Outstanding research that developed eight principles to regenerate Australia’s cities beyond fixing “the damage done” is now informing approaches to climate programs in Queensland, particularly as Brisbane prepares for the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics.
The research was conducted by Kimberly Camrass, 40, of Clayfield in Brisbane, as part of a PhD that she received at a recent University of the Sunshine Coast graduation ceremony.
Her PhD earned a Dean’s Graduate Research Award for Outstanding Thesis. Her key paper is published in the Journal of Futures Studies.
Dr Camrass is Director of Climate Futures at the Department of Environment and Science, leading a team developing policies, programs and partnerships to achieve emissions reduction and climate resilience across Queensland.
She said her role included a significant focus on establishing sustainable supply chains, through partnerships with Business Chamber Queensland and others in the lead-up to the Brisbane 2032 games and beyond.
“My research explored how regenerative outcomes can be achieved in urban precincts, and I’m already applying this thinking in my current role, trying to integrate these principles,” she said.
How can ‘regenerative futures’ help?
“Regeneration means going beyond causing no further harm to our environment. It means actively restoring the damage that has already been done.
“This requires new approaches to planning policies, but also to the types of systems we use in urban areas – from precinct-scale recycled water and energy systems to the integration of biodiversity in our built environment.
“If we can guide the development of these types of precincts, we can reduce their environmental impact and create positive social outcomes.”
'Regeneration means going beyond causing no further harm to our environment. It means actively restoring the damage that has already been done'
What is ‘precinct scale’ water recycling?
Dr Camrass said precinct scale essentially meant introducing systems that were larger than an individual building to cater for suburban and broader urban needs.
An example from one of her case studies was the 2km Green Square stormwater drain, new infrastructure now taking floodwaters from Sydney’s south into Botany Bay.
“This infrastructure not only reduces flooding risk to the whole area but can also be used by households and businesses for facilities such as toilets and laundries, and to irrigate green spaces in the town centre.”
According to the City of Sydney website, “We helped to fund this estimated $140 million project because without it, flood risks would prevent development going ahead.”
Dr Camrass based several of her PhD case studies in Sydney as the most urban, densely populated city in Australia.
“Having said that, my findings around policies and incentives that can enable regenerative practice are applicable across urban areas,” she said.
“The key findings focused on engaging communities to envision what the future of their city and precincts will look like, and on developing government policies to ensure that precinct-scale water recycling, for example, is not disadvantaged through pricing structures of utilities.”
'This infrastructure not only reduces flooding risk to the whole area but can also be used by households and businesses for facilities, and to irrigate green spaces in the town centre'
How can new principles change urban thinking?
Dr Camrass said the eight principles helped identify the new systems needed to achieve regenerative cities that actually gave back to nature and the environment while improving quality of living for people.
“They’re designed to serve as a provocation for ongoing conversations; to provide both a sense of hope and a springboard for agency and action,” she said.
“In my current role, I’m doing a lot of work around climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience across Queensland, so it’s exciting to be driving innovative approaches to climate and sustainability policies.”
Why study with UniSC?
Dr Camrass had been working in the sustainability sector in Sydney for several years when she enrolled at the University of the Sunshine Coast.
“I chose UniSC because of its Sustainability Research Centre,” she said.
“The centre’s goal is to provide collaborative and transdisciplinary approaches to responding to sustainability challenges, and that suited my focus on engaging communities to achieve positive environmental and social outcomes.
“It gave me the opportunity to work across disciplines, including futures thinking and sustainable urban precincts to really engage in innovative research.
“Through the centre, I’ve connected with futurists, climate experts and regenerative practitioners from all over the world – an amazing experience.”
She said her UniSC experience was a personal as well as professional highlight.
“Studying through a pandemic as a parent and often remotely was a challenge, but I was so supported by UniSC and it’s been such a rewarding and worthwhile experience.
“My supervisors Dr Marcus Bussey and Professor Tim Smith provided wonderful academic support and guidance, stretching me to think in different and more innovate ways.”
What’s next for you?
“I’m applying what I’ve learned in my professional role, while continuing to engage with regenerative and sustainability initiatives globally, including ongoing writing and collaborations with others in this space.”
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