25/09/2015 - 13:48

Turnbull backs cities of the future

25/09/2015 - 13:48

Bookmark

Save articles for future reference.

The government of Malcolm Turnbull moved quickly to differentiate itself from that of Tony Abbott with some key cabinet announcements –including the reintroduction of the position of a minster for cities and the built environment.

ON THE GROUND: Light rail helps make cities ‘walkable’, and the six most walkable cities in the US have 38 per cent higher GDP than the rest.

The government of Malcolm Turnbull moved quickly to differentiate itself from that of Tony Abbott with some key cabinet announcements –including the reintroduction of the position of a minster for cities and the built environment.

Mr Turnbull stressed he would be emphasising innovation as a focus of his government, and that this would mean being much more rail-oriented than the ideologically anti-rail approach of his predecessor.

“Roads are not better than mass transit or vice versa, each of them has their place,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Infrastructure should be assessed objectively and rationally on its merits. There is no place for ideology here at all. The critical thing is to ensure that we get the best outcome in our cities.”  

Off the back of these announcements, Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett said he hoped a Turnbull government would now help fund major rail projects in WA.

In 2013, WA had an election that was all about public transport and we were promised several new rail projects – especially light rail. Then the federal government intervened and said it knew better and would give us nothing but big roads.

Now, just a couple of years later, the appointment of a minister for cities and the statements about transport are really reinvigorating the opportunity we already had identified for ourselves.

Perhaps the people of WA did not see light rail as innovative economics, but it is. Not only is it nice to have, the easiest and most convenient way to get around a traffic jam, a rail system does so much more than just add aesthetics.

It does what roads and buses can’t do; it adds long-term 21st century development to an economy.

The new book The End of Automobile Dependence (Newman and Kenworthy) makes it clear those cities that have sought rail solutions to building their cities are doing much better economically. Car-based sprawl going outwards is expensive for governments and those who must pay for the transport, energy and power associated with it. The next-generation cities are coming back inwards and creating new knowledge-economy jobs around dense re-urbanisation with less car dependence, less fossil fuels and more innovative face-to-face community. 

The six most walkable cities in the US have 38 per cent higher GDP than the rest of the US cities. Light rail is how you make a walkable city. You need large numbers of people without them having cars, to make a city walkable, liveable and desirable.

Why bring this to your attention? Because it is particularly important to the WA economy. During the past two years we’ve witnessed negative growth in business investment and state final demand, resulting in the slowdown in the economy.

At the same time, a fledging technology industry is visible in the economic data, which to some extent could start filling that gap if it thrives. If we don’t support it, it won’t make up that difference.

Either way, people in that fledgling technology industry with high-margin jobs and high skills are exactly the type of people that will move here if they see rail infrastructure and denser urbanism. 

Spacecubed’s Brodie McCulloch, who founded the co-working and innovation space on St Georges Terrace, which is home to 650 small and medium size businesses, says that light rail is: “Expected, rather than a nice to have, especially from knowledge workers and people in high-value jobs”.

It’s for exactly this reason that we see rail infrastructure, not as a matter of a smoother ride, but how much we want our economy to grow in the years to come.

Mr Turnbull’s appointment of a minister for cities is giving us the opportunity to build a bit more in that direction. Perth has always been a good place to live and a good place to start a business. It’s part of our lingo. What we are talking about is a recognition that Perth’s built environment could be the home to a whole lot more innovative businesses.

Lets get on with it. 

Jemma Green & Peter Newman

Curtin University

P.Newman@curtin.edu.au

jemma.green@curtin.edu.au

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options