CEL Annual Lecture 2016

CEL Annual Lecture 2016

Event Name CEL Annual Lecture 2016
Start Date 29 Sep 2016

A significant initiative of the Centre is its Annual Lecture series. This series presents key figures speaking on environmental law and policy, with a focus on environmental justice - the core theme of the Centre.

The Annual Lecture, held on September 29th, was opened by Professor Natalie Klein, our esteemed Dean of Macquarie Law School. Following the Dean was Professor Leslie Hughes, our Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Integrity & Development) and Distinguished Professor of Biology who introduced the Honourable Rob Stokes MP as this year’s esteemed speaker.  Mr Stokes is an honoured alumni of Macquarie Law School and a member of our Centre.

The topic for the evening was “Cities and Sustainability: Operationalising Sustainability Principles in Metropolitan Planning Governance”. Minister Stokes detailed the inherent conflict between cities and ESD principles, international models for sustainable development and previous and present planning attempts of the NSW Planning Ministry. The lecture was fact heavy and Mr Stokes impressively did not even need the assistance of lecture slides or notes to deliver his talk.

As Minister Stokes stressed, the future of humanity is tied up in cities. Mega cities are becoming the norm and therefore more focus and care needs to be taken with metropolitan governance as city development often conflicts with sustainability principles. This is because cities are intrinsically unsustainable, with 70% of the worlds greenhouse gases and global waste being generated by cities. However, Mr Stokes did highlight New South Wales commitment to the cause, citing the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991 (NSW) as having the first articulation of ecologically sustainable development in Australian law and being one of the first international ESD clauses.

Following this, Minister Stokes acknowledged shortcomings in the government’s approach to sustainability in the past. This led his Ministry to consider international models of development when deliberating over its current plan, the Greater Sydney Commission. Ultimately, London was chosen as a model to replicate due to similarities in legislative history and culture. He emphasised the importance of having the right balance between bottom up planning (local government input) and top down guidance (state systems and infrastructure).

The talk turned to Sydney specifically. Minister Stokes praised the 1940’s labour government’s creation of the County of Cumberland Council Planning Scheme, noting its failure was due to lack of state government participation. He then criticised its replacement, the State Planning Authority as it was too technocratic. Discussion of the Greater Sydney Commission followed. Mr Stokes amusingly referred to it as a ‘baby bear model’, having the right amount of bottom up and top down participation. It was clear he has faith in the project’s ability to steer Sydney towards a sustainable and thriving future.

Minister Stokes ended the evening by suggesting Sydney needed to ‘retrofit’, return to an urban model from our current suburban setup. He reiterated his role as Minister for Planning was to make Australian’s lives better by enabling growth of our cities in a sustainably manageable way. The night then concluded with Minister Stokes answering audience questions about possible issues with the Greater Sydney Commission. His answers demonstrated his commitment to community engagement and passion for his Ministry’s duties.

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