The challenges posed by urban development are complex. Bad decisions are costly, far-reaching, and locked in for generations. However, we can learn from the mistakes of urban sprawl in the past and do things differently.
Our cities and regions are in a period of rapid change. Population growth and urbanisation are placing significant pressure on key infrastructure and services and on the health of our waterways, environment and people – both in infill development and greenfield development on the urban fringe.
Historically, the planning and delivery of key ‘grey’, ‘human’ and ‘blue-green’ infrastructure in our cities necessary to deliver a wide range of community services and outcomes has not operated in a complementary way. The result? Fragmented decision making and poor assessment of the benefits of place-based infrastructure and land-use planning.
Development of resilient and liveable cities can provide future generations of people living and working there with substantial benefits that flow from integrated planning and delivery of infrastructure.
There is significant community value from designing our communities to be more appealing places to live, work and play. This happens through easy access to key services, promoting healthy behaviours, and protecting environmental values in a way that provides resilience to drought, urban heat and climate change.
This kind of urban development is fundamental to realising the economic potential of the area and accommodating significant population growth. (Learn more at our In Focus section on resilience.)
As governments and the private sector cooperate to undertake city-shaping infrastructure projects or developments, ensuring that good decisions are made is vital to build more liveable, resilient, productive and sustainable places for our communities.
These include critical decisions about how we:
- use land and other resources, including decisions around housing, infrastructure corridors, environment and our waterways
- move people, goods and services around
- evaluate and value potential investments in infrastructure
- price and fund our scarce resources and community services
- manage and build community resilience to pressures such as population change, climate and drought.
Choosing the best course of action means weighing up different options and quantifying various elements or components. Economics has tools to enable this: evaluating funding, pricing and governance risks and putting in place measures to align interests and incentives of key players – landowners, developers, utilities and governments – with those of the community.
Our expertise in the following areas helps clients address these complex decisions with a robust economic framework.
We advise developers, utilities and governments on the commercial and community value from investment in urban projects and policies. For example, analysing and quantifying the costs and benefits from investment in grey, human and blue-green infrastructure to improve liveability & health outcomes.
We help clients identify what drives consumer and community behaviours. From there, we can use incentives to target interventions. For example, understanding the behavioural impacts and performance of interventions aimed at improving environmental outcomes.
We advise firms and governments how to value both risks and opportunities created by uncertainty and options for incorporating these into decision-making.
We advise on the design and application of economic regulatory frameworks using cost and pricing models and benchmarking, and the design of price controls and incentives for economic efficiency.
Blue, Green or Grey?
Colour has become shorthand to communicate whether infrastructure is synthetic or natural. The terms green, blue, grey, blue-green and even green-grey infrastructure are now commonly used . But what does this mean?
- Green infrastructure usually refers to nature in the urban environment such as canopy, vegetation, gardens, parks and greenery in the built environment like green roofs and walls.
- Blue infrastructure usually refers to aquatic natural features of the urban environment that provide services to the community, and typically includes waterways, urban wetlands, lakes, ponds, other water in the landscape, and coasts. ‘Blue-green’ reflects the interlinkages between terrestrial and aquatic natural elements in the environment.
- Grey infrastructure usually refers to infrastructure made from ‘hard’ synthetic materials like steel and concrete, and ‘traditional’ human engineered elements of the built environment like asphalt roads, bridges, houses/buildings, pipes, and other large built infrastructure.