Conference 2003

Conference 2003
Greening the City:
Bringing Biodiversity Back
into the Urban Environment


The Ecologies of Liveability — Why Cities Need Biodiversity

Morgan WilliamsDr J Morgan Williams (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, New Zealand)

On the southern plateau of Brazil is a 310 year-old city, Curitiba that has focused sharply on liveability for its citizens for over 35 years. A core element of the city's 1960's vision was for Curitiba to be the 'Ecological Capital of Brazil'. This vision translated, as the city started to grow rapidly, into a huge park acquisition programme, protection of heritage buildings and associated vegetation and prioritisation of pedestrians over cars. The ecologies of quarries have been restored and the city's green "lungs" fully flexed. It appears Curitiba civic leaders knew in the 1960's that a 'green' city is a healthy, prosperous and highly liveable city. In an effort to understand the motivations for the focus on ecologies, 20 New Zealanders visited Curitiba in April 2002.[1]

Three decades after Curitiba overtly focused on "greenness", cities and towns in Aotearoa are once more (we did in the past — per our Hagley Parks and green belts) focusing on the values and value of a vegetated biologically diverse city — on a macro and micro scale.

My team and I have carried out a number of studies on aspects of New Zealand's desire to protect or enhance urban and peri-urban biodiversity. In 1997 we examined the management of amenity values[2]; 1998 the sustainable development of cities[3]; 1998 the management of vegetation in North Shore City[4]; 2001 the development of peri-urban lands and high natural values[5] and in 2003 development in icon landscapes in three other countries.[6]

Drawing from my international and national experience, I will discuss societal, legislative and institutional arrangements and capacities which I believe are major "shapers" of the ecologies of liveability. These include such matters as the scope and context of environmental learnings in our communities, councils and business worlds; the understanding of how a city's biology is part of it's wealth and the capacity of the RMA to manage cumulative effects.

[1] Showing the Way: Curitiba: Citizen City; PCE 2002

[2] The Management of suburban amenity values in Christchurch City; PCE 1997

[3] The Cities and their People: New Zealand's urban environment; PCE 1998

[4] Management of Urban Vegetation in North Shore City; PCE 1998

[5] Managing Change in Paradise. Sustainable development in Peri-urban Areas; PCE 2001

[6] Superb or Suburb? International case studies in management of icon landscapes; PCE 2003

Further information can be found at the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment website

Conference sponsored by:

British Council NZ
The Community Trust
Landcare Research

Follow this link to view other organisations supportive of the conference

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Last updated: October 12, 2003