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Urban development — the view from above

Nearmap Australia
By John Biviano, Senior VP and GM, Nearmap Australia
Monday, 27 February, 2017


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Aerial imagery has an important role to play in helping government agencies to shape the future of urban development.

Australia is in a rapid state of flux, with the larger urban centres around the country’s coastline working hard to keep up with a booming population. Last year, Australia’s population reached 24 million — 17 years earlier than official predictions made at the turn of the century. This rapid growth is showing no signs of slowing and is placing increasing pressure on the state and local government agencies charged with planning our cities. This is no easy task, and it’s why government agencies, now more than ever, need to leverage the latest technology — such as aerial imagery — to help them do their jobs and ensure the communities in their charge remain liveable for generations to come.

Planning, compliance and communication

Planning is critical to the liveability of a community, and it’s largely the role of local government agencies to ensure this happens. Everything — from approving new houses and extensions to maintaining roads and parkland — falls on the shoulders of local government. The remit is huge.

Aerial imagery that allows users to see what’s on the ground in high detail, without leaving the office, gives local government the ability to make decisions faster and have the visuals to support their decisions. Imagine if you need to survey a site’s condition before issuing development approvals. Instead of physically going to the site, which may be kilometres away, you could view it from your computer in your office within minutes. This same method can be applied to almost every aspect of planning and monitoring — whether it’s managing vegetation growth in local parkland, observing and responding to changes in land use, designing and executing maintenance plans for parks and reserves or even assessing erosion risk and how to minimise environmental impact. The efficiency gains this can bring are huge, and will be a key to keeping urban development progressing at a sustainable pace.

Local government agencies also play an important role in enforcing rules and legislation. This includes monitoring unauthorised building activities, such as the addition of a new dwelling, validating development applications (DAs) and ensuring pools have adequate fencing.

Again, the remit is massive, and that’s where aerial imagery can help.

Just think about validating and approving DAs. Some local governments may have 20 or 30 DAs ready for assessment at any given time — if council officers need to physically visit each site to validate the application before approving, it can severely slow down the process and even inhibit urban development. Using aerial imagery to make these assessments remotely can speed up the entire process.

In addition to assisting with customer enquiries promptly, it can also be used to spot non-compliant activities that you might not be able to see from the ground.

Having a bird’s-eye view over an area means you can monitor developments and ensure they are compliant every step of the way. Clear images can also be used as evidence against any infringements committed, reducing the number of cases brought to court.

Communicating with the community about new developments, proposed projects or even environmental updates is also an important part of a local government agency’s role. Aerial imagery can be used to support community outreach by visualising new developments, or by providing updates on environmental problems, to help bring the issue to life and ensure the right message is being communicated to residents.

The future of our cities

From planning to monitoring, reporting and communicating with the community, aerial imagery can be used to not only improve productivity, increase efficiency and improve the bottom line, but ultimately ensure communities remain places people want to live. Only time will tell what Australia’s metropolitan cities will look like in the next 50 years, but with proper use of available technology such as aerial imagery, government can ensure they will be communities residents are proud to call home.

Images courtesy Nearmap Australia

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