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Inner city living ‘for all’

THE Labor Party would ensure that the inner city does not become a “ghetto for the rich” because economic and cultural diversity was important for the vibrancy of the city, according to Shadow Minister for Planning Alannah MacTiernan.

The redevelopment of the Railway Institute next to the old Gobbles Night Club in Wellington Street by Homeswest (now the Ministry of Housing) when Labor was in power illustrated the Party’s commitment to ensuring the city was available for all, she said.

“There are a lot of good broad-brush arguments which support the notion of inner city development, so from a prudent financial and economic point of view we should be doing this,” Ms MacTiernan told a recent gathering of the Inner City Housing Developers’ Association.

But she said there was a need to ensure that original land users were not threatened by the growth in inner city living.

“I have concerns that sometimes we do go a bit overboard with the new orthodoxy and the idea of the intermingling of the residential, particularly with the entertaining area – I believe is fraught with difficulties,” she said.

“What’s the impact of this, why don’t we hear about this? Is it because the planners don’t actually go out after 2am? Aren’t they aware that this is actually a problem?

“I believe this will become a problem for an area like Northbridge. It is only in Northbridge where you get the opportunity for all-night entertainment.”

She said an example was the old Austoria Hotel and the adjacent footwear factory at the corner of Newcastle and Lake streets, which was converted into residential apartments.

“I opposed the conversion of this to residential based on my experiences … that it would lead to the demise of some of the recreational opportunities in that area.

“And, sure enough, within three months of the first resident being bought into that area, there was a petition lodged against the continued dusk to dawn operation of (the Austoria Hotel) and it eventually closed down.

“I have concerns that sometimes we do go a bit over board with the new orthodoxy and the idea of the intermingling of the residential, particularly with the entertaining area.”

– Alannah MacTiernan

“That is something we have to think about in terms of the co-location.”

She said there were a lot of people in the inner suburbs who were concerned about the way more expensive and larger homes were encroaching on the area and destroying its character.

It was important that the development of big houses on small blocks be reviewed to ensure the suburbs kept their ambience.

She reiterated Labor’s commitment to combining Main Roads, Transport and the Ministry of Planning into one department.

It would advantage developers because they would have to deal with fewer agencies.

“Main Roads has basically been dismantled as a builder of roads. It is now reduced to a shell of basic contract management and a planning function,” Ms MacTiernan said.

“We get complaints from Transport that Main Roads’ planning often runs counter to their public transport plans.

“Main Roads do tend to have a rather outmoded road-orientated planning agenda.

“Likewise, we often hear from the Ministry of Planning that they are concerned that the Department of Transport is taking very little account of land-use planning in developing their planning policy and new green field sites are developed without integration of transport and particularly public transport into those developments.”

She said the idea of having an entire Government department based on a particular mode of transport was very problematic.

“We would take the view that in planning for transport, be it in freight or human transport, we should start of from a basis that is neutral to the actual mode of transport used,” she said.

At the moment each agency was trying to push the particular form of transport which would keep the department in existence, she said.

“That is why we don’t have the ratio right between road development and rail development and, indeed, that is why we haven’t seen more of the innovative stuff coming from the planning department being more widely and genuinely implemented,” Ms MacTiernan said.

She said this model had been successfully implemented in Victoria.

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