Investment in our environmental infrastructure is a crucial element of building more equitable, sustainable, and resilient communities. Jesuit Social Services therefore commends the initiation of this Inquiry into Environmental Infrastructure for Growing Populations, and welcomes the opportunity to respond.

The need to safeguard and develop green and open spaces is ever more important in an increasingly complex time of climate and public health crises, environmental degradation and economic inequality. With the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic likely to be severe, there is also an opportunity to create employment opportunities tied to the enhancement of our vital green infrastructure, as part of a socially and ecologically just recovery.

Better understanding locational disadvantage, and its interconnection with ecological injustice, will assist urban planners to make environmentally sound and socially just policy decisions, in collaboration with communities. Jesuit Social Services’ next iteration of Dropping off the Edge, to be published in 2021, covers indicators including the presence of green and public space, proximity to toxic lands, and exposure to climate risks, supplementing pre-existing indicators of social disadvantage.

Our recommendations to the Victorian Government include:

  • Recognise the importance of environmental infrastructure planning to ensuring Victoria’s future climate resilience, and tie such planning to the adaptation work taking place under the Victorian Climate Change Act.
  • Explore best practice models to adopt a whole-of-government approach to embedding community resilience within Victorian communities that prioritises community participation and engagement.
  • Invest in green infrastructure as part of a post-COVID-19 economic recovery plan, simultaneously creating employment, enhancing community resilience and public health, and building climate resilience.
  • Invest significantly in building new social housing dwellings that are safe, sustainable and energy-efficient, and that enhance access to new and existing green infrastructure.