Despite the increasing sophistication of systems thinking in urban planning literature, vestiges of linear-reductionist and single-issue approaches remain.1 For example, discussions of sustainable urban form oen assume there must be an ideal shape, such as compact or dispersed, vertical or horizontal. e dominant view is still that increasing urban residential density, oen called ‘urban consolidation’, is a universal urban sustainability solution.2 e mismatch between this single issue approach and the complex nature of the urban environment can lead to erroneous policies and indicators. For example, the only indicator pertaining to urban development in a Canberra sustainability plan was ‘the amount of new development within 15 kilometres of the city core’. is was regardless of how much total development occurred outside the city, or whether future development was ecologically sound.3 us, new non-sustainable buildings, infrastructure and materials would signify progress toward sustainability, as long as growth occurred within 15 kilometres of the city core. One might have thought that, in a sustainability plan, urban population would depend more on such things as carrying capacity and renewable sources of energy and water (ie the extent to which water, soil and energy supply are replenished naturally).