The Sunshine coast Council is to set up an Environmental Advisory Panel with Coast residents and experts, to provide advice to Council on broad sustainability issues. Following the announcement late last month, Mayor Bob Abbot told the Hinterland Times what sustainability means to the future of the Sunshine Coast
Sustainability is not just about the environment but it’s about our social aspects, our economy and our environment. But there will be times when the environment’s priority will be a little bit higher than the others, and times when the economy, or the social aspects, will be a little higher. It’s about getting a balance.
I don’t pretend that the word sustainability means the same to everybody. It’s why I am keen to set up the office of sustainability and innovation. As I said during the last election campaign, if we continue to do the same things the same way as we have always done them, then we can only expect to get the same result.
To a degree we’ve turned the head of the beast. The corporate plan will start to set the parameters, and they will continue to be refined through consultation with the community.
The advisory panel will have people with specific knowledge bases in economics, environment and community to provide ideas for Council.
In the end sustainability is about common sense. Water quality in our rivers and streams is a classic case. We’ve been working for 10-12 years now on a healthy waterways program and changing attitudes of people as to how they deal with the rivers and streams and improving water quality. And water is not just an environment issue, because the economic cost of bad water in rivers and streams is enormous.
We need the same common sense to manage the rate of population growth. The growth rate was 3.5 per cent on the Coast in November 2007 and it has now dropped to around 2 per cent in November 2008. That’s the kind of growth rate that I believe we can sustain.
The worst thing we could do is to allow the quarter acre block to go out further and further and further, creating more infrastructure problems, more roads to maintain, and a significantly less capacity to service those people with public transport.
The new people coming here may well have to live in an environment which is alien to those of us who live here already. And that means there is going to be higher density living around transport pods, where the shop, the bank, and the doctor are within 5 minutes walk. People will get used to not using the car, because they won’t need to.
I’m talking of density levels that we’re already used to on the Sunshine Coast – maybe two, three and four storeys in places around Maroochydore for example. We have to start to minimise the impact these new people have on our environmental footprint and our economic and social aspects.
Sustainability for me is something that’s measurable in terms of the satisfaction of the community with its future. It was clear from the last election that this community wants change and wants to be sustainable.
If we continue to see ourselves as a municipality, or a community of communities, that’s where we’ll end up, because that’s what we will believe we are. We won’t get that city mentality and we won’t forget the people on the fringes. I think that’s very important to us and it’s an important part of sustainability.