15/04/2010 - 00:00

Transport the key to suburban growth

15/04/2010 - 00:00

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WITH Perth on the cusp of a population boom, the city’s urban planners are mindful it is not just the central business district that is required to grow.

Transport the key to suburban growth

WITH Perth on the cusp of a population boom, the city’s urban planners are mindful it is not just the central business district that is required to grow.

While public debate has centred on the impact of major projects such as the Waterfront, the Link and Riverside, executives at the recent WA Business News boardroom forum were mindful the entire city needs careful planning to accommodate an expected influx of people.

Western Australian Planning Commission chairman Gary Prattley told the forum the commission was working on projections of 3.5 million people living in Perth by 2050.

Hames Sharley principal Bill Hames said the WAPC, the Department of Planning and the state government had great responsibility to ensure population growth was managed through the metropolitan area, to limit urban sprawl.

He estimated that if Perth’s population grew just to 2.3 million, and the state government’s urban infill target of 47 per cent was met, 154,000 extra people would need housing in the inner-city and surrounding suburbs.

“If South Perth took 5 per cent of that, that’s 8,000 dwelling units in a community that’s only got 19,000 dwelling units today,’’ Mr Hames said.

“So what are you going to do with it? How are you going to accommodate it?

“You can get, as I call it, the vegemite spread, or you can start to do it around transport oriented developments and increasing densities.

“You’re not going to do it, and this is the one thing that I think you can send a very strong message back to government, you’re not going to do this with the current public transport system.”

Mr Hames advocated a light rail network, starting in the CBD, to avoid the road traffic snarl which can result from rapid growth.

He said even if built gradually in stages over 10 years, light rail would go a long way towards linking the CBD to the suburbs and decreasing residents’ reliance on car.

University of Western Australia senior urban planning lecturer Paul Maginn agreed that a critical factor in linking major public projects to the rest of the metropolitan area was transport infrastructure.

“It’s really about projects that are taking place in the city, rather than the whole thing about how these projects come together for an image of the city as a whole,” Mr Maginn said.

“Really it goes beyond the city, because when we mention the word city here we think of the City of Perth, but it’s really about the much wider spatial dynamics that have gone on in the metropolitan region.”

He said a whole-of-city approach was difficult, however, because of the proliferation of local government authorities.

“We have 30 local governments in the metropolitan area, so we’ve got a fractured and often quite conflicted governance arrangement,” Mr Maginn said.

“When you come up with strategic ideas and big plans which might sit within a particular jurisdiction but have significance across the metropolitan region, you get everybody kind of jumping up and down and saying it’s bad or it’s good.”

TPG director Peter Simpson is concerned state and local governments don’t work in conjunction with one another to achieve the best outcomes.

“I’ve done a fair bit of work in the City of Perth and surrounding areas and it’s amazing, the level of competition,” Mr Simpson said.

“There seems to be a disconnect between where the state government is pushing and where the local governments are pushing. None of them is coordinating any of their actions to try and achieve the outcome.

“I know there’s reform going on, but I’m not necessarily convinced the reform will bring those results. I think there might need to be some other legislative mechanisms to bring that to a head, otherwise all we’re doing is someone coming up with a good idea for parts of the city that can’t be implemented in other parts of the city.”

City of Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi said for real progress to occur there needed to be an involuntary amalgamation of local government authorities.

“We’re an eight square kilometre capital city authority, we need to have that amalgamation now, not in another five or 10 years’ time, because we’ll miss that surplus time again.

“I think the redrawing of the local government boundary map needs to be done from a higher level, it needs to be totally interventional, and it needs to be done and dusted. This theorising about whether governments are going to agree to merge is just rubbish.”

Future Perth vice-chair Michael Di Lazzaro agreed local government reform was necessary, and cited the Brisbane model of governance, where there is a single overarching body overseeing major projects for the entire city, as a framework to emulate.

“We really need wholesale local government reform and I think the Brisbane model is a good one to follow,” Mr Di Lazzaro said.

“Brisbane city council has 1 million residents and it has financial power to build large-scale projects. We should not have more than five or six local authorities, and I think we need to move away from the idea of local authorities to a regional authority.

“Regional governance will go a long way to providing the necessary infrastructure and framework to allow places to grow.”

 

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