Recent torrential rains across Australia’s East Coast have caused chaos in our capital cities.
In Sydney, my one-hour trip to work often took three hours, and power was lost in many areas of Sydney for up to three days. At the time, I was thinking of this situation as more of an inconvenience than anything else. However, when I learned the Brisbane ANZAC Rugby League test had been cancelled due to the weather, I began to think about the issue in much more serious terms.
Let’s face it, calling off a football match due to bad weather is almost unheard of, and although the official reason was cited as being for “player safety,” a glance at Facebook at the time revealed that large parts of Brisbane’s public transport system had been shut down due to flooding caused by the 100 millimetres of rain received that afternoon. If we can’t get fans to a Rugby League match - an ANZAC test nonetheless - after a storm, we need to question how resilient our Australian Cities really are.
The concept of city resiliency has recently been promoted through the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) program. The program provides the necessary resources to its partner cities to help them become more resilient to the increasing physical, social and economic challenges of the 21st century, in particular those associated with globalisation, urbanisation and climate change.
Across Australia and New Zealand, the cities of Melbourne, Sydney, Christchurch and Wellington are all now part of the 100RC program, and are mapping their exposure to specific shocks and stresses. With this information, they are developing integrated plans to allow their respective cities to more readily prepare for various scenarios, ultimately allowing them to emerge stronger in tougher times and live better in the good times.
It is hard to argue against the benefits of resiliency and the process of planning for our cities to better adapt to shock and stress. I believe resilient cities are the ideal platform to take us into the future of rapid growth and climate uncertainty; could “cities + resiliency” be our saviour?
It’s my view that the role of the city in the global economy has changed. With the rapid advancement of technology to help us connect and move, cities now relate to other cities, and not regions or countries. I’ve observed that people and businesses in Shanghai, for example, don’t relate to the state of New South Wales (NSW); rather, they are squarely focused on Sydney as the gateway to NSW, and indeed Australia.
With a focus on cities doing business with other cities, we can leverage the strength of our respective cities as the broad commercial enterprises they are. Along these lines, any resilient business needs a strong leadership team, a good risk management and communications platform, engaged and healthy people, and a diverse range of services to provide consistent growth, regardless of the economic, social or environmental climate. It’s no coincidence all of these characteristics sound remarkably like the aims of the 100RC program.
In the wake of Brisbane’s cancelled international Rugby League test, the first role of the hypothetical ‘Business Brisbane’ leadership would be to provide greater mode choice in our transit system to ensure the transport network could still function under the intense rain storm that caused our football fans to become stranded.
If we embraced resiliency as a platform for the City of Brisbane, this great city’s current efforts to foster economic prosperity would be turbo-charged. Better yet, the ensuing social stability would promote an even more engaged, connected and cohesive community, and one led by a capable government that had cross-sector collaboration and evidence-based decision making at its core.
The current State Of Origin series aside, if Brisbane could emulate Queensland’s recent dominance on the football field in an approach to resiliency, there would be no stopping Brisbanites in their quest to transform their city into the world’s most resilient.
Coming from a “Blues” fan like me (and being the extremely resilient bunch we are), that’s really saying something. I just hope, for everyone’s sake, game three in Brisbane in a isn’t washed out!