Report calls for consistent approach to water sensitive urban design

The Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities has released the final report of one of its projects, assessing the policy frameworks for water sensitive urban design in five cities - Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth - and highlighting the lack of policy consistency and performance standards across jurisdictions.

The concept of Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) has been promoted through the National Water Initiative and policy initiatives at the State level, and through COAG's National Urban Water Planning Principles in 2008. However, the report notes, since then “there has not been consistent progress across jurisdictions in adopting WSUD policy.”

“As yet there are no consistent national policy framework, definitions, or performance and technical standards that apply to WSUD.”

Comparing the five Australian jurisdictions studied, the report found that “all except New South Wales (NSW), have developed planning policy at the state level supporting WSUD, but implementation approaches vary considerably from state to state.

“For example, Queensland and Western Australia have well developed policy frameworks to support Integrated Water Management (IWM) and WSUD. But these frameworks are not automatically effective, applying only where state policy has been adopted or integrated through local planning policy responses and decision-making.

“These jurisdictions have developed policy responses that guide decision making on a broad range of planning scales, but rely heavily on local planning authorities for implementation. There is greater scope for policy to be applied and implemented more consistently, efficiently, and effectively.”

Victoria has various legislative tools that provide a mandatory code-based approach to IWM and have resulted in broad adoption of WSUD principles.

The report found that some local governments have developed innovative local policy solutions which have played a role in supporting innovation.

“However, reliance on local policy responses results in a diverse array of policy obligations which developers must navigate from municipality to municipality.”

The report calls for a more consistent approach to WSUD and best practice integrated water management and aims to provide a resource for policy makers to benchmark best practice and harmonise policy responses to WSUD.

The report, Policy Frameworks for Water Sensitive Urban Design in 5 Australian Cities, is available here.

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