November 2014

Greening the Greyfields

Sustainable & Resilient Urban Environments

3 November 2014

Natural disasters usually have horrific social and cost impacts - lives are lost, people are injured, infrastructure is damaged and the community is left facing huge repair bills.

Sometimes, however, these disasters also can produce unexpected benefits.

The earthquakes that shattered the New Zealand city of Christchurch over a period of months in 2010 and 2011 are a good example.

'Scape 2010' sculpture in Hagley park fell down during the earthquake.

One hundred and eighty five people were killed and 11,000 injured by the shock, which shattered the city with the equivalent force of 50,000 Hiroshima bombs going off simultaneously.

Eight thousand homes were destroyed or had to be demolished, 1,100 commercial and other buildings (some 26 stories high) were destroyed, while the city’s roads, public facilities, underground services and other infrastructure were extensively damaged.

Today, large areas of the city still remain devastated, the restoration work will take many years to complete, and the total repair bill is estimated to be more than $40 billion.

However, there is an upside to this sorry scene – the disaster has generated a resurgence in the science of city planning and regeneration and helped create a new era of Australia-New Zealand research cooperation.

Much of the research focused initially on the restoration of Christchurch.

However, significant components have been coupled with work already underway in Australia focusing on the regeneration of large areas of the middle suburbs in the Australian cities of Perth and Melbourne.

The Greening the Greyfields project is a cooperative research program between the (Co-operative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRCSI), in partnership with Canterbury University (NZ), two Australian Universities (Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne and Curtin University in Perth), the Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development, the Western Australian Department of Planning, the City of Manningham (a Melbourne suburb) and the City of Canning (a Perth suburb), Christchurch City Council, Land Information New Zealand, and the Ministry of Business, Industry and Employment of New Zealand.  

Demolition Site in Central Christchurch

Demolition site in central Christchurch after the devastating earthquake.

What or where are the Greyfields?

They are the declining middle suburbs of our major cities, squeezed between the inner city suburbs (often old industrial/warehousing areas, which city planners call the Brownfields) and the new and developing areas on the urban fringes that are aptly described as Greenfields suburbs.

Economic analysis has shown that these Greyfields suburbs are ripe for redevelopment and rejuvenation.

The building stock is ready for rejuvenation and mostly privately owned, while much of the infrastructure is poor and requires new approaches to redevelopment.

City planners see them as important areas where most of the growing populations could be directed.

The planning doesn’t focus simply on how to ‘density‘ the population of our cities, but rather how to achieve this while making them more liveable, environmentally friendly and economically efficient.

The five broad research objectives of the Greening the Greyfields project are to:

  • Assess the economic state for urban regeneration considering the spatial dynamics of Australian and New Zealand cities; 
  • Develop and analyse spatial datasets and parameters that determine housing redevelopment in Australian and New Zealand mid-suburban areas, and integrate them into a demonstrator spatial-decision support toolkit;
  • Incorporate a 3D visualisation tool into the toolkit, allowing various building typologies to be envisioned and examined;
  • Develop an assessment framework to evaluate environmental, social and economic performance of the various options of redevelopment design;
  • Trial the toolkit in community settings to identify potential blockages to the usage of spatial data in urban development.

Most of the work has already been completed, with the final stages of the project now focused on incorporating the 3D visualization tool into the toolkit and creating a new set of communication strategies to involve, and win the support of, the wide range of state and local government planners, property developers and members of the affected communities that may be involved in urban redevelopment projects. 

The toolkit is based on Envision, a GIS-based, participatory support system for engaging with the diverse range of stakeholders involved in urban redevelopment.

Greening the Greyfields website

Greening the Greyfields' website

The system brings together a wide range of geospatial datasets (land, demographic and market data) to highlight redevelopment options, and identify potential redevelopment precincts.

This can be used to initiate and enable sensible debate between those involved on how best to manage urban growth, particularly those areas most suitable for redevelopment.

An extension of the Envision tool (Envision Scenario Planning) enables 3D precinct visualisation, feedback mechanisms and redevelopment typologies.

This transforms the tool into a stakeholder modelling and analysis tool for urban regeneration and community engagement and provides a communication platform for stakeholders on the best ways forward to achieve more effective and sustainable redevelopment in Greyfields areas.

Four members of the Australia/New Zealand research team will demonstrate the toolkit and its potential uses at the CRCSI Annual Conference in Perth on November 5-7.  

Housing growing populations

Australia and New Zealand are not alone in facing the problems of catering for growing populations.

