First #UrbanThinkers campus for Asia Pacific was held in Canberra, Australia, on the 8th March 2017. More than 100 stakeholders engaged in discussing actions and solutions to transform our cities into healthy and playful environments for all.
Check out our short video from the event "Shaping Spaces for Gen Z" and watch this space for more information in the near future including the outcome report.
The organiser team from University of Canberra, Health Research Institute, and Urban Synergies Group would like to thank all those people that expressed interest and participated in the forum.
We would like to highlight the meaningful contribution of the ACT Government, being the key sponsor of the International Forum, as well as the Minister Fitzharris and Dr. Paul Kelly, Chief Health Officer. Our keynote presenter from Yale University Dr. Tong Liu shared insights into the social and emotional development of children. Prof. Tom Cochrane highlighted the pressing evidence relating to the state of health and physical inactivity of children in the ACT. The issues presentation included contributions on children and the built environment by Gregor H. Mews, Designs around the state of Children's health by A/Prof. Lisa Scharoun, as well as on the importance of play presented by Dr. Tong Liu and A/Prof. Paul Tranter.
Our gratitude goes to our Master of Ceremony, Dr. Anthony Burton and all table coordinators that helped to capture the essence of the event and the In-kind support partners, including the ACT Government, ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Association, Australian Primary Principle Association, ACT Children and Young People Commissioner Jodie- Griffith- Cook, the ACT Office of the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment with Dr. Kate Auty and Edwina Robinson, the Cross Culture Design Lab, Heart Foundation ACT with Annie Kentwell, Living Streets, Planning Institute of Australia ACT, SEE- Change and University of Canberra, Prof. Rachel Davey.
Watch this space for the outcome report and speakers presentations !
- Child friendly cities guided walk event on 18th March 2017
- Come to our next Urban Talks event in Canberra, Australia, 21st March 2017 on “Implementing the new urban agenda through accelerated actions on active travel” with a great range of speakers including the Dutch cycling ambassador.
How can we implement the New Urban Agenda?
What are your top three action items?
How can we at USG work with you to enable better health and wellbeing outcomes?
Regulatory government bodies should push large developments to be thinking about public realm upgrades and corresponding long-term cultural programs, to provide ways to enable social connection and so stimulate a sense of community. Bring back the ritual of having parties in the community, places where people can celebrate and meet. The participants stressed that an improved public realm is very important for sustainable communities.
Reinvestigate different sustainable urban forms in order to provide a greater housing choice and to allow affordability with the interface dynamics of the region in mind.
Improve strategic planning and investment in productivity in peri-urban areas under the assumption that some people do want to live in those areas.
Another area for collective action was identified in relation to productive use of space in the city: the role of autonomous vehicles and future transport corridors function.
Cities need to be committed to deliver better overall sustainability outcomes. There must be an open debate and actions around optimal instead of maximum productivity.
Questions such as ‘How many resources are different population groups willing to consume and give up?’ ‘How do we want to live in this new urban world?’ and ‘What are the choices we need to make in order to ensure health and wellbeing for all?’ must be resolved.
Research and existing findings on people’s lifestyle choices in relation to sustainability must be effectively translated and communicated ensuring that people can make better informed choices. Grassroots groups, civil societies, social entrepreneurships and governments need to collaborate more effectively.
Urban Synergies Group was acknowledged as a key partner that provides a platform for these discussions and exploration of collaboration. This article was also published by our partner the World Urban Campaign late 2016 and can be accessed by clicking here.
"Play is the way children
make sense of the world
in which they live!"
This is an interview with Gregor H. Mews, Founding Director of Urban Synergies Group, on insights around the need for a Forum on healthy child development and their environments in Australia.
1. Why are you organising a forum, and what do you anticipate to achieve with it?
We at Urban Synergies Group, together with our partner the Health Research Institute at the University of Canberra, found sufficient evidence that indicates the health conditions of children in Australia are concerning.
The international forum “Shaping Spaces for Gen Z“ is part of our collaborative commitment to shed light on an important societal issue, that cannot continue to be ignored. Our message is clear and simple- we need to do better. If we want to ensure that future generations can enjoy equal opportunities, prosper and develop to their full potential, we need to explore new approaches to decision making around such ‘societal’ challenges. Collective actions need collective discussions and a fair, informed process for key decision making.
With this forum, we want to create a platform where we can come together with all relevant stakeholders and passionate members of the community, including concerned parents to do something about this societal challenge.
We will attempt to answer two questions. Firstly, how can we provide more daily opportunity for children to develop the social and emotional skills, psychological resilience and physical attributes to enable them to succeed in life as independent individuals? Secondly, how best do we align our collective resources to reconfigure our environments and the opportunities available to children within them in a fair, effective, efficient and cost-effective manner?
2. Why do you focus on child play, and what kind of relation does it have to obesity?
From our own data gathered since 2000, 69% of primary school children in the ACT are of low general fitness and 1 in 4 are classified as over a healthy weight. Children’s gross motor skills are another area of serious concern. We observed children that are unable to walk properly backwards, because they never had the opportunity to explore and engage in risky experiences on their terms. In our society the perception of risk has shifted. The ACT Government is aware of this and is committed to address this issue. Many Non-government organisations are doing their very best to reverse this health crisis.
