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Melbourne—a water sensitive—and wonderful—city

Even more quirky and beautiful than I last remember it, Melbourne has so many Wow factors. Last time I was here several years ago I was hooked by the art gallery and the young fashion designer stores and impressed by the work Melbourne Water was doing on water use efficiency.

This trip I’m totally wowed by Day 1 of the National Speakers Association of Australia conference, a mix of outstanding workshops, mindblowing keynote opening speeches and comedy that had us all weeping with laughter. Comedy MC Andrew Horabin poked fun at speakers’ self-obsession in a sidesplitting audience advisory, and as the wonderful Melbourne Age puts it, Fiona Scott-Norman has a ‘forensic knowledge of bad music’ and is absolutely hilarious. She’s at the Melbourne comedy festival until April 24th and is worth crossing the Tasman (or indeed any other ocean) to see.

And my cynical old soul was totally wowed by Kevin Roberts, the New York-based CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi: PR and advertising leave me cold (possibly something to do with not owning a television?) but his keynote on ‘Building a personal and business brand your clients will love’ had me leaping onto my chair to take part in the standing ovation at the end. His book ‘Lovemarks’ is on sale at the convention and having dismissed it yesterday, I may have to make the purchase today. A mix of iconoclastic humor, astute observation and deep insight, he talked a lot about the need for creativity, something I’m reading, speaking and writing about myself at the moment. If you ever get the chance to see him speak, do it!

There are now two days of convention proper followed by another day of workshops. On Tuesday I have arranged some meetings to talk about how the civil contracting business is going in Australia and the work that is being done here on catchment (watershed) management planning. Melbourne is such a beautiful city, and the Yarra River and the parks around it are teeming with rowers, runners, walkers and admirers of the lovely scenery. It is all much greener than last time I was here. They have had more rain than usual over the summer and though as we flew in over the city I could see the reservoirs were much less than full, they are at about 53% compared with 25% or less this time last year. No wonder they are keen on water management!

Melbourne is also the base of Rebekah Brown, Director Director of Monash University’s Centre for Water Sensitive Cities, which runs a wonderful urban water governance program. There are loads of resources on the website and her work is well worth a look, focusing as it does on the ecological, economic, social and cultural benefits of healthy waterways.

My friend with whom I’m staying (in one of the gorgeous spacious old apartments at which Australian cities excel) works at Sustainability Victoria – this is a model other places could do well to adopt: a formal government mandate to investigate, promote and support more sustainable living. But then, Australia is very obviously hitting its ecological limits. Will the rest of us set up similar initiatives in a timely fashion?

Wonder if I’ll see the fabulous hot air balloons again today as I wend my way to the conference…?