25 July 2013
It’s got our coal and our wallabies, now the Japanese city of Kitakyushu is giving back to Queensland what it has learnt about sustainability and engagement, linking science and innovation to address real community issues.
Two professors from the University of the Sunshine Coast are analysing data gained during a research trip to the industrial city which has become renowned for achieving success in improving its environmental diversity for the benefit of its one million people.
USC Pro Vice-Chancellor for Engagement Professor Mike Hefferan and Adjunct Professor Hugh Lavery visited the city which has been honoured by the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The OECD selected Kitakyushu as the fourth “green growth” model in its Green Cities Program, following Paris, Chicago and Stockholm. All four cities featured in an OECD policies report launched last month in Sweden to help governments make urban centres clean, green and attractive to investment for job creation.
Professor Hefferan said Kitakyushu was an interesting case study with strong links to Queensland and lessons to be learned about creating economically and environmentally sustainable cities as well as boosting community relations.
“Many Queenslanders have never heard of it but Kitakyushu, with its emphasis on engineering such as steel and power generation, is a primary delivery point for much of the coal exported out of Queensland to Japan,” he said.
“For much of the last half-century, the city was notoriously polluted – the water in the port was often bright red from all the heavy metal pollution – and major public health issues emerged.
“There’s much we can learn about sustaining our communities from places like Kitakyushu that have had to retrieve their environments from a catastrophic situation.”
The USC duo liaised with the University of Kitakyushu, which had provided much of the technical knowhow to effect the remarkable changes over a very short time.
Professor Hefferan said another link was the popularity of Kitakyushu Zoo’s 200 or so kangaroos and wallabies, including the Yellow-footed rock wallaby.
The population had evolved from a state gift of a small group of animals from the Queensland Government in the late 1980s.
“The wallabies are now a feature of the zoo and live in extraordinarily comfortable surroundings, including air-conditioned caves,” he said.
— Julie Schomberg