Interview with Urban Taskforce Australia

31 July 2012

This week, we caught up with Chris Johnson CEO of the Urban Taskforce Australia to talk about his take on sustainability.

Chris Johnson, CEO, Urban Taskforce Australia

Chris Johnson, CEO, Urban Taskforce Australia

1. How does the Urban Taskforce define sustainability?
We apply the definition from 5(a)(vii) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.  The Act defines the phrase “ecologically sustainable development” to mean all of the things set out in section 6(2) of the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991.  This includes concepts such as “inter-generational equity” and “the precautionary principle”.
Extract from the Act:
(1) (a), ecologically sustainable development requires the effective integration of economic and environmental considerations in decision-making processes. Ecologically sustainable development can be achieved through the implementation of the following principles and programs:
(a) the precautionary principle—namely, that if there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.
In the application of the precautionary principle, public and private decisions should be guided by:
(i) careful evaluation to avoid, wherever practicable, serious or irreversible damage to the environment, and
(ii) an assessment of the risk-weighted consequences of various options,
(b) inter-generational equity—namely, that the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment are maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations,
(c) conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity—namely, that conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity should be a fundamental consideration,
(d) improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms—namely, that environmental factors should be included in the valuation of assets and services, such as:
(i) polluter pays—that is, those who generate pollution and waste should bear the cost of containment, avoidance or abatement,
(ii) the users of goods and services should pay prices based on the full life cycle of costs of providing goods and services, including the use of natural resources and assets and the ultimate disposal of any waste,
(iii) environmental goals, having been established, should be pursued in the most cost effective way, by establishing incentive structures, including market mechanisms, that enable those best placed to maximise benefits or minimise costs to develop their own solutions and responses to environmental problems.
What sustainable goals are in place for members of the Urban Taskforce?
We encourage all members of the Urban Taskforce to be mindful of their sustainability obligations under the appropriate laws including the Act above.

2. What, if anything, is holding the Urban Taskforce back from achieving sustainable goals?
Members of the Urban Taskforce strive to achieve goals set by law.  In fact, development consent cannot be granted unless the applicant is able to demonstrate that they have achieved the sustainability requirements.  To go beyond the legislative requirements would require a market demand for such a product.  There must be a return on investment.  If the consumer is prepared to pay more for a more sustainable product, the developer will provide it.  However if the market is not prepared to pay more, then it will not be provided.

3. What does the Urban Taskforce see as barriers to entry into sustainability for the industry and the community?
as above

4. What initiatives are in place for Urban Taskforce members to go beyond current energy efficiency regulations and use sustainable building materials?

5. What percentage of Urban Taskforce members are building 7+ stars dwellings and using sustainable building materials?
Don’t know???

6. Is the Urban Taskforce actively involved in educating the community on sustainability?
Members are provided with information on any new sustainability requirements and provided with advice on how these new requirements will impact them.

7. What would the Urban Taskforce like to see the government and industry do to ensure new homes are more energy efficient and are built with sustainable building materials?
Government could provide real and meaningful incentives.

8. Does the Urban Taskforce believe that current regulation for energy efficiency is enough? If yes or no, Why?
Current regulation is sufficient.

9. What does the Urban Taskforce think about the proposed residential mandatory disclosure for existing dwellings?
See submission, we opposed this form of new regulation.

10. What impact will sustainability have on the property industry over the next five years?
Increase cost to the consumer.

11. Is there anything else you would like to tell us about sustainability?
No answer provided.

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