Mikayla Bridge chats with Davide Gaglio, the Park Lands and Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Adelaide about the importance of green initiatives
As of July 2020, Adelaide became the first council in South Australia to run their council operations on 100% renewable electricity, through a combination of wind and solar power. The City of Adelaide’s sustainability efforts have helped reduce carbon emissions, preserve native wildlife habitats, increase renewable energy practices, and lift the community’s spirit.
Davide Gaglio, the Park Lands and Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Adelaide, played no small part in this.
When Sustainable Guides sat down with Davide to discuss this, Davide made it clear that though he was proud of these achievements, he had no plan of stopping, with a clear desire to help other local councils implement similar green initiatives.
“One of our main strategies is environmental leaderships; not only going towards the protection of the environment, bringing green into the city, but also showing this [strategy] to other councils in capital cities around the world. We are, as you know, the most livable city in Australia, the third most livable in the world, so we’re very privileged.
We’ve been very lucky because the design of the city is being done by people that probably had already an understanding of the importance of the environment, and this is a benefit that we’ve had for many years, and it’s becoming more apparent that not only is it good to have a place that you can play soccer or tennis nearby, or you can have a picnic, but also preserve the area’s biodiversity that some people are working on a daily basis.”
Davide’s passion is clear in his words. When asked about Adelaide’s current green initiatives, Davide said that his main focus, now and always, will be to ‘try and take any opportunity possible to take the City of Adelaide forward through a sustainable approach.”
When we asked Davide what kind of specifics this plan would involve, Davide responded:
“Our parkland areas’ goal is to for it to be there to protect biodiversity, as well as for the residents’ enjoyment. There is no soccer field or garden, it’s all for [the native wildlife].
We have free energy assessment programs for small businesses, we have an incentives scheme, particularly for solar panels and a number of other things.
We’re doing the best that we can. Part of the community is really involved, because there really is a culture of volunteering, especially in the environmental setting, here in Adelaide. So many people are willing to volunteer, from school kids to residents. They’re very happy to be in the conversation, they’re very happy to be heard. But there is a part of the community that doesn’t have an interest. Our goal is to engage them.
I was recently a part of a community forum, where we asked the residents what they think about the parklands, and even if it’s still confidential, I can say that everyone wants them to leave the parklands as they are.”
It’s hard not to be heartened by this kind of community spirit. Adelaide residents seem reassuringly supportive of environmental conservation, and in his next words, Davide makes it clear that green initiatives supporting biodiversity and land conservation are where his passion project lies.
“We are trying to improve the green connection and stepping stones, especially for small native species to move from the hills to the parklands. Once they’re here, we hope to provide the habitat that is needed [for them to remain].
We have flying foxes, as well as a number of other mammals, sometimes we see kangaroos in the middle of Victoria square. Many animals branched out to previously uninhabited parts of the city during lockdown. We have a very utopic plan to bring back the platypus. It’s a long-term project, but personally, I’m very excited to work towards this goal.
We’ve very lucky to have the parklands in place, having the flying fox decide to come and stay with us. We try not to miss any opportunity, because we’ve been lucky; we don’t take anything for granted.”
When he asked Davide how he hoped to preserve these ‘utopic’ eco-systems, he explained:
“Last year we did a bio-cultural burn. We engaged the aboriginal community, the Kaurna people. This was a bio-cultural burn because the goal was to improve the management of some of our key bio-diversity areas in order to get rid of weeds and let the native species grow. That was in May. It is a bit early to talk about the results, but we can already see some of the effects of that fire. It was not only a great celebration of our collaboration with the Kaurna people, not only a good excuse to learn from them, but was also a pragmatic opportunity for some species to grow. For example, we have one important species of butterfly that has not been seen for around 50 years and only recently has been found in the parklands in a different area, so that area is now being protected. This is thanks to the management and protection of our key biodiversity.
That was the first time that happened since before colonization.
Another project that I’m quite proud of is the biodiversity carbon offset. We are carbon neutral as of this year, we are the first in South Australia and one of the few in Australia, so another reason to be proud. We revegetated a once-barren area with vegetation from specific woodlands. The goal was to improve biodiversity too.
We provided a number of trees and plants that we know will create a habitat for biodiversity. We planted more than 500 plants over a number of native species. This was achieved quite successfully last year, and I look forward to seeing the progression of this project.
As soon as you provide the right habitat, the native wildlife will come back.”
In terms of Adelaide’s conservation efforts, this is just the tip of the iceberg. With expert and community-input, the council has designed a bird-sensitive city handbook, to educate residents and local landscape architects on the importance of providing native birds sheltered habitats. Davide has also played a key part in managing festivals, workshops and educational ‘face-to-face’ resources for kids, community members and workers.
City of Adelaide has also been working with the state government to establish ‘Green Adelaide’; Adelaide’s first urban environmental specialist organisation, focused on guiding practical change to create a cooler, greener and wilder Adelaide.
So, with the council making so many incredible changes, what is left for regular people to do? Can they make a different on their own? According to Davide, the actions of the council are no different than what the actions of individuals should be. The number one priority, for everyone, should be to reach people who are not aware of the importance of sustainability.
“It is really up to us, first. To reach them. Us doing better is our target and approach.
I purposefully approach the young generation because they’re the kids that are going to be the citizens in the future, so I approach them and it’s been very well-received.
It can be a difficult conversation [with unwilling residents]. People that are not engaged, hopefully they get engaged, and then they talk to other people about it. I can see that there is a slow process from that point of view. We use our iconic species to engage the community.”
Adelaide Botanic Garden is an example of green initiatives in Adelaide