THE Australian Government has released a discussion paper on national urban policy in Australia. 'Our Cities - building a productive, sustainable and liveable future' sets out the Australian Government's thinking on a national approach to urban development and the challenges that must be addressed in cities.
The purpose of the discussion paper is to frame the Australian Government's policy approach to cities as the basis for a National Urban Policy to be released in 2011. It will establish national directions and objectives for our cities to prepare for the future.
The discussion recognises the importance of good planning and governance and aims to stimulate a national discussion on the outcomes we need for our cities. The report is open for public comment and feedback until 1 March 2011.
The discussion paper was welcomed by industry groups, including the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA), Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) and Property Council of Australia.
GBCA Chief Executive, Romilly Madew, said the discussion paper is an important step towards a national urban policy which delivers an integrated approach to planning, building, improving and measuring the performance of our cities.
PIA National President, Neil Savery, said "cities and major urban regions are vital to the future of Australia… PIA commends the Government in taking this important step in taking a more integrated approach in planning for the future of our cities."
With approximately 75 percent of Australia's population living in cities of more than 100,000 people and a predicted population of around 36 million by 2050, Mr Savery said "a more integrated and collaborative approach to planning for urban regions will help tackle the more immediate issues facing urban communities like traffic congestion, housing affordability and access to local services."
Property Council CEO, Peter Verwer, said he applauded the commitment of the government to a national role in urban affairs. "Our cities require national leadership and a coordinated approach from all levels of government if we are to truly create more productive, sustainable and liveable cities," Mr Verwer said.
"Cities are a key part of the nation-building agenda because the performance of our cities is vital to the performance of our economy and our future prosperity."
The discussion paper identifies two important reasons for a national urban policy. Firstly, because cities are "integral to our economy, and where the majority of Australians live." Secondly, "urgent challenges need to be addressed if we are to secure the long term productivity, sustainability and liveability of our nation."
Major challenges identified in the discussion paper include population ageing, population growth and climate change and the environment.
As outlined in the paper, the government has three main 'aspirations' for cities: that they increasingly become more productive, sustainable and liveable. It also aims to strengthen governance arrangements. To achieve these aspirations, the discussion paper outlines a number of 'areas of priority' for national engagement in cities:
- Improving labour and capital productivity
- Integrating land use and infrastructure planning
- Protecting corridors, sites and buffers
- Investing in urban passenger transport
- Improving economic infrastructure
- Utilising smart infrastructure
- Enhancing connectivity through the National Broadband Network
- Supporting education, research and innovation
- Protecting and sustaining our natural environment
- Improving water, energy and food security
- Reducing resource consumption
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality
- Increasing resilience to the effects of climate change
- Balancing infill and greenfield development
- Facilitating the supply of appropriate housing
- Supporting affordable living
- Improving transport options and reducing our dependence on private motor vehicles
- Improving the quality of the public domain
- Improving public health outcomes
- Redressing spatially concentrated social disadvantage
- Improving the planning and management of cities
- Streamlining administrative processes
More information on the discussion paper, 'Our Cities - building a productive, sustainable and liveable future', is available from the Department of Infrastructure website at <http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/>. The paper is open for public comment until 1 March 2011.