A recent United Nations report estimated that the world’s population will increase by 2.3 to 3 billion more people by 2050, and by another 0.6 to 2.6 billion in the second half of this century, leading to a world population in 2100 of between 9.7 and 12.5 billion.

A significant proportion of these increased numbers will need to be housed in the world’s major cities.

This highlights the significance of the Greening the Greyfields project and its potential to produce important social, environmental and cost benefits not only in Australia and New Zealand but also in other countries.

Dr Rita Dionisio, a member of the Greening the Greyfields research team summed up the importance of the team’s research in the following words:

“It will provide government, private developers and everyone involved in the business of city planning and regeneration, with the tools they need to develop our cities, in New Zealand and Australia, as more cost effective, less carbon intensive and more equitable places to live and work.

It will promote smart, better, sustainable ways of reviewing and planning intensification of our cities without excluding people and allow us to live better together.”

For more information contact Dr Rita Dionisio or visit the Greening the Greyfields website.

A Message from the CEO


On the cusp of our Annual Conference we’ve just ticked over the 300 registrants mark. Colleagues from across our three sectors, government, research and industry are represented in equal numbers, representing a great opportunity to focus your networking on R&D and innovation. The Conference stimulates continuous improvement, both for the CRCSI itself and you our partners. Evolution and improvement is occurring with 43pl and this month’s newsletter reports on the feedback from our workshops with 43pl members across Australia and New Zealand. We also include stories on our international engagement with Sweden, and on transformative research from our ‘Greening the Greyfields’ project and our Health program.

Peter Woodgate

Epiphanee's value broadens to a wider audience

Epiphanee, developed by the CRCSI for the health sector for geovisualisation and analysis of Health Data, has exceeded its original scope and is now a valuable tool to other sectors. In the same way that Google Earth moved spatial from non-experts to the broader mainstream market, Epiphanee offers new markets the power to:

  • access and explore data and generate queries;
  • detect and visualise data correlations that may not have otherwise been apparent, and;
  • produce complex ‘one of’ or updated periodic reports with ease.  

While there are many GIS systems that can mine and visualise data and generate reports, they are generally tied to legacy platforms and hamstrung by design architectures that do not migrate well into a big data, cloud friendly, privacy-enabled environments.


Privacy sample comparison over 1300 Queries.

Epiphanee is a timely solution. It is a natural adjunct to all things Big Data. The applications for Epiphanee extend well beyond health. New industries using Epiphanee will find big data easier to access, analyse and used to perform work in minutes that used to take weeks or months of effort. This will reduce the burden on the resources of an organisation like IT infrastructure and personnel.


Multiple views/variables can be presented simultaneously on the fly from a single dataset

The CRCSI has entered into discussions with multiple parties as a result of a successful Expression of Interest with potential for demonstrator activities at Federal and State Government departments in Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, as well as commercial organisations.

Epiphanee is a customisable toolkit, not a product. Demonstrators are a proof-of-concept stage that use tightly scoped, pre-defined use cases to deliver short, sharp measurable outcomes with minimal bespoke coding to demonstrate the value of the Epiphanee IP. 

Simon Cope will present Epiphanee Project at the CRCSI Annual Conference. For more information on the Project contact Simon Cope or George Curran, Business Development Manager for CRCSI.

The FPX mission - Decision by Position

Fourteen years ago, Future Position X (FPX) was launched in Gävle Sweden as a non-governmental, non-profit cluster organisation, to be an independent arena for research and innovation in the Geographic Information Industry field. The goal was to measure and understand peoples’ everyday life, in the same way geographic information is used, to make better urban planning decisions to enhance the livability of our cities.

The challenge for FPX was that the tools used to measure geography would not work with people, as they are constantly moving. New types of measuring instruments and sensors, and new ways and data models to manage and interpret these new layers of Geo-enhanced data were needed, and so, Smart City was born.

Smart city arena

Smart City Arena

Smart City Arena is a live demonstrator environment, test and verification environment and a regional profile creator and a tool for greater internationalisation of the region and the Swedish business community. Smart cities can be identified along six axes or dimensions. These shafts are a smart economy, smart mobility, a smart environment, smart people, smart living, and finally, smart governance.

The six axes are based on traditional regional and neoclassical theories of urban growth and development. In particular these axes build on theories of regional competitiveness, transport and ICT economics, natural resources, human and social capital, quality of life and participation of citizens in the governance of cities.

According to this criteria a city can be defined as ‘smart’ when investments in human and social capital and traditional (transport) and modern (ICT) communication infrastructure is driving sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources and through participatory governance.

