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No.2 Green City

By Dan Sowden

We all know how lucky we are to live on the Sunshine Coast – and now the rest of the country does too.

Today’s official release of the Australian Conservation Foundation’s inaugural Sustainable Cities Index – which ranks Australia’s 20 largest centres based on a number of criteria – shows the Coast is the country’s No.2 “green” city behind Darwin.

The result has been widely interpreted as an indication the region has struck the right balance between development and sustainability, with Mayor Bob Abbot trumpeting the findings as “significant validation” of the council’s green model for the region.

However, the Sunshine Coast Environment Council warned that the region’s ranking could plummet if major greenfield developments like Caloundra South and Palmview go ahead at their current scale.

The ACF’s index tracked the progress of the 20 cities across 15 indicators, including air quality, ecological footprint, green buildings, water, biodiversity, health, density, wellbeing, transport, employment, food production and household debt.

The Coast scored No.1 in two categories, air quality and subjective wellbeing (an individual’s evaluation of personal happiness) while placing second for food production and third for health.

The Coast was also in the Top 10 for climate change (No.6), water, biodiversity and public participation (all No.7), ecological footprint (No.9) and transport (No.10).

It was outside the Top 10 for household debt (No.18), density (No.14), employment (No.13), education (No.12) and green building (No.11).

Cr Abbot, currently in Canberra for a series of local government meetings, said the results showed the council’s push to make the Coast the country’s first genuine sustainable community had taken root.

“I think it’s a fabulous position for us to be in,” he said.

“We actually only started this (becoming a genuine sustainable community) two years ago and council and the community have made a fairly significant commitment towards sustainability.

“And I think it (the ACF ranking) is recognition of the massive amount of work that we’ve done over the last two years,” Cr Abbot said.

In ranking the Coast third last for household debt, the foundation found that 36% of household income in the region was spent on loan repayments. Cr Abbot agreed household debt and affordability was one of the major issues facing the community. 

As such, he said the council’s economical strategy was focused on job creation through the expansion of alternative industry to the big three: retail, development and tourism.

“Even the state’s own documents show that those three industries can’t provide the number of jobs that are needed long term,” he said.

Noosa Chamber of Commerce president Martin Bushell said the ACF obviously agreed with the Coast’s sustainability concept and the push to attract green business needed to continue.

“As a layman, you drive to the Gold Coast and it’s wall to wall buildings (but) we do still have that village atmosphere when you drive around the Sunshine Coast,” Mr Bushell said.

Environment councillor Keryn Jones said the council was instituting a range of strategies which she hoped would result in the Coast taking the No.1 overall ranking next year.

Source: Mark Bode – Sunshine Daily

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