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Valuing Onkaparinga’s natural assets

The City of Onkaparinga, with help from Flinders University, is making sure that the natural assets of its region are appropriately valued and understood as part of a strategic planning process for new, sustainable infrastructure. The Council, SA Water and the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources are partners in the Flinders School of the Environment research project led by Professor Andrew Millington that will identify, assess and value the region’s natural assets and its associated “ecosystem services”.

“Natural and modified ecosystems support human life through the processes and services we call ecosystem services – it is a way of looking at the value of what a landscape can provide for humans and human well-being,” Professor Millington said.

The City of Onkaparinga spans urban, urban fringe and rural environments, and includes 31 kilometres of coastline.

“Catchments and reservoirs for the supply of freshwater, patches and corridors of vegetation supporting native biodiversity and pollination, beaches for recreation, and places of historical and cultural values are examples of the region’s natural assets,” said researcher Dr Harpinder Sandhu.

The “audit” requires assessment of assets beyond the physical – the researchers will be required to put a value on factors such as the sense of security derived from a well-functioning community and the worth of a water view.

“If you think about it, these sorts of factors already play a role in the valuation of property and real estate,” Dr Sandhu said.

The natural assets and ecosystem services will be mapped spatially using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Ms Kathryn Bellette, who works on science-policy interface, said that once the data has been linked to location, the effect of change can be modelled to inform strategic planning of land use and natural resource management in a way that supports the economic and social welfare of the region’s growing population.

The research, funded by the four partner organisations, is due for completion in July 2013.

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