Conference paper

A Conceptual Framework for Assessing Green Infrastructure Sustainability Performance in Australia

Cities and towns Urban planning Sustainability Ecosystem management Environment Australia
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In recent years, as environmental issues increasingly permeate the urban discourse, the more holistic term “sustainability” has become a watchword internationally. Numerous appraisal frameworks, sustainability indicators and rating tools of varying effectiveness have been developed to gauge the effectiveness of sustainability interventions. Urban ecology is arguably one of the main approaches for formulating and assessing sustainable urban development, policy and management. Although there are several methods to evaluate urban ecosystems, an integrated assessment system which addresses the range of ecosystem services necessary to maximise sustainability outcomes remains elusive. “Green” infrastructure, as distinct from conventional “grey” infrastructure, is an emerging concept linked to natural and designed ecosystems and the services they provide. While it is difficult to have one universal definition for green infrastructure, it is generally recognised as embracing all the natural, semi-natural and engineered networks of multifunctional ecological systems within, around and between urban areas at all temporal and spatial scales. This paper proposes a methodology and a conceptual framework for evaluating green infrastructure performance, derived initially from the literature and adapted for the Australian context by incorporating the results from a semi-structured interview process involving twenty one selected Australian practitioners and researchers. This proposed framework combines three key themes: ecosystem services, human health and wellbeing and ecosystem health. It helps to provide a basis for determining specific indicators to describe the measured phenomena pertinent to green infrastructure performance and serves as a foundation for a proposed indicator-based assessment model in future studies. Key words: Green infrastructure, conceptual framework, urban ecosystem, ecosystem services, human health, ecosystem health


The papers presented at the 2015 State of Australian Cities National Conference (SOAC 7) were organised into seven broad themes but all shared, to varying degrees, a common focus on the ways in which high quality academic research can be used in the development and implementation of policy. The relationship between empirical evidence and theoretical developments that are presented as part of our scholarly endeavours and policy processes is rarely clear and straightforward. Sometimes, perhaps because of the fortuitous alignment of various factors, our research has a direct and positive impact on policy. Sometimes it takes longer to be noticed and have influence and, sometimes, there is no little or no evidence of impact beyond or even with the academy. And while there are things we can do to promote the existence of our work and to present it in more accessible formats to people we believe to be influential, ultimately the appreciation and application of our work lies in the hands of others.

This paper is one of 164 papers that have each been reviewed and refereed by our peers and revised accordingly. While they each will have been presented briefly at the SOAC conference, they can now be read or re-read at your leisure. We hope they will stimulate further debate and discussion and form a platform for further research.

Adapted from the SOAC 7 conference proceedings introduction by Paul Burton and Heather Shearer

The State of Australian Cities (SOAC) national conferences have been held biennially since 2003 to support interdisciplinary policy-related urban research.

SOAC 7 was held in the City of Gold Coast from 9-11 December 2015. The conference featured leading national and local politicians and policy makers who shared their views on some of the current challenges facing cities and how these might be overcome in the future.

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