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New approaches to financing green infrastructure

Opportunities for green infrastructure to enhance our cities are increasingly recognised.  These include stormwater reduction and improved water quality, reduced heat island impacts, improved air quality, increased habitat, and improved human health and wellbeing. However, the traditional models for delivering green infrastructure are challenged by complexities around: the question of ‘who pays?’ versus ‘who benefits?’; spatial scales of green infrastructure; understanding, quantifying and estimating the value of the wider, long-term impacts; incentives and enforcement; delivery within existing assets, infrastructure and cities; and maintenance. This project aims to address these issues by identifying and piloting tangible design/funding/implementation/operating models which can be replicated, adapted and scaled internationally.

Arup is working with the City of Melbourne and Thick Studios to put emphasis on the better use of laneways, including urban pathways, rear and front lanes, and small roads. Other project partners include Newcastle City Council, Newcastle University, University of the West of England and CIRIA.  City of Melbourne has developed a suite of tools and resources to enable evidence-based identification of city laneways that have ‘greening’ potential. But a scalable process for engaging the local community in co-funding and co-designing green infrastructure is missing. This project established a pilot laneway greening project as a way of interrogating this challenge, using the project to trial co-design and co-funding models to deliver greening projects in lanes. We will build on lessons drawn from the small number of existing regulatory and financing models for green infrastructure.

Despite much civic pride in Melbourne’s laneways, there are uncertainties on the overarching benefits of green laneways.  Long-term residents can feel inconvenienced by new (and large) developments close to or in their laneway and they would prefer to see more locally-focused smaller-scale investments.

Direct benefits of greenery in laneways vary depending on who the stakeholder is. The program offers immediate benefits for businesses.

For the funding of such initiatives, short term leases are a barrier for many laneway businesses to contribute funds. Yet, low interest loans and grants are appealing to support laneway funding.

Personal recognition for a financial contribution isn’t (always) necessary.

There are differing opinions on who should own the maintenance of the laneway in the long term.

The current under-utilisation of laneways represents an opportunity to cost-effectively create valuable green space.   A way to address difficulties arising from the fact that laneways are owned by both council and owners of private buildings must be found. The private realm is required to maximise the potential of green infrastructure in these spaces. Knowledge generated in this project can help secure buy-in from the private owners whose infrastructure may be affected. This can be done through early engagement, utilisation of models based on joint funding, and demonstration of public demand. Findings from this project are relevant to architects, designers and planners, and also to policy makers and potential investors.

The means of funding green infrastructure is a key inhibitor to its widespread implementation in cities. Development of a set of approaches to funding will present a strong basis to be able to move forward the implementation of green infrastructure.

This project has equipped Arup with knowledge that will aid the design and planning of green infrastructure, and the promotion of community-based initiatives. We can provide advice on the best ways to manage the unused public spaces and to consult building owners on the most suitable strategy for including green infrastructure in their estate. All these services contribute in an indirect way to promotion of green infrastructure and its benefits such as positive effects on the neighbourhood, environment, human health and wellbeing.