26/05/2011 - 00:00

Not powerful, but passion and influence drive Hicks

26/05/2011 - 00:00

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HE’S chairman of the East Perth Redevelopment Authority and heads up the Perth Waterfront Taskforce, but don’t call Stuart Hicks powerful; instead, he says, it’s influence he’s wielding to build a 21st century face for the city.

HE’S chairman of the East Perth Redevelopment Authority and heads up the Perth Waterfront Taskforce, but don’t call Stuart Hicks powerful; instead, he says, it’s influence he’s wielding to build a 21st century face for the city.

The former director general of transport, chair and chief of Transperth and a former WA Planning Commissioner, Mr Hicks’ career can be traced across the shape of the city.

And his current responsibilities have put him at the coalface of two of the four projects Premier Colin Barnett has staked his leadership on – the Perth City Link and the development of the city foreshore.

It’s work that will redefine the shape and vibrancy of the city for generations to come, and Mr Hicks clearly brings a passion and energy to his part in this transformation.

“To chair these sorts of things is to attempt to build a shared view or direction,” Mr Hicks said. “If I can hold that crucible, that space in which we can all actually work together, then we will do ... something sensational to the south face of our city.”

Mr Hicks has been intimately involved in the development of Perth for more than three decades, after arriving from Melbourne to take up a nine-month contract.

This work led to his appointment as deputy director general of transport while still in his 20s.

In 1984 he was invited to go to the then MTT (now Transperth) as its chairman and chief executive.

“Those were pretty terrible days for public transport in Perth, the railway system was a diesel system and it was decrepit, the Fremantle line had been closed and the City of Perth was running a campaign ‘Your Car Is As Welcome As You Are’,” Mr Hicks said.

“I was still very young, just 35, and the challenge was to take over public transport arrangements and see what I could do to turn it around.”

Mr Hicks’ work underpinned the reopening of the Fremantle rail line, the electrification of the system and the opening of the Joondalup line.

With Perth now grappling with serious traffic congestion, he warned we need to get smart to ensure the city doesn’t seize up.

“What Perth has done is changed its face four times in its history; the first time was the 1820s when it was built, the second time was in the 1890s with federation and the gold rush, the third was in the mid 1950s to the mid 1960s when we grew out of a provincial town and started to develop as a city,” Mr Hicks said.

“The fourth significant period is the one we are standing in now.”

The Perth City Link and the sinking of the railway line between the city and Northbridge will shift the city’s ‘activity centre’.

This shift from a long linear, east-west shape to a north-south axis will reconnect the city with Northbridge and the river so the city can “put its feet back into the water”.

“The really great privilege for those of us who are involved in it is to have the opportunity to help the city make that change,” Mr Hicks said.

But there are obstacles ahead and Mr Hicks warned that Perth needed to learn from the mistakes of Australia’s other big cities.

He said it was crucial the city was viewed as a place for people rather than just a collection of buildings and infrastructure, and to do this he said we needed to find a voice that was uniquely Western Australian.

“We as a city and a state have a much stronger sense of our identity,” Mr Hicks said.

“And there are some fantastic historical opportunities in spinning that city’s north-south axis because the blood and spit and muscle of the city is also the humanity of the city.”

 

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