Smart Urban Futures conference 2015

Note, this is an overview of the Smart Urban Futures conference previously held in 2015. 
For information on the upcoming conference, see Smart Urban Futures 2017.


The Smart Urban Futures conference, a partnership between Victoria Walks and the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) was held on 25 and 26 March and attended by 200 people. Highlights included:

  • Smart Urban Futures Conference 2015Jason Roberts, Co-Founder of Team Better Block, an outstanding speaker who set a strong tone to start the conference. He suggested "if you want innovation take a zero away from your budget."

  • Steven Burgess, Principal at MRCagney, was particularly challenging and entertaining.  Talking about the value of walkable communities to retailers, he noted "they cannot get at my wallet if I'm sitting on it driving past."  He was fairly scathing of our growth areas - "battery hen suburbs where you keep the people overnight while you don't need them."  Roz Hansen, chair of the advisory committee on Plan Melbourne, was similarly unimpressed, saying the precinct structure planning process worked for developers and no-one else.
  • Trevor Budge, Strategy Manager for the City of Greater Bendigo reported on their Active Living Census, completed by a remarkable 17,500 households.  This revealed a strong enthusiasm of walking in this regional city, with walking tracks and paths the most commonly suggested improvements to open spaces.
  • Diana Heggie, CEO of the Heart Foundation Victoria noted that 70% of children are driven to school, even though 80% live within 3km. Dr Bruce Bolam, Executive Manager Programs at VicHealth discussed the drivers behind this trend.  He noted "what others think matters" - the attitude of family, school and other parents can be a significant influence on parental decisions.

Participants gave the conference a big thumbs up - in feedback forms the average score was 8.2 out of 10. Additional features this year compared to last year's conference were guided lunch time walks for exercise; and two ‘walkshops’, hosted by the City of Melbourne, outlining initiatives they have taken to improve walking and cycling in the CBD.

Smart Urban Futures Masterclass - parkletAround 50 people also attended a Masterclass on Tactical Urbanism and Better Blocks the day before the conference.  This event was superbly led by Co-Design Studio, supported by Jason Roberts, and included on-site activities on Elizabeth Street in the city.  A temporary micro park (pictured) was established between the Elizabeth Street tram terminus and the intersection with Flinders Street.

For more information check out the program and to view the conference presentations, check out the MAV website.