Play offers a very potent narrative for children to engage in a meaningful way with the natural world around them, if we allow them to have enough space and time. Indeed, evidence suggests who children that engage regularly in outdoor play have higher levels of physical activity. Children are not even aware that they are getting healthier, because it is simply fun. Playful experiences offer mental health benefits and improve their capacity to be creative as well as learn important social skills. We are thrilled to have our colleagues from Yale University join us on the day, sharing their latest research findings.
However, despite of all the evidence, the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child clearly states in article 31, that children have a right to play. In theory, this alone should be enough reason for adults to make sure their children have enough time and space for playful experiences in our cities. The health data helps to strengthen the case for play.
3. Is there a big cost associated with transitioning environments to allow for adequate physical exercise, what is this compared to the greater cost of childhood obesity?
True, there is a high cost associated with childhood obesity, which puts pressure onto the healthcare budgets, not just in Australia but worldwide. Combining these costs with physical inactivity as an independent risk factor is even more compelling. Infrastructure interventions in the built environment cost money and can have a lasting impact over their lifespan. This can be more or less helpful to achieve better health outcomes. Spent in an effective way, a piece of health supporting infrastructure, for example a safe and inclusive bike lane or footpath connecting attractive destinations, can become an effective measure in preventing diseases. However, the questions we should be asking ourselves are; how much do you value your own life? Can you put a price tag on it? Perhaps you want to be loved, spend as much time as possible with people you care about, grow up in comfortable home and have access to clean and safe environments. All of these contribute to your overall health and well-being. So I’d like to ask you why do you choose to spend these days so little time among your loved ones, feel like you need to spend more money on a bigger house, and pollute the environment contributing to an ecological footprint that is now five times higher than this earth's carrying capacity? The price tag is our children's overall well-being and we all are starting to pay for it. They are becoming fatter as well as sicker and sadder. Playful spaces near you can be part of the solution. Share your thoughts with us, be part of the debate and help us shape spaces for future generations on Wednesday 8th March.
Useful information about Shaping Spaces for Gen Z
Urban Synergies Group committed to implement the New Urban Agenda with an emphasis on healthy environments for future generations. As part of the 100.000 Dollar commitment across the Asia- Pacific region we design a program that aims to empower children and young people in city building processes. Our kick start in 2017 will be the International Forum "Shaping Spaces for GenZ" on the 8th March 2017.
In the lead up to this forum Urban Synergies Group hosted in collaboration with the Cross Culture Design Lab and the Health Research Institute at the University of Canberra a street design workshop with children from the Girlang Primary School.
The students aged range was between 8- 10 years. Aim of the workshop was to empower children and elevate their view on how their city should look and feel like.
The following video provides valuable insights and captures some of their views in relation to a healthy street environment in Canberra. We would like to express gratitude and say thank you to all parties and children involved.
Should you be interested in learning more about the findings you are invited to take part in the forum and register by clicking here.
"Your good deeds might seem invisible, but they leave a trail that is imprinted on the heart of others."
Become part of shaping healthy communities worldwide. Consider starting by securing your copy of "Right to the City- an exploration in picture" and click here.
Urban Synergies Group (USG) launched today the booklet on "Right to the City" at the Habitat 3 conference in Quito, Ecuador. This conference was organised by the UN Habitat. The aim of this conference is to determines the future of urban development globally for the next 20 years. Our team at USG as one of the Global Assembly of Partners informed the development of the 'New Urban Agenda' document on three key issues:
- Right to the city - in line with our Perspective Statement on the 'Right to the City' that has been developed with the involvement from grassroots level.
- Health and well-being in planning and urban design.
- Child- friendly environment as part of the public space agenda.
Apart of being able to provide constructive input in a round table discussion at the Children and Youth Assembly infrastructure stream- one of our key highlights so far was the launch of the booklet on "Right to the City" earlier today. As the only constituency Urban Synergies Group got exclusive access to the UN Habitat library in the UN Pavilion. Listen to our Founder and Director Gregor H. Mews on what he had so say by clicking on the video recorded live earlier today in the UN Pavilion.
This is your invitation to become part of our philosophy and contribute shaping healthy communities internationally.
Purchase a copy of our crowdfunded booklet and choose where your contribution should go. Support either to play space projects in Vietnam or to local safe journeys to school project "Tunnel Talk" in Australia.
Click here and follow three simple steps if you want to call this booklet your own.
Our efforts here in Quito are not over yet. Tomorrow, 19th October 2016, we will participate in the discussions at the Transport day, support ISOCARP on "Smart Cities and the New Urban Agenda" from 12.30 -1.30 pm and will showcase our perspective at the "Moving from Habitat3 to Implementing the Right2City from 2-4 pm.
Be part of the debate and follow us on twitter for the latest updates and news on the New Urban Agenda - UrbanSynergiesGroup @usg_gregor.
