easy access to green open space areas, integrated and accessible active and public transport systems, and include sustainable building and street design features.
The Illawarra Escarpment is the dominant natural feature of the Illawarra. Its value to the region has been highlighted through a Commission of Inquiry into its management and protection and subsequently, a wide range of studies. The studies identified the escarpment as a 'biodiversity hotspot', and it was called the 'Kakadu of the South'. Its tourism value to the Illawarra is also immense. HCI's submission towards the proposed development of the Corrimal Mine Site in 2008 drew Council's attention to some of these values.
HCI has also taken a keen interest in progressive State Government changes to NSW planning laws. In 2008 we joined with over one hundred other environmental protection organisations in expressing our concern to the Government about the reduction in environmental and heritage protection, as well as the weakening of community consultation provisions.
During 2010, HCI prepared a proposal for a 'Smart Growth Centre' in the Illawarra. The proposal recognises the need to accommodate many more people without compromising the natural environment and people's health. Traditional suburban sprawl uses large areas of land and relies heavily on motor vehicle transport however this land should be conserved for natural systems or for agriculture.
Smart Growth principles aim to create liveable cities which are designed to enhance people's well-being and health, and these include:
- Create a range of housing opportunities and choices
- Create walkable neighbourhoods
- Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration
- Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place
- Make development decisions predictable, fair and cost effective
- Mix land uses
- Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty and critical environmental areas
- Provide a variety of transportation choices
- Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities
- Take advantage of compact building design