A framework for a green infrastructure planning approach in the Gauteng City-Region

Bobbins, Kerry
Culwick, Christina
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As the population, economy and urban built environment in the Gauteng City-Region (GCR) expand, government is increasingly under pressure to provide urban infrastructure to support growth. It is increasingly important that this infrastructure is sustainable, minimising the negative environmental impacts often associated with traditional forms of urban development. Green Infrastructure (GI) is the interconnected set of natural and man-made ecological systems, green spaces and other landscape features that provide services and strategic functions in the same way as traditional infrastructure. In harnessing the benefits of ecosystem services, GI has emerged as a more efficient, cost effective and sustainable alternative – and sometimes accompanying approach – to conventional forms of infrastructure. Despite international evidence demonstrating how GI can be used as an alternative to, or in tandem with, traditional infrastructure, the GI approach has so far gained only limited traction in the GCR. In 2013 the GCRO published the State of Green Infrastructure in the GCR report. The report established the principles that underpin GI, used available data to map the extent of GI networks in the region, assessed to what extent municipalities were aware of and applying a GI approach, and demonstrated a possible way to value GI in local government financial systems. The conclusions of the State of Green Infrastructure report were used to guide the next phase of GCRO’s research in support of the adoption of GI approach – a phase focused on better understanding the opportunities for implementing GI in planning and infrastructure development programmes and on addressing some of the challenges associated with shifts towards this approach. A framework for a green infrastructure planning approach in the Gauteng City-Region, GCRO’s fourth Research Report, builds on the foundations laid in the State of Green Infrastructure report. It assembles expert inputs and reflections from collaborative stakeholder discussions in what was known as the Green Infrastructure CityLab to illustrate important considerations for the development of a GI planning approach in the Gauteng City-Region (GCR). The report is divided into three broad sections. Part A introduces the theoretical underpinnings of a GI approach and builds an argument for the importance of incorporating GI into planning and infrastructure development in the GCR. Part B presents three pieces written by external experts. They consider how GI and ecosystem services can be valued by municipalities, and how so-called ‘grey-green’ infrastructure design solutions can be implemented in the GCR. Part C reflects on the stakeholder engagement process that has been undertaken, primarily through the GI CityLab, to deepen understanding of how GI can be embedded in municipal practice. Based on these research findings, this report concludes with a strategy for GCRO’s next phase of work in its ongoing Green Assets and Infrastructure Project.
green infrastructure, Gauteng, sustainability, citylab, urban, landscape, growth