Tuesday, 28 September, 2021
Lawns, sporting turf and community greening projects have been found to deliver valuable positive outcomes for the health, sustainability and resilience of Australian communities and therefore must be prioritised in the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan and future national planning.
Bec Sellick, President, Turf Australia said that the scientific evidence of turf’s positive impact is empirical and as such needs to play a greater role in the planning of our cities.
“Infrastructure Australia has released its 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan, which aims to ‘deliver infrastructure for a stronger Australia’, however there is scant detail on how green spaces will be prioritised in the plan.
“It’s crucial that future planning is green space centric, rather than an afterthought to wider initiatives.”
Turf Australia supports its colleagues at the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA), in its call for the inclusion of Urban Green Infrastructure (UGI) targets on priority projects listed in the plan.
“If Infrastructure Australia is serious about reducing emissions, encouraging biodiversity, mitigating the urban heat island and improving mental and physical health outcomes it should include reaching UGI targets as one of its key measures of success for the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan,” Ms Sellick said.
“Prioritising green space will send a message to the community that we are serious about improving the health of our people as well as the sustainability of our environment and economy.
“Evidence suggests that people can derive substantial mental health benefits from being exposed to green space. Being close to parks, lawns and nature has been shown to be associated with lower levels of stress and also to lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
“It’s no surprise that picnics in open green spaces have been prioritised in the roadmaps out of Covid-19 restrictions for our most affected states.”
The benefits of turfed green space are backed-up by science.
One recently concluded project funded by the Hort Innovation turf levy studied temperatures across several different surface types across urban areas in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The study found that on average irrigated natural turf measured 4.9°C cooler than the baseline average surface temperature across study sites.
Long pile synthetic turf was one of the hottest surfaces in the landscape measuring nearly 11°C hotter than the baseline average. These figures show that irrigated natural turf could be 15°C cooler than synthetic turf.
The impacts of urban heat caused by inorganic surfaces goes far beyond hot summers and sleepless nights. It is well established that extreme heat is a major cause of hospitalisation, and in extreme cases death, particularly for children younger than four and adults over 65.
Further levy-funded research into the benefits of turf on the community found that samples of three of the most common types of grass in Australian households: buffalo, couch and kikuyu are all highly resistant to ignition by fire embers, meaning they are useful in creating defendable space for protection against bushfires.
The research indicated that turf and lawns are critical to fire-wise planning, particularly in regional and peri-urban areas.
According to Bec Sellick, Urban Green Infrastructure, including turf must be prioritised and measured in all future planning decisions.
“We have a unique opportunity to ensure that as a nation, we are building infrastructure for our children that makes amends for the mistakes of the past and that we are making planning decisions that will reduce our carbon footprint, promote biodiversity and cool our rapidly heating urban areas.
“The future of our cities and towns is at stake.”
Cox Inall Dentsu
0401 464 664