While Australia’s Gold Coast might brand itself as being famous for fun, in years past it’s been better known for its gang crime and hedonistic nightlife. Yet with the Queensland city of 550,000 set to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the Gold Coast is on the up.
“I would say that Progressive Paradise is a more appropriate tagline,” says Vanessa Brennan, managing director of Clemenger bbdo Queensland, making reference to the glitter strip’s most famous suburb, Surfers Paradise. “There is such a renewed energy here and having the deadline of the 2018 Commonwealth Games is really fuelling business development, infrastructure and innovation.”
Much of the credit for the improvements should go to successive state governments. First Queensland’s Labor government worked overtime to outmanoeuvre Sydney in its bid to host the games, bringing huge investment into the city. Then in 2013 Queensland’s new Liberal National party premier took on organised crime in the city, granting extraordinary police powers to eradicate the motorcycle gangs menacing its streets.
What’s left today is a beachside metropolis that’s heavy with quality hospitality and cultural venues but light on crime, as well as having an improved public-transport system. It’s still rough around the edges but it’s far closer to the paradise that it claims to be – and it’s not just the locals who have noticed.
“The words ‘Gold Coast’ translate very evocatively in Mandarin,” says Don Morris, co-founder of advertising agency Mojo, which created Qantas’s “I still call Australia home” advertising campaign. Though the city has always attracted tourists, a new flight path from China’s second-tier city Wuhan has boosted the industry further. “International visitors from China now outnumber those from New Zealand and this is happening in no other Australian city.”
The uptick in visitors has been a boon to the Gold Coast’s businesses and property market. Without sacrificing its fun-focused reputation it has managed to grow up – and other Australian cities are beginning to take note.
Urban growth in the South Pacific is on the rise but the effects of climate change pose challenges to city-planning. nzpi’s Planning for Sustainable Development conference, held in Fiji later this year, brings together top global city-planners to explore these issues.
What is the key aim?
The focus is on how we plan for the future based around the UN’s sustainable-development goals. We want to support less developed nations, such as those in the South Pacific.
When developing cities, can urban-planning be more valuable than financial aid?
Government aid is important but it’s also important to put in place frameworks that can help developing cities build meaningful structures with limited resources.
Why is this kind of approach especially important in the South Pacific?
Take Fiji: a tropical cyclone recently put pressure on Suva, its capital. Informal urban settlements sprung up that are more exposed and less resilient than those that could have been built if there had been a framework in place. It would have enabled the government to better plan for settlements in times of disaster – and the cost for developing nations to support cities after natural disasters would decrease too.
Tasmania is experiencing a tourism boom but much needs to be done to help Hobart make the most of it.
Invest in training schemes for young people; unemployment in Tasmania is higher than in mainland Australia.
Take cues from Brisbane’s James Street, a perfect precinct where small businesses prosper.
Follow in the footsteps of Australia’s larger cities’ light-rail plans to ease this growing city’s congestion troubles.
With a runway expansion in the works, Tasmania’s tourism officials should be in Asia selling Hobart’s international airport as the gateway to this beautiful island.
In isolated Western Australia, cars are king. But Perth’s municipal government is aiming to turn the petrol-happy state capital onto pedal power. The government is rolling out bike boulevards where cars are restricted to slow speeds in one lane only and must trail behind cyclists, who take priority across two lanes.
The move follows examples set in the Netherlands and the US. With half of all car trips in balmy Perth averaging fewer than 5km, the new lanes should entice the citizens of one of the world’s healthiest cities to get in the saddle.
Indigenous languages are dying but in the coastal town of Broome in Western Australia, a government plan means that wherever possible, Yawuru words and phrases will be used to name future housing projects.