PIA to Federal Government: Fail to plan for a sustainable and liveable nation, plan to fail

THE Planning Institute of Australia last week said it strongly supports NSW Education Minister and PIA Honorary Fellow Rob Stokes' comments that there has been a lack of action on part of the Federal Government to 'future-proof' Australia through national urban and regional planning.

"The State Governments of our biggest cities have been left out in the cold to deal with exploding populations and the immense stresses this puts on infrastructure. At the same time, our smaller cities such as Adelaide face the same social and economic fate as Detroit as their citizens move interstate to escape an increasing lack of opportunity," PIA said in a statement.

Perth, Western Australia
Above: Perth, Western Australia / by Pedro Szekely.

"This is a responsibility State Governments cannot be expected to resolve effectively in isolation, without strong Federal support and advice through national-level forecasting and strategic planning (including a settlement strategy).

"We therefore echo the Minister's sentiments that Australia urgently needs a nationally-supported strategic vision for the planning of our cities and regions.

"The complexity, speed and scale of change is presenting many uncharted challenges to our already highly-urbanised nation. These challenges include equity and access, social and economic engagement, cultural identity, homelessness, housing affordability, energy and resource use, economic growth and prosperity, and environmental sustainability.

"All of these existing challenges will become steadily more severe in the continuing absence of a progressive and national approach to urbanisation through the charting of urban patterns and crafting of urban policies."

PIA described Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's creation of the Cities portfolio and Smart Cities Plan in 2015 as positive steps in the right direction but said further steps need to be taken to fulfil that vision and meet the increasingly urgent needs around planning at a national level.

"These needs include a national settlement strategy; national urban development policies; urban indicator systems; unified and streamlined national planning approval processes; better and more consistent metropolitan strategic planning; and rational, fair and transparent structures for capturing value from infrastructure investment and development," PIA said.

"'Immigration is the Australian story,' said Minister Stokes, and people will continue to migrate to our cities because they offer the highest levels of liveability in the world. This immigration benefits our existing population – by contributing to our services economy and expanding our narrow taxpayer base, immigration plays a vital role in supporting our ageing population and remaining competitive in the global marketplace.

"However, as Minister Stokes pointed out, the resultant population growth must and can only be adequately planned for at a national level. Otherwise, in his words, "whether it's planning for patient beds, medical services, the number of new schools and where they are located, housing affordability, or transport routes, ultimately we are planning in the dark if we don't know what the population is going to do."

PIA CEO, David Williams, said population growth, climate change and other megatrends are putting ever-increasing pressure on Australian cities.

"If our planners and policy-makers fail to consider at a national level the way our cities develop and operate on a national scale, our liveability and competitiveness will be compromised and diminished," Mr Williams said.

"We join with Minister Stokes in calling on the Federal Government to show greater leadership and start the national conversation on a settlement policy," says David Williams. "We need to ensure that Australia remains the safe, prosperous and resilient place we know and love – and PIA stands ready to advise and assist in any way we can."

Photo: Perth, Western Australia / Pedro Szekely / Licensed under Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0.

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