Council collaboration targets sustainable development

A collaboration of 28 Victorian councils has launched a bid to turn sustainable development into policy by embedding zero-carbon targets into state planning law.

Natasha Palich

Members of the Council Alliance for a Sustainable Built Environment (CASBE) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the first stage of a research project that they hope will provide an evidence base for new Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD) targets.

Executive officer Natasha Palich says councils have been working collaboratively in this space since 2004 but CASBE was formalised as an unincorporated governance structure auspiced by MAV in 2009 to enable cost sharing and provide clarity for developers.

One of its previous projects produced an online sustainability assessment tool called the Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard (BESS), which helps builders and developers demonstrate how a proposed development demonstrates sustainable design.

Raising ESD targets

CASBE committed to raising ESD targets in planning in 2017 and work on the project to elevate those targets began in 2018.

Ms Palich says the project brings together what she believes could be the largest group of councils to work on a planning scheme amendment.

“The reason that CASBE exists is that councils often have very high aspirational goals for sustainable and resilient communities that are not necessarily reflected in planning legislation,” she told Government News.

“By working together and developing consistent approaches and consistent policy platforms we can present a consistent view and it makes it easier for the development industry to understand what local government sustainability expectations are for the built environment.

“So we’re reviewing the objectives and standards in the original ESD policy, and in essence elevating them to the level that we councils believe we need to be delivering to achieve safe and resilient and sustainable communities.”

Evidence base

The first stage of the project involves assessing ESD standards and objectives that councils have already developed and will include a feasibility study, cost benefit analysis and legal reviews.

That work will provide an evidence base tobfeed into a draft document with new or revised policies that will go to the state planning department, hopefully by the beginning of next year.

“One of the things we’re looking at is opportunities for introducing targets for zero carbon development,” Ms Palich says.

Depending on the building type, this could involve ensuring building design responds appropriately to climate conditions and putting in efficient systems and looking at producing renewable energy on site or considering offsets.

A Working Group, comprising officers from CASBE, Yarra, Moreland and Port Phillip City Councils and Mitchell Shire Council will manage the project on behalf of the twenty-eight participating councils.  

Ms Palich says it’s an example of local government taking a lead to address climate issues.

“What CASBE is doing with this project is achieving high level strategic aspirational change, and at the same time our members are also sitting down and talking with developers over the table every day about how they can change individual projects, so you’ve got that coverage at both ends of the spectrum,” she says.

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