Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE credits
The Scenic Rim is a significant agricultural region an hour west of Australia’s third largest city, Brisbane, and also the coastal beaches of the Gold Coast. This region has been driven by agriculture for its entire history. However, Brisbane and the Gold Coast region are rapidly expanding and as a result, there is expected to be a massive urban overflow into the Scenic Rim region, resulting in the region’s population more than doubling in less than 20 years. While this shift presents many opportunities for the region, it is also accompanied by many challenges. The Scenic Rim Community Plan 2011-2026 states that the citizens of the Scenic Rim intend to promote sustainable development, create jobs with locally run businesses, and establish a strong infrastructure that compliments their other goals (Scenic Rim Community Plan, 2011). The infrastructure of the region will be under a large amount of pressure with the sudden influx of people migrating there.
Complex adaptive systems theory (CAS) combined with transition theory is used here as a framework to show that the system is dependent on the interaction of agents and the feedback from those interactions as well as feedback from the entire system and external environment. CAS also states that a system is susceptible to changes in the environment, whether that be new rules and policies, or external disturbances. CAS is a good representation of a region as a region is comprised of a complex array of agents interacting with each other towards regional outcomes. System rules from a regional perspective refer to laws and policies which can have long reaching effects on a region if changed. Referring to a region in terms of CAS means region must be resilient and adapt to external system disturbances such as this mass migration or natural disasters. This research uses CAS and transition theory to show that in order to be adaptive as well as move the region towards the desired state of sustainability, the agents within the system must interact under new system rules which provide an environment that promotes and enables this transition. The key is to determine those rules or policy changes.
A literature review showed that the main challenges faced by existing sustainable developments around the world were transportation, local employment, and sustainable housing, whether they were eco-homes, eco-villages, or eco-cities. The challenges found in the literature were combined with the hybrid CAS/transition theory framework in order to create a general template for addressing regional sustainability. The template provided a process which involved determining region specific sustainability projects, defining the agents responsible for those projects, and then discovering the system rule or policy changes required to push the agents to implement those projects. The implementation of these projects becomes the policy scenario within the scenario planning phase of this project.
Utilizing this template with the general lessons learned from the literature combined with a significant amount of collaboration with the main stakeholder in the project, the Scenic Rim Regional Council, several potential sustainability projects were brainstormed in order to create a policy scenario. While these three projects alone were not expected to transition an entire region towards sustainability, the research focused on defining a process and template which could be scaled up in future projects to eventually result in a transition to a new desired state of regional sustainability.
Three of the brainstormed potential projects were chosen to be analyzed in further detail in this project included repairing the old train line out of the Scenic Rim and creating a transit hub in the largest town Beaudesert, creating a co-working space close to the transit hub, and creating minimum requirements for new homes to have photovoltaics as well as solar hot water installed on their roofs. These three projects were chosen because together they address local employment, transportation, and housing in some capacity. Together these solutions formed the policy scenario within this research. In order to analyze the potential impact of these three solutions, an approximate energy model of the Scenic Rim Region was created. In this model, the solutions were modeled in a policy scenario and then regional performance up until 2040 was simulated and compared against a "business as usual" scenario in which it was assumed no changes were made in the future and projected performance was based solely on historical trends. The results of this analysis demonstrated that the policy scenario was able to drastically reduce the electricity demand of the housing sector in the Scenic Rim as well as drastically reducing the oil demand in the region. An approximate economic analysis was done of the policy scenario. The QLD PV feed in tariff and decreased electricity bills from the SHW system would more than offset the increase to the homes mortgage caused by the PV and SHW systems. The gas savings from only driving into the city once per week by using the co-working space more than offset the rental cost. The restored rail line would have a high initial investment, but the shared cost with Logan City combined with increased use results in the rail line paying for itself by 2029. This process and the hybrid CAS/transition theory framework proved to be quite effective and have the potential to be scaled up significantly to fully transition a region towards a sustainable future.