Urban sustainability conundrum and community based initiatives in Perth, Western Australia: implications for urban governance

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Dhakal, SP 2012, 'Urban sustainability conundrum and community based initiatives in Perth, Western Australia: implications for urban governance', in N Gurran, P Phibbs & S Thompson (eds), Proceedings of 10th International Urban Planning and Environment UPE 10 Next City: Planning for a new energy & climate future, Sydney University, Sydney, NSW, 24-27 July, ICMS, Sydney, NSW, pp. 51 -65. ISBN: 9781742102818

Published version available from: http://static.icms.com.au/upe10/proceedings.pdf


Environmental sustainability challenges are considered ‘wicked’ because, amongst many other things, potential solutions demand involvement of multiple stakeholders with conflicting priorities. One of the ways societies have responded to this challenge is by relying on local sustainability initiatives driven by community organisations. The aims of these organisations are often determined by a combination of a sense of urgency to stop market-driven development practices that are deemed unsustainable by the community, and a perception that planners and policy-makers are not always interested in taking into account community values as an incentive for protecting the environment. However, comprehensive attempts to explore urban community initiatives in Perth, Western Australia have been rather few, and not particularly elaborate. This paper responds to this gap by exploring the state of community based sustainability initiatives in Perth. The paper begins by introducing sustainability conundrum as a wicked problem and reviews urban planning and policies in Perth, followed by the emergence of community based sustainability initiatives. Then drawing on a 2008 survey, the attributes, abilities and adversities of 81 community organisations in Perth are presented. In the absence of desirable outcomes from existing urban planning schemes and environmental policies, the paper ends with a contention that prospective solution to wicked problems are likely to be much more sanguine with communities driving sustainability initiatives than without it.