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Over the past few decades, Australia’s capital cities have experienced significant growth. They now cover vast areas, visiting their impacts further and further into the countryside and along the coast like spot fires ahead of a main blaze. Their rising economic prosperity, reflected in an insatiable appetite for goods & services and fed by aggressive economic commentators is, through materials and energy imports, sending environmental impacts into far away places.

But, society is still to convince itself that it should be facing up to the intractable problems of burgeoning affluence and population growth, detailed in the recent New South Wales environmental audit, that threaten to envelop cities and their far-flung hinterlands.

Meantime, there are critical often subtle concerns of growing seriousness that demand concerted attention, especially from State and local governments. This paper focuses on five, by no means the only such concerns touching cities that are rarely on planners’ screens, or if so, are given too little attention - notably fine particulate pollution, heat island effects and noise in local area settings, water quality deterioration from run-off, and the degradation of green space in urban environs.

Many elements in fact, defy straightforward solutions. Nevertheless, a range of measures have been identified to reduce their severity, in effect, helping to buy time while we face up to the downsides of runaway consumption and major population growth.

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