Planning a city for fires and floods

ECOSYSTEM: RMIT students developed a plan where wetlands would maintain water in the dry months, cooling the landscape and facilitating biodiversity around Wodonga.Half-submerged greenhouses warmed by the earth and community gardens growingfruit and veggies: this is the futureWodonga someRMIT students have envisaged to cope with climate change.

Thelandscape architecture and regional planningundergraduatesopened an exhibition of their workat Albury LibraryMusuem this week, which will run until November 30.

Regardless of political orientation, planning for climate change in the development of future regional cities has now become commonplace.

On the edge of the nation’slargest food bowl, thefast-growing Border is supported by an extensive, unpredictablehydrological system.

Over the past four months the studentsfocused on how the city wouldadapt to the speculative effects of climate change, particularlyformore extreme weather events, such as October’s floods or 2015’s Barnawartha fires.

Their teacherJulia Werner said ideas ranged from greenhouses to the development of swale systems, or ditches, to allow for moisture retention in communal veggie gardens.

“An important conclusion for the student investigations was to focus on increasing frequency of bush fires and flood occurrence,” she said.“The students saw a need to increase moisture retention and to develop long-term concepts to challenge these extremes in the landscape.”

The students also researched the growling grass frog, which is a threatened species found in Wodonga. Throughanalysis of the animal’s behaviour, a regenerative design was developed which wouldintegrate its habitatwith the urban environment. In doing so, a hydrological network would provide both water in the city areas and a cooling effect for long summers.

Wodonga Council’sMichelle Wilkinson, in one of her last roles as its sustainability officer,said she was impressed by the quality of the projects.

“We’ve got aplan for new subdivisions in Wodonga and we want to look at future planning for our city,” she said.

“These are highly relevant to councils, catchment management authorities and water authorities … considering the predicted impacts of climate change on our region and suggesting some exciting projects.”

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