Covid-19 'Pulse Check': the results are in (you might be surprised)

19 May 2020

Over the past week, we’ve been sharing the results of the Greener Spaces Better Spaces ‘Pulse Check' via a series of online seminars. 

Thank you to everyone who contributed (the response was enormous!) especially President of Local Government NSW / ALGA representative Clr Linda Scott, Gemma Cook from WALGA, Martin Hartigan from Living Melbourne, Adele Gismodi from WaterCorp (WA), Louisa Grandy from Cairns Regional Council, Greg Ingleton from SA Water, and Kristy Gooding from Local Government Association of Queensland. 

For those who couldn’t make it, never fear – we recorded the session which you can watch here, and we've summarised the main discussions below.

Spring has sprung (and it’s not even winter)

Our discussions with industry have confirmed what councils and other survey respondents suggested - communities all over Australia are falling head over heels in love (some again, and many for the first time) with green spaces and their own gardens. 

More than ever, people are relying on public open spaces, gardens and streets for a natural dose of health and wellbeing that comes from being out in nature. In high density areas and for apartments dwellers, access to high quality green space has never been more crucial to mental and physical health. At the same time, the absolute rush on seedlings and plants at local nurseries illustrates that spending time simply looking out your window at your garden might be motivation enough to get out there and show it some love. 

But will this new demand for green space outstrip supply?

We’ve heard that one issue that many in the nursery and garden sector did not expect to have only months ago, was running out of stock. At a time of year when many nurseries focus on production ahead of spring, the rush has meant that there has never been greater need to understand, or talk about ‘development pipelines’ for plants and trees. 

Ensuring that there will be an adequate supply of plants and trees over time is equally important to councils and governments who are thinking about and embarking on ‘shovel (or rather, spade) ready’ project, as it is for producers. 

Living Infrastructure Stimulus - a ‘triple point score’

We heard very clearly that while economic stimulus, job protection and recovery is a top priority, that more work needs to be done to ensure that decision makers understand that ‘living infrastructure’ jobs are a great investment insofar as they provide environmental, positive health and wellbeing AND an economic ripple effect throughout local areas. 

How long will it last?

Across the board, our discussions have highlighted that there has been a real shift when it comes to community attitudes toward green spaces. While there is still so much that's unknown about COVID-19 in terms of how long restrictions will last, and how deep the change will be - the appreciation for high quality green space has never been greater. 

It was only months ago that all of us were dealing with the impacts of bushfires, drought and flood - yet amid all of this disruption and change, industry and government have managed to adapt and once again prove their resilience. Overall, our observation has been that there is a good sense of confidence, optimism and thoughtfulness currently pervading the sector. 

What next?

It appears that our network accepts that the only constant is change. Our conversations keep coming back to the question of: "what should we be thinking about now, to ensure our success in future?”. The need for high quality data, research and knowledge exchange was also highlighted and is front of mind for many, as teams and organisations prepare strategies for the next financial year.

To that end, it was excellent seeing so much information being shared about what different organisations all over the country (but particulate in SA & WA) are doing to address water management and water sensitive design. Climate adaptation and species selection remains hot on the agenda, and we are pleased to report that the 'Which Plant Where?' project is progressing nicely, with new updates expected soon. 

In the meantime, thanks so much for your excellent participation, feedback, ideas and to all of our wonderful speakers and participants. 

We’ll spare you the cliches, and instead thank you for your optimism, dedication and hard work to ensure that as our urban places change and grow - that ‘living infrastructure’ and green spaces remain a top priority. 

Yours in greening,
Greener Spaces Better Places

P.S. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us with your ideas, comments and feedback via hello@greenerspacesbetterplaces.com.au