WA threatens to teach the east

I HAVE just visited Perth on one of those things Barry Humphries’ Sir Les Patterson used to refer to as a ‘fact finding mission’.

Unlike his imaginary wanderings, mine weren’t funded by his mate – the Australian taxpayer. It was one of those tri-annual “catch up with family and check out the lay of the land” sort of things.

I am no stranger to the west. I have worked here. Half my family married and lived here for a time and, more recently, I had the privilege of managing the opening of the new hydro scheme in the Kimberley.

Even so, nothing could prepare me for what I saw in the west this time around.

As a consultant from the eastern seaboard, principally Melbourne, I wanted to see how Perth was living.

I knew homes were cheap compared to Melbourne or Sydney and I knew land was ridiculously affordable. This I always put down to the fact that you buy a block of land in Perth and you buy a block of sand.

You buy land in Melbourne and you buy a nice block of dirt just waiting for the garden. At worst you buy a block of clay and put dirt on top.

Additionally, the idea of drilling for water to keep things alive is also largely unheard of in the east.

Drill in much of Sydney or Melbourne and you’d probably only discover China. It is not something we do and I’m sure if you did, the council would find a way to stop you.

The thing about Perth and the new residential real estates is that it is ground breaking.

It is best practice. It mirrors the best from around the world – and it collectively leaves anything in the eastern states for dead.

It is not so many years ago that a Melbourne developer would clear a few acres, whack in a sewer and a water line and bung up a sign. You had to imagine the rest.

With a population growth and the emergence of better salaries, two people working and some dissatisfaction with traditional suburban living, people wanted to create a new lifestyle that reflected their social climb.

Competition became intense and developers had to go the extra mile by putting in an entry treatment that was the promise of the end result (although it rarely was), while secretly bemoaning the fact that this was coming off their bottom line.

Today, in most instances, it is simply built into the price of the land.

There are many development companies in the east that do a superb job in the creation of new neighbourhoods.

However, look at Melbourne or Sydney as a whole and you won’t see the overall scale of excellence and creativity that is manifest in Perth.

You could go to twenty new addresses in Perth and come away with your head spinning.

They all have an entry that must make residents feel like they belong to an exclusive resort. They all have these lakes and water features that are seriously huge and look like they were created by the Almighty himself.

Trees are mature in every sense of the word and the lawns look like golf greens – without exception.

We make do with semi-mature saplings that take years to grow and lawns that are tough and broad of leaf, purpose grown to be indestructible.

So what exactly left me gasping? Limestone (or are they sandstone?) fences, retaining walls and features. Wonderful public spaces, pocket parks and ribbon parks. thoroughfares bordered with trees and gardens that surely predate European settlement.

Pergolas straight from Tuscany, picnic patios that do justice to Double Bay, hectares of lawns so trim that I swear Perth’s mowing men turn up with a hearth brush and nail scissors.

That little piece of Amsterdam in East Perth where some trendy and visionary designer has even been responsible for details like public seats.

Joondalup – where it’s hard to believe the developers and the council did not visit the celebrated new Celebration City created by Disney Corporation in the US.

What a place! What a vision! What a result! And everywhere, all this bloody water that just beckons you to the doorstep.

Ranford, Livingston, Mindarie Keys, Regent Waters, Lake View Rise, Sanctuary Waters, The Avenues, Wara-tah, Brookland Park, Port Mandurah, Meadow Springs, Secret Harbour, Port Bouvard. Just for starters!

Every residential developer and municipal council in the east should visit Perth and learn something because this is how it should be done.

In fifteen years of working on projects where people live and work, I have never witnessed anything so inspirational. Perth has attained a benchmark that others can only dream about.

Well, for a while anyway.

• Dick Millot is a marketing and design consultant and principal of Melbourne-based firm, Millott & Mackness

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