The debate about Capital Metro in Canberra, Australia, has focused on net impact (with analysis suggesting 60% of benefits consist of wider or indirect economic benefits). But who gains and who loses potentially?
Light rail done well in Potsdam, Germany (Source: Gregor H. Mews)
Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Canberra Health Research Institute undertook a literature survey of studies of existing light rail projects globally, identifying potential wider co-benefits (economic, social and health related) of such projects. Assuming, as the literature suggests, that value uplift (increase in land value) directly attributable to light rail is marginal because so many other factors affect land value, but value capture (the capacity for attracting development finance) is strong, we offer:
(a) The likely biggest winners, from largest to smallest:
- The ACT government. Government-owned land value, and the number of dwellings along the corridor, will increase, driving up government revenues. (Netting out coverage of project costs). Of course ultimately these revenues will be spent across the ACT community but the benefits to individuals, dispersed across 300 000+ taxpayers, are difficult to extrapolate right now.
- Property developers. The property industry will enjoy the value capture benefits of the project by leveraging the public investment in light rail, especially with an improved ability to attract finance at lowered cost.
- Property investors. Property investors along the corridor will gain from higher property values in response to increased demand for apartment accommodation in the city. ABS data show that new unit development in the ACT had a 32 per cent increase in new projects between 2014 and 2015, highest of all construction classes.
- Gungahlin ‘edge’ residents. Research shows that single corridor rail projects such as the Capital Metro will actually benefit residents living on the outer edge of Gungahlin (and rural residential areas over the border), especially if the park and ride facility at the Gungahlin town centre terminus is free. A recent Australian Automobile Association study showed that in Canberra, the total cost of car ownership is just under $300 per week, the cheapest for capital cities. So Gungahlin edge commuters who currently travel the furthest to the city by car can benefit from travelling by car to the Gungahlin terminus, catching the light rail into town, then traveling to the terminus on uncongested roads and speeding along the tram route to their work. Over-the-border residents have light rail access without paying rates.
- Auto commuters along the route. Commuters who choose to continue to travel to work by car along the tram route will also gain a marginal net benefit from reduced congestion.
(b) The likely losers, from smallest to largest:
- Some ACT residents (excluding Gungahlin) living more than 1 kilometre from the tram. Those unable or unwilling to walk or cycle to a tram stop will contribute to the project through taxes but not benefit from either value uplift or enjoy tram travel time savings. (As the network expands beyond its first phase more residents will benefit).
- Already active travellers who currently live along the corridor (especially renters). The rate of active travel is highest in the inner north of Canberra. Many residents choose to live in these suburbs to be able to enjoy close proximity to employment and services. Light rail provides no additional benefit to them but does lead to higher housing costs.
- Some small and medium enterprises along the corridor. Research shows that one of the biggest economic effects of light rail is changing the mix of commercial activity along the corridor. Some firms will gain but the others will lose since some retail outlets and services may be forced to close or move out of the area.
- Rail users with complex travel tours. A travel tour refers to the number and diversity of activities that a user undertakes during a daily commute. The simplest tour is a return trip from home to work. More complex tours are undertaken by families with young children. The single corridor design of Capital Metro will not be able to cater for all the activities undertaken by families needing to visit many destinations during a typical working day. These groups will likely have to continue to own cars until most activities (e.g. afterschool activities) are relocated closer to the rail route - unlikely to happen any time soon.
Existing private renters, especially lower and fixed income. Research shows that economic activity along light rail corridors is largely captured by the gentrification of adjacent land up to 1 kilometre from tram stops. This is often facilitated by government policies to do with zoning and incentivising development. While governments can put in place programs to support those on public housing, residents in the rental market are often forced out through higher rates and therefore are the biggest losers.
About the authors
Dr. Andrew MacKenzie is an Devotee of Urban Synergies Group as well as a Assistant Professor with the Faculty of Arts and Design, University of Canberra and Dr. Cameron Gordon is an Adjunct Associate Professor with the Health Research Institute at the University of Canberra and both were principal investigators on the study above. Both can be contacted through info (at) urbansynergiesgroup.org .
Meet us at Habitat 3. Come and discuss with us "Smart cities in the New Urban Agenda" at the ISOCARP side event of the Habitat 3 conference in Quito, Ecuador.
When: 19th October 2016, 12:30- 1.30 pm
Where: Room MR10, Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana "Benjamin Carrion", Quito, Ecuador
Habitat 3 Implementation Plan
We don't just talk we do...Urban Synergies Group committed more than 100.000 Dollars to implement "Shaping Spaces for Gen Z" over the next five years across the Asia Pacific region as part of the Habitat III Implementation Plan. Join and/or support us! Our Founder Greg Mews will be available to meet you after the side event session to discuss opportunities for collaboration. Alternatively you may contact him per email to make arrangements during the conference under gregor (at) urbansynergiesgroup.org.
Shaping Spaces for Gen Z- international Forum
Last but not least we are delighted to announce that we are hosting in partnership with the Health Research Institute, University of Canberra, a International Forum "Shaping Spaces for Gen Z" on 7 December 2018 in Canberra, Australia.
Get involved and don't miss out! Secure your ticket and click here for Tickets.