One Planet Geraldton? The Easy Way to Develop a One Planet Gap Analysis

Alexi Lynch

In late 2013 I travelled to Geraldton in WA with Ed Cotter of BioRegional Australia and the one and only Pooran Desai who not only has some pretty special letters after his name (OBE HonFRIBA to be precise - he's met the Queen on a number of occasions!) but also co-founded One Planet and the 10 sustainability principles that underscore the popular international framework.

The City of Greater Geraldton and the surrounding region are simply beautiful. It is known for its beaches, natural resources, the Abrolhos Islands and the infamous Batavia shipwreck and mutiny there 400 years ago. Geraldton faces challenges, including a rapidly growing population expected to double by 2029. However there is also a very strong and passionate local community pushing for Council to set and meet sustainability targets that have been captured in the Geraldton Strategic Community Plan 2013-2023.

The Community Plan is an ambitious strategy and the community’s vision is to create:

"A creative city-region with the capacity to sustain a population of 80,000–100,000 which has a prosperous, diverse and sustainable community within an attractive Western Australian setting."

It also contains a Community Charter which reflects the Community Plan’s key pillars: 

  1. Culture, "We will enjoy vibrant Arts, Culture & Education"
  2. Environment, "We will have a sustainable, natural and built environment"
  3. Social, "We will have a strong, healthy community"
  4. Economy, "We will foster a dynamic and resilient economy"
  5. Governance, "We will practice collaborative problem solving and decision making"

However, although these principles reflect a broad definition of sustainability, Geraldton didn’t have a framework to measure this against. 

How do we know when we have a "sustainable, natural and built environment"? What exactly is a "strong, healthy community"? How do we measure this charter against a set framework or other councils around Australia and the world?

Sound familiar? 

One Planet Councils, a model developed over a decade ago which has assisted thousands of councils, communities, organisations and individuals around the world to assess their sustainability programs against a simple concept: do we consume more or less than our share of one planet's worth of resources?

It is an open-source model based on 10 key principles that also might sound pretty familiar to you:

Geraldton staff conducted training in the One Planet principles and undertook a gap analysis for current operations against the principles. The gap analysis was not intended to replace Geraldton’s current strategies, plans and policies. Rather we reviewed and analysed their Climate Change Strategies, Carbon Management Plans, Environment Strategies, Local Action Plans, Sustainable Resource Management Strategies, Sustainable Building Policies, Biodiversity Plans, Community Charters, Youth Strategic Plans and developed a clear and concise gap analysis document that assessed Council’s targets and actions against the 10 One Planet principles and outlined where they could improve.

Geraldton is one of dozens of councils Australia-wide who have begun their One Planet Councils journey. The gap analysis is a great way for a council to measure how they're really tracking against standard and world-renowned sustainability principles.

If you’re interested in getting your council’s proverbial foot into the One Planet Councils door then this is the first step. Contact us any time to discuss a presentation to your council or the development of a gap analysis. 

We know that this is busy time of year for councils and can work within your timeframes if projects or reports need to be completed by the end of the financial year.

And finally, here are some happy snaps from our visit.