Strategic Futurists; Value Systems Specialists

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After the Rains - thinking about Urban Planning in a future of havoc weather

Monday 5 March 2012

Dorothea Mackellar's poem 'My Country' is best known for its second verse - "I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains". As vast tracts of Australia again face the prospect of massive floods I wonder if our Urban Planners ever consider the significance of the observation of Mackellar's poem? And if they haven't in the past, should they do so now? One thing we know is happening is the greater focus on weather related phenomenon by the Insurance sector who right now, must be wondering when they can catch a break. As our population grows and demand for land for housing is increasing, it becomes a bit too simple for local governments of all types to open what could arguably stated as 'precarious development sites' whilst ignoring the prescience of Mackellar's words.

We've seen around the world the human push for settlements in perhaps the most unlikely of places - at the feet of volcanoes; floating on the oceans; in 'forever dry' flood plains and on land below sea level.  Let's not forget the ACT's past decision to build a housing development in among a pine plantation, London's great fire enabled through tinder box housing design within arms reach of the next house; and now a days we have the increasing encroachment of suburban development in Australia's fire friendly eucalypt forests.

After these rains subside and the floods ease, will thought be given to the Urban Planning decisions being made around the country?  It may well be a case of 'Caveat Emptor' (let the buyer beware) and surely responsibility for development must finally rest on those who are deemed to have the knowledge and forethought to enable housing construction in areas blatantly exposed to events that not only should have been foreseen, but increasingly that we have recent history of experiencing.  The Insurance industry are paying attention and premiums of housing insurance are climbing as that Indusry factors in the higher probabilities of weather related damage.

So after these rains are over - what changes if any, will Urban Planners take?


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