Our mental health benefits when nature is part of our neighbourhoods, as in this residential street in Fitzroy, Melbourne.
It's well-established that green spaces are good for our well-being. Now we can demonstrate that greater biodiversity boosts this benefit, as well as helping to sustain native plants and animals.
The lure of suburbia clearly remains strong. To deal with sprawl, planners need to increase urban density in a way that resonates with the leafy green qualities of suburbia that residents value.
Residents of the 'leafy suburbs' will continue to fear what they might lose to increasing urban density without an explicit planning approach that enhances green space in affected neighbourhoods.
Even the standard grassed nature strip has value for local wildlife.
When so much of the green space in our cities is in the form of nature strips, current restrictions on plantings are denying us the many social and environmental benefits of more diverse greenery.
Sea Line Park, one of the shortlisted entries in the competition to design a new park for the Melbourne of 2050.
Future Park Design Ideas Competition
Some might scoff at the free-ranging ideas sparked by a competition to design future parks for Melbourne. But the legacy of a radical idea to green a CBD street in 1985 shows why we need such thinking.
Allowing residents to remove trees within three metres of buildings or ‘ancillary structures’ could dramatically alter the green infrastructure of dense inner Sydney suburbs like Rozelle.
Greater urban density is making it harder to preserve, let alone increase, tree cover. It's vital, then, to demonstrate the full value of green infrastructure for healthy liveable cities.
Imagine Hyde Park in Sydney without its tree cover … the impact on this space and the many people who spend time in it would be profound.
Cities around Australia have plans to increase their green space, but new research shows not all green spaces are equal. Good tree cover is better than grassed areas for residents' mental health.
Contact with nature reduces stress and aggression, one reason scholars say urban green space may reduce violence.
Some parks reduce violence in the local vicinity. Other parks attract crime. The difference has to do with how these urban green spaces are designed, programmed and managed, experts say.
The main concern when talking about the liveability of a city like Melbourne should be sustaining the health and well-being of residents.
Rather than mourn the end of a seven-year reign as 'world's most liveable city', Melbourne could raise its sights to become more liveable, healthy and sustainable for all who live in the city.