The 4th Healthy Cities Conference will feature a talk by Matt Coetzee from Aurecon on responding to extreme weather events. The 4th Healthy Cities: Making Cities Liveable Conference begins next week.

Australia, particularly Queensland has been going through a series of extreme weather events. Cyclone Yasi and the floods of December 2010/ January 2011 saw more than 75% of Queensland officially declared a disaster zone. These extreme weather events caused a severe impact on infrastructure and homes, and also involved human fatalities.

Sustainable urban development is a useful concept in considering opportunities to alleviate the impact of extreme weather events, and extreme floods in particular. Sustainable urban development provides a framework focused on creating urban communities where both the current and future needs of residents are met.

Two important principles, resilience and connectivity underpin sustainable urban development. By defining the risks associated with potential extreme events and translating those risks into planning and design solutions, urban designers attempt to increase an urban feature’s capacity to absorb change. This capacity, otherwise known as its resilience allows it to persist in the face of the change and thereby improves its sustainability.

The elements of the physical, biological, social and economic system are fundamentally connected. This interconnectivity is relevant in all systems, but particularly in urban environments, where the proximity of the component elements and the frequency of interactions are higher. These high-level principles point to four areas of response available to help manage the impact of extreme flood events before they occur.

Mr Coetzee’s presentation will discuss the management imperatives needed to ensure the urban fabric is planned, designed and constructed to not only respond proactively to extreme weather events and the ‘human contribution’, but also addresses the need to remove the barriers to decision making when related to complex, interacting systems.