Since 2004, Johan Bång, has been Managing Director and CEO of FPX. He leads a dedicated team which in a relatively short time has become Europe’s leading cluster for innovative and expanding use of geographical information technology (GIT). FPX supports the development of new GIT- services, media and solutions for the future green society and the smart city. It has one of the most modern facilities for research, development and testing of new Internet and mobile applications and services based on Geographical IT (GIT) and Location based services (LBS) in Europe.

The cluster supports innovative companies and organisations to research and develop new products and services, and to expand into new markets. Over 200 companies and organisations collaborate within the cluster. FPX headquarters, labs and incubator are based at the Technology Park in Gävle, Sweden where much of the organisation’s approaches and ideas have had a positive impact on the Gävle economy.  

The cluster organisation has a strong international presence in innovation and research with partners in over 20 countries around the world including being an International Partner to CRCSI. FPX acts as a bridge for the companies in the cluster to find new customers, partners and suppliers. FPX also has project offices in Beijing and Wuhan, and a market office and incubator in Zhuhai City, China.  This strong international network of clusters aims to ensure a continued and long-term sustainable growth.

Johan Bång, Managing Director and CEO of FPX will deliver a keynote address at the upcoming CRCSI Annual Conference in Perth on 5-7 November.

For more information on Future Position X (FPX) visit their website.

Shining a light on Gävle in China

In august 2014, FPX joined forces with Gävle Kommun and Swedish rock bank Electric Religions to present GävleIS, Gävle’s creative rock festival, to the Chinese market. The concept was successfully trialed locally in Gävle before being taken to 3 cities in China: Beijing, Wuhan and Zhuhai—sister city of Gävle.

The idea is to showcase Gävle as an attractive place to work, live and play and saw very different stakeholders join together to build an increasing awareness of what the city can offer.

The GävleIS China trip comprised a range of activities including seminars, exhibitions, government meetings and music performances. Business contacts were made and potential exchange projects were discussed including talent attraction, cultural exchange and the introduction of the technology companies. The positive response to the performances of Electric Religions also showcased the broader Swedish music industry to China.


GavleIS being promoted in China.

Changing the equation for counting carbon

Australia’s National Carbon Accounting System (NCAS) is responsible for producing the annual figures reported to the international community on the level of the carbon emissions we produce.  Part of this process is mapping and determining the rate of increase or reduction of forests in Australia. Part of this process is producing the NCAS forest extent map that are used to determine the rate of increase or decline of forests in Australia. The maps are produced using satellite imagery and date back to 1972 with some 20 years represented. However, there are accuracy constraints in being able to determine the exact number of trees in, and geographical area of forests, and how they change over the span of a over a relatively short span.

In 2011, CRCSI evaluated the accuracy of Australia-wide maps showing forest and non-forest areas for a single year.  From this, the reliability of Australia’s carbon accounts was determined – i.e., the estimated amount of deforestation and re-forestation across Australia and its conversion  into carbon.



The areas in blue are Mapsheets whose accuracy for carbon accounting were examined in this project.

However, when the international community reviewed the 2011 submission it decided that a better method of assessing system accuracy, based on forest changes from year to year, was required in the future to give better information about the accuracy of Australia’s carbon accounts.

Using the accuracy methodology employed in 2011 to achieve this would have been cost-prohibitive. The CRCSI was therefore approached to develop a methodology to add value to the 2011 work and achieve the goal of evaluating change maps explicitly in a way that was cost-effective, accurate and able to respond to the international review panel.

And they did just that.

The CRCSI used  recent imagery held in publicly available repositories and delivery mechanisms such as GoogleEarth™, not available in 2011.  That was combined  with previously acquired imagery that addressed an earlier period. This amalgamation of data and images could then be used to evaluate and verify landcover change maps from year to year, rather than seeing forest extent maps at a single point in time.


Forest extent maps

Forest extent maps for 2005 and 2010 and the change map that results (top row). Imagery used to evaluate the change map (bottom row). The SPOT imagery had been acquired previously and was used in the original 2011 accuracy assessment.

The CRCSI’s work in this area has led to a complete overhaul in the way global classification accuracy of landcover change maps is analysed.  The benefits of the CRCSI system are:

  • Australia is better able to respond to international standards for carbon accounting.
  • The accuracy of Australia’s carbon accounts can be assessed more rapidly and cost-effectively.
  •  The reported reliability of Australia’s carbon accounts is more transparent since it relies on satellite images that are publicly available.
  • Accuracy assessment directly addresses forest increase or loss rather than evaluating change implicitly as was done previously.

CRCSI continually strives to provide better, more accurate data and methods of understanding forestation, deforestation and carbon accounting through its diverse Programs. For more information contact Kim Lowell, Science Director P4.1, Project Leader P4.15.

Global Spatial Outlook Report 2014

The CRCSI has just released the Global Spatial Outlook Report 2014 which looks at the prospects for growth in spatial and related technologies world-wide. The report is a compilation of over 200 sources of information.

CRCSI adds to its business team

Phil Delaney

Phil Delaney

CRCSI is delighted to welcome a new member to its management team. Phil Delaney joins CRCSI as the Project Implementation Manager. This is a Business Development role and Phil will work across all programs to help manage existing and upcoming CRC projects. He will assist in the development of new research and project opportunities and look to develop uptake of CRC initiatives by the spatial community.

Initially the projects he will be involved with include the Greening the Greyfields urban planning decision-making project, which is the feature story in this issue, and the NRM Spatial Hub.

Phil is an accredited GIS Professional (GISP) with extensive experience across industry, research and government. He has a background in GIS and imagery analysis working across a broad range of application industries, including urban planning, environmental engineering, inundation and flooding, transportation, land use change mapping, renewable energy and natural resource management. 

Prior to joining the CRC, he shifted from Melbourne University where he was the Data Hub Leader in the AURIN project. This role focused on opening up access to important datasets for researchers and government users across Australia and gave him extensive experience working in a collaborative research environment. Prior to this he was a project manager and spatial analyst at SKM (Jacobs) with a particular focus on multi-criteria analysis and process automation.

CRCSI is confident he will fulfill the new role of the Project Implementation Manager and expand the CRC’s impact and reputation to the wider spatial community.  Phil will be based in the Melbourne office and is looking forward to meeting many CRCSI researchers and stakeholders at the Annual Conference.

43pl Workshops – ‘a mandate for change’

Led by the Chair of the Board of 43pl David Sinclair, 43pl recently held workshops around the Australia and New Zealand with its 43pl member companies to consider future directions for 43pl.  Industry trends, forecasts and the outcomes from the 43pl Board workshop held earlier this year laid the foundations for the discussion.  

Key suggestions from the workshops that were broadly supported included:

  • 43pl/CRCSI could fulfil be a peak go-to advocacy body for industry Innovation and R&D working closely with its industry partners SIBA, SSSI and GITA and others.
  • Account managers be established to work closely with individual companies, gaining a deeper understanding of their needs and marrying these with the capabilities of our researchers.
  • Advisory services of sourcing funds for R&D and commercialisation to be ramped up.
  • The subscription model should be reviewed to better marry capacity to pay with benefits from membership, also taking into account benefits received. A broader range of subscription options to be considered commensurate with the level of involvement member companies wish to have.
  • Over the coming years the 43pl Board, the CRCSI’s Research Investment Committee and the CRCSI Board to work more closely together.
  • Consideration of new legal structures in New Zealand aimed at creating a more equal and integrated position would be welcomed by Partners from both countries.

The desire to have a more active voice in the CRCSI was unanimously agreed upon as a necessity for the future with 43pl Partners recognising that this will require an understanding of the complexities that such a position will generate.

The workshops also devoted time to the consideration of the future of 43pl and the CRCSI when the CRC Program funding ceases in mid 2018. This finding currently comprises about 33% of the cash funding to the CRCSI. Four options were discussed:

  1. An orderly windup of the consortium
  2. A breakup into smaller entities that then go their own way
  3. A rebid, dominated by an end user sector or market such as health or agriculture, discarding some core research activities and unaligned with other  sectors
  4. Creating a new, more tightly coupled single entity  comprising CRCSI and 43pl.

The forth option was the overwhelming preference; an entity that was sustainable in its own right irrespective of CRC Program funding levels. The desire to retain the three Colleges (Government, Research and Education, and 43pl) currently operating was strongly endorsed by 43pl members.

43pl members will be able to access the draft discussion documents on the new CRCSI website. Access will be password protected and instructions on how to obtain a new password are available.

A summary of the outcomes will discussed by the 43pl Board and the CRCSI Board in the coming weeks in the context of the parallel review of the research programs. A revised strategic plan for the CRCSI will be drafted for consideration by all CRCSI members.

For more information contact Mike Ridout, Director of Stakeholder Engagement.

Events & Conferences

5 Nov 2014