PLANNING Institute of Australia (PIA) President, Brendan Nelson, has called on the Australian Government to play a more active and engaged role in the future development of Australian cities and adopt a 'strategic lens' in how it impacts urban and regional Australia.
Speaking at the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities public hearing earlier this month, Mr Nelson reinforced that "the Australian Government needs to be acutely aware of the affect its taxation, immigration and investment policies have on the distribution and form of how land is used and the rate it is developed."
Through a national survey of PIA members to inform the Institute's submission to the Inquiry, he said many agreed of the need for the for the Commonwealth to show greater leadership on the future growth of the nation's cities, towns and regions.
"This should be organised through a national settlement strategy providing the necessary wide spread political engagement that would provide the context for sustainable growth and investment across the state and territories," Mr Nelson said.
Mr Nelson went on to pose the question, 'Is Australia lurching towards a nation of two megacities, or should we seriously consider future alternatives?'
"Sydney and Melbourne are booming and the rest of country's cities, towns and regions are growing, stabilising or declining at various rates. But all are confronted with the need