Sydneys' refit, a change of fortune for New Zealand's "arsehole of the world", and Perth "does a Dubai with its waterfront.
Last year, the numbers of people moving from New Zealand to Australia outnumbered traffic in the other direction by 30,600. Mainly because Australian salaries are worth moving for – and there are more people to date.
Times were when no one in their right mind chose to live in Invercargill, which hangs off the end of New Zealand’s South Island. “The arsehole of the world”, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones called it back in 1965. “We’ve put up with a lot of insults over the years, but that’s what makes the victory all the more sweet,” says Invercargill’s long-serving mayor, Tim Shadbolt. In 2000, the local polytechnic came up with a bold community-funded initiative to attract more young people to the dying rural backwater by scrapping its annual tuition fees of NZ$4,000 (€2,000). Young people from around the country turned their attention to the hick town in the south, and within seven years the Southern Institute of Technology’s annual enrolments have trebled to 5,200, more than 10 per cent of the population. The influx – despite average summer temperatures of a sorry 14C – has provoked a mushrooming of cafés, an increase in property values and a mini boom for local businesses.
“Sustainable Sydney 2030” is the first serious overhaul of Sydney’s planning future in decades (see Monocle issue 11). Among its aims are the restructuring of the Central Business District to make it an easier place to walk, cycle and relax. The strategy is the result of a year of consultation with residents, architects and planners, including Danish architect Jan Gehl. It recommends removing the Cahill Expressway, which cuts across the city’s main ferry terminal and slices the harbour from the city.
In its place would be a park stretching the length of the foreshore. The congested Town Hall area will become another large square while the Central Station will be buried, opening up the space for new shops and offices. Also partially buried will be the Western Distributor motorway. “Many of the projects are about removing the barriers that block people’s participation,” says Alison Holloway of SGS Economics & Planning, which has helped formulate the strategy. It is ambitious, but it is not impossible, she insists.
Sydney in 2030:
01 City will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent compared with 1990. 02 Use of public transport for travel to work will increase by 80 per cent. 03 At least 10 per cent of journeys in the city will be made by bike. See also Sydney report, page 23
Which city has mastered quality of life?
I think it is misleading to say that a city has completely mastered quality of life, but Brisbane is certainly one of the leaders. Indeed, the constant influx of immigrants and visitors pays testament to that. Brisbane has the advantage of being a river city with a very desirable climate, situated between two beautiful coastlines.
What are the three most important elements to make a city tick?
Infrastructure is very important. Only with this in place can a city achieve its full potential, both for residents and businesses. A diverse but integrated community provides for a culturally interesting living experience and a wide range of amenities.
If you could move to any city, where would you go and why?
I would have to say Portland, Oregon. It has an excellent public transport system, one that Brisbane aspires to (see page 28).
Are there “soft” elements that you feel cities are missing?
I think that some cities have become very faceless and impersonal places to live. However, Brisbane does a very good job at keeping its community feel and “matey” attitude in the face of its rapid growth.
Are we being over-governed? Have cities become less fun?
It is important to have rules and regulations but cities should not become “nannies” to their citizens as this impinges on people’s freedom and the variety it brings.
Western Australia is redeveloping Perth’s waterfront. The project will see a little-used part of the city gain new shops, houses and entertainment spaces. The state government is kicking in $A300m (€187m) for stage one of the project, which should start in 2011-2012. It’s a shame the project looks like it was discarded from the drawing board of a Dubai developer. But the state and city are seeing a huge influx of wealth from the region’s mineral resources and obviously fancy a little Aussie bling.