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Regardless of where you live, it is likely that you have at one stage, or another felt that space in the area you live in could be better maintained. Natural infrastructure is an area that can be quite complicated, as it should be maintained, but it is hard to know what kind of intervention a natural space needs and to who that responsibility belongs. In recent years, road dilapidation surveys in Melbourne and other cities have worked to capture the condition of natural infrastructure to better understand the needs. Within every jurisdiction, the local council and government are tasked with looking after these natural infrastructures, so let’s better understand what that role is.
What is natural infrastructure?
If you are unsure what natural infrastructure is, you are probably not alone. After all, when we think about infrastructure and government maintenance responsibility, we typically think of roads, highways, parks and libraries. Natural infrastructure, on the other hand, can be things like sand dunes, wetlands, reefs, green walls, green roofs, trees and plants in public spaces, national parks and reserves. Essentially, you can think of natural infrastructure as anything that is alive and not man-made.
The government’s role in the maintenance of natural landscapes
Road dilapidation surveys are an incredible tool that allows governments and councils to conduct real-time inspections of natural spaces to assess whether maintenance is required. This is carried out by mounting cameras onto vehicles that have a regular route through these areas so that the condition of these natural infrastructures can be documented. If a large tree has a branch that appears to be breaking, regular visuals of this tree and how it is worsening can be used by the local government to send out a tree lopper to remove the risk before it breaks off. This technology can also assess threats that are not naturally occurring, like if a reserve and park have been vandalised.
Self-sustainable natural infrastructure
Future green spaces are being designed with more intention and will be more self-sustaining than some of the natural infrastructure we see around us today. This can be achieved through improved irrigation systems, the selection of hardier plants and natural elements, and leveraging climate and weather to our advantage. There is an enormous movement around sustainability, and that also means designing infrastructure, natural or built, that requires less or no maintenance.
Some of the best cared for areas are those that have an active community presence that is caring for and maintaining the space. If the government works with communities to take control of some of the local beautification and maintenance, then there may be better outcomes for all. The speed with which something is fixed seems to be one of the more pressing issues that local communities face, so if there is a chain in command to get these things done, then issues may be diagnosed and amended sooner. We have seen that community gardens on public land have been growing in urban communities, and this can be a great blueprint to assess community care and focus on leveraging natural infrastructure.
Serving the population
When suburbs and local councils erect playgrounds, parks, reserves and other natural infrastructure – these decisions are not made on a whim. They are typically driven by population data and will be a response to the needs of that community. Inner-city living will have fewer parks and reserves and will invest in amenities that are harder to come by living in the inner-city. Suburbs further out will only need a finite number of cafes and bars, and if there is a large volume of young families in the area, then there will be a great focus on natural infrastructure for children.
Suppose you live in an area that you feel is not adequately maintaining the natural infrastructure, or you have questions about why your area has the natural and built infrastructure. In that case, you can get in contact with the government and learn what those driving forces were in making these decisions.
We hope this article has uncovered what the government’s role is in maintaining these treasured natural infrastructures and what we can expect in the future. Remember, our government serve the community, and the community needs to take an active role in the natural infrastructure of your community.
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