Industry groups unite to support national urban policy

KEY industry, professional and academic groups have united to support Australia's cities and the development of a new national urban policy.

In a half-page statement in the Weekend Australian, titled 'Cities are everyone's business', the groups sought to dispel the idea that "one side 'supports' suburban sprawl and the other density", calling it media reporting that "betrays the complexity of our cities and the diversity of our communities… [and] denies our cities their great potential to change for the better."

The statement, supported by groups including the Australian Institute of Architects, Consult Australia, Green Building Council of Australia, the Planning Institute of Australia, the Property Council of Australia and the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects states that cities are not "short term political game-boards".

Rather, the groups say cities are "complex social, economic and ecological systems facing huge challenges". With "creative thinking, careful planning and good design", the groups see cities as places that can "promote the health and wellbeing of all Australians."

In the statement, the groups call for development that responds to community diversity. A compact urban form is seen as beneficial in well-defined areas due to its ability to "deliver positive cultural, environmental and economic benefits". On the other hand, development on the edge of cities is supported where necessary and where it is done so in "the most socially and environmentally responsible manner".

The groups call for well-informed political leadership and a bipartisan approach to urban policy across all tiers of government and support the development of a National Urban Policy and a broad public conservation about the future of Australia's cities.

Following the release of the statement, the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) called it a "historic show of cooperation and solidarity" that "sends a clear message that the long term future of our cities is too important to be compromised for short term political gain."

PIA President Neil Savery said the critical issues of urban design and development have recently been political playthings with media fuelling the fire.

"How our cities grow and develop for the benefit of future communities is at the heart of this stance," Mr Savery said.

Mr Savery said the complexities involved in designing and planning cities are often ignored for the sake of an argument over urban sprawl verses higher density.

"It's not a matter of debating one against the other. We believe the future of our cities requires a new non-partisan approach to urban policy across all tiers of government to achieve genuinely liveable, sustainable cities."

Green Building Council of Australia Chief Executive, Romilly Madew, said Australia's cities are confronted by significant long-term challenges that can only be addressed successfully through a nationally-consistent approach.

Other signatories to the statement include the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors; the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC); Woodhead; Woods Bagot; The University of South Australia; University of Melbourne; QUT; RMIT; University of Tasmania; Timothy Horton, South Australian Commissioner for Integrated Design; Professor Richard Weller from the University of Western Australia; Emeritus Professor Catherin Bull AM; Adjunct Professor John Stanley from the University of Sydney's Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies; Professor Mike Young, Executive Director, The Environment Institute, The University of Adelaide; Dr Sam Ridgway, Acting Head, School of Architecture, Landscape Architecture & Urban Design; The University of Adelaide; Urban Design Forum; University of Technology Sydney; Landscape Architects Australia and Architecture Australia.

The statement follows the release of a discussion paper by the Australian Government, titled 'Our Cities - building a productive, sustainable and liveable future'. The paper sets out the Australian Government's thinking on a national approach to urban development and the challenges that must be addressed in cities. The discussion paper sets out the basis for a National Urban Policy to be released in 2011.

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