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Future tropical cities

Infrastructure affects populations

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Written By

Stephanie Schierhuber


College of Business, Law and Governance

Publish Date

18 November 2019

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Identifying challenges

In the last 10 years, the population of the Cairns region has grown on average 1.9 per cent annually. Predictions are that two thirds of future population growth in Tropical North Queensland will be in the Cairns region, presenting unique challenges for urban and economic development.

JCU’s Dr Taha Chaiechi, Australian Director of the Centre for International Trade and Business in Asia (CITBA), is spearheading a collaborative approach to these challenges with the 2019 Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC).

Introduced by the United Nations Habitat Committee in 2014, UTCs are spaces for the local community to come together to explore the issues unique to the place they live in. While each UTC event is unique, they share concerns about the future of their local habitats.

“The issue is that megacities are on the rise, small cities are growing fast, and we are losing rural population due to lack of economic opportunities. So, cities are becoming bigger and bigger and more congested and, in many instances, there is no proper design and planning around how these cities are sprawling and expanding.”

Bringing everyone together

For the Cairns UTC event, Urban Design, Economic Growth, and the Jobs of the Future in the Tropics, Taha, an applied economist, says she has one clear goal.

“My ultimate goal is that we understand a framework, or develop a toolkit, that we can use for the future in order to create climate resilient cities. Cities that are not only a place to live but places that are business destinations and social destinations, so everything together.”

The difference of the UTC model is the required inclusion of a diverse cross-section of the population to discuss issues and formulate solutions.

“You have to involve the local authorities, academia, private organisations, women, children, young and older persons, professionals, businesses, farmers, Indigenous peoples and more. It has to be participatory and inclusive.”

While the Cairns UTC event formulates solutions to local issues, it will contribute to a constellation of events that create change on a global scale.

“The report [from the Cairns UTC] goes back to the United Nations Habitat and everybody can see it becomes a learning tool as well for other areas and regions, so it’s a dialogue that starts at a small scale and becomes really huge and global.”

For Taha, this small scale done large approach makes the events even more valuable. Visit the Urban World Campaign Website to learn more.

“If you click on the location you want on the interactive map you can see everything about that event including participation, teams, presentations, and the final report. So imagine, you might be in the most remote area in the world but having access to the internet gives you access to this fascinating brainstorming and conversation that is taking pace globally... It’s like a huge human knowledge library about our habitat.”

"My ultimate goal is that we understand a framework, or develop a toolkit, that we can use for the future in order to create climate resilient cities."
Dr Taha Chaiechi, Associate Professor

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Dr Taha Chaiechi

Associate Professor

Dr Taha Chaiechi is Australia Director, Centre for International Trade and Business in Asia, at JCU, where she is also an Associate Professor of Economics. She is also an Associate Fellow in Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia.

Taha is an expert in systematic modelling of relationships between economic, environmental, and social variables. Taha’s research attitude is holistic and inspired by issues in climate change and natural disasters, and their impact on different economic sectors. Since 2011, Taha has been collaborating in several research projects exceeding $1 million in value.