Peter prescribes a sleepless Perth

PERTH could become a city that never sleeps with a redeveloped Swan River foreshore and lively back lanes in 10 years if Lord Mayor Peter Nattrass has his way.

The Swan River redevelopment is probably closest to his heart. He wants the foreshore made more accessible to the public from Crawley Bay around to the Causeway.

The Perth City Council is pursuing a plan to have Riverside Drive turned from its three-road format to a single dual carriageway that will be sunk for almost its entire length.

Initial works on that plan will start to the west of the Belltower.

Inner city residents are expected to play a major role in turning Perth into a city that never sleeps.

In the past four years there has been a 420 per cent increase in inner city residential development applications. There are 2,000 developments either under construction or planned for construction within the next two years.

Perth’s inner city population growth rate is seven times that of Adelaide’s. In fact, it has the second highest population growth rate of any Australian city, even outperforming Sydney in its Olympic year.

“Inner city living will bring people into the city around the clock and a lively city makes for a safe city,” Dr Nattrass said.

However, he said people could not come into the city and expect the same amenities they enjoyed in the suburbs, such as plentiful off-street residential parking and quiet streets.

“When people come into the city they must realise there are disadvantages along with the advantages,” Dr Nattrass said.

“It is noisier and there is a lack of facilities for things such as cars. There should be a provision for one car bay per house. Any more than that is expecting too much.”

Dr Nattrass expects the bulk of inner city residents to be young couples who will leave the city for the suburbs when they start planning families.

He believes the success of the city in attracting residents and visitors is to do with its look.

“The city has developed in a ‘pleasant’ way. We’ve resisted the temptation to push for development to the detriment of the overall attractiveness of the city,” Dr Nattrass said.

“It’s still an attractive city, even though it has grown in size and population.

“The things that interest me are the things that people see. We’re replacing concreted areas with gardens. We’re making sure the city’s green areas are green and the street furniture is co-ordinated. An attractive city is one people want to live and work in.

“It’s the visual things that people judge the council’s performance and the city by.”

Dr Nattrass said a camera was his greatest weapon in the fight to beautify the city.

“When I find areas that are not up scratch I take a photo of it and point it out to the people involved with it. It’s a way to get people interested in looking after their city,” he said.

“The way we get the city looking better is by focussing on little areas at a time and hammering away at them.”

The council once had strong financial links with the WA Government through the Perth – A City for People program. Those links have dwindled over the years but Dr Nattrass believes this has not hurt the relationship between the two organisations.

Through the program, the WA Government matched council expenditure dollar for dollar on city beautification projects.

“I think the Perth – A City for People program dwindled for the Government because it saw a need to give more emphasis to the broader metropolitan and rural areas,” Dr Nattrass said.

“The project worked well for the three years it was in operation but the city is really our (council’s) responsibility. Having said that, I wouldn’t refuse funds from the State or Federal governments.”

Dr Nattrass hopes the Federal funding made available for road improvements around Australia could be used to beautify the back lanes around the city.

“I want to make better use of Perth’s rear lanes, do them up and put in attractive lighting,” he said.

“The possibilities for putting in cafe-type settings are enormous.”

Dr Nattrass’ involvement with council began because he had lived, schooled and worked within its boundaries all of his life.

“Kings Park and the city have been my backyard and front yard,” he said.

“It becomes part of your life. From a financial view point it is a silly decision.”

Dr Nattrass can only spare a fraction of his time for his gynaecological practice that he spent 17 years training for and building up.

“But as you get older you find you have to do what’s best for you, what you enjoy the most,” he said.

“There have been some shocking times and some wonderful times on council. I think I would be a bit lost without it.”

Dr Nattrass became the first Lord Mayor of the “new” Perth City Council that was created by the break up of the old City of Perth.

That break up created the Towns of Vincent, Cambridge and Victoria Park.

He had been a member of the old council for about 17 years before the break up.

Although Dr Nattrass has been Perth’s Lord Mayor for more than five years and on council for 24, he remains an enigma – at least to many of his constituents.

He calls himself a non-politician, yet both his foes and supporters say he plays the campaigning game better than just about anyone in town.

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