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Major Cities Unit

Posted in Policies by Maeztri on November 11th, 2008

The section below is republished with permission from the Going Solar Transport Newsletter #84, 4 November 2008, compiled by Stephen Ingrouille. Going Solar newsletter provides an excellent commentary on local sustainable transport issues in Melbourne.

“If Australia is to maintain our prosperity, our cities must become more productive, more competitive, more innovative. At the same time they must be sustainable. … To make our cities more liveable and to improve the quality of life and sense of community for all who live in them. For this to happen we must have a long term vision for our cities. … Meeting the climate change challenge requires a whole of government approach which must include the planning of our cities. We must engage in the debate about the impact of alternative urban policy visions on climate change. For example,this is an important context when we are debating the planning of higher density housing alongside better public transport corridors. Or considering decentralised commercial centres which minimise the need for people to travel long distances to work, and provide community infrastructure where people live. …

“Thats why the Government has created the Major Cities Unit which is attached to Infrastructure Australia. This initiative puts the Federal Government squarely back in the business of urban policy and planning. The Major Cities Unit will provide advice to the Government on urban development, public transport improvements and other issues affecting the productivity, competitiveness, sustainability and liveability of Australias cities. It will enable consideration of urban policies in their proper context. Consideration of transport, energy, water, communications and community infrastructure networks as a whole, rather than as unconnected issues. …

“The first objective of the Major Cities Unit is to improve productivity through action to reduce urban congestion and ensure people and goods move efficiently across our cities – key drivers of the national economy. Sustainability is the second objective. … The third objective, liveability, will ensure communities are better planned around jobs, families, public transport options, schools, services, shops and parks. … In particular, we know that to really make a difference we need reform and action on the ground, in our neighbourhoods and our local communities. … We have provided $75 million for state governments to undertake a series of extensive studies on projects that have the potential to unclog city roads.”

Ref: Extracts from an address by Federal Minister Anthony Albanese to the Global Cities 08 Conference in Sydney, 22/10/08

We congratulate Minister Albanese and the Federal Government for vigorously pursuing this policy – but the alarm bells ring with the classic ‘Hollow Men speak – talking about sustainable cities while at the same time funding major road projects with billions of dollars. A test will be on how much of the $20b Infrastructure Fund goes on road projects. Even much of the Major Cities Studies $75m is going to projects like the M5 in Sydney, the road tunnel in Melbourne, the Gateway Motorway missing links in Brisbane, and the Bruce Highway in northern Queensland.

Incidentally I have been advocating for a sustainable cities program for several years. Here is an extract from Issue 30 of the House of Representatives (Federal Parliament) Magazine:

“We are stuck in dysfunctional cities, according to the Member for Reid (NSW), Laurie Ferguson. Speaking in the House of Representatives, Mr Ferguson said we need to start reassessing our over-reliance on motor vehicles, which is contributing significantly to pollution, congestion, loss of amenity and social exclusion in our cities. Mr Ferguson suggested that consideration be given to the establishment of a sustainable cities authority that will work with existing federal, state, territory and local government bodies and agencies to seek out and encourage innovative and sustainable transport solutions. He said its an idea put forward by Stephen Ingrouille from the Going Solar environmental consultancy, with whom Mr Ferguson recently met. ‘In effect, this will be a ‘better cities program that also aids rural and regional areas, Mr Ferguson said. ‘Under this proposal a sustainable cities authority would ultimately have offices in every state and territory. The SCA would work with existing departments in each region, including transport, tourism, infrastructure, planning, environment, sustainability, health and regional development. Each regional SCA would interact with and seek advice from local technical and community organisations, as well as other relevant government agencies. Mr Ferguson said the solution is not to throw money at the problem but is more to do with the initial design of new suburbs and the renovation of existing suburban areas. ‘This task is currently outside the expertise of our existing agencies, he said.”
Ref: About the House #30, March 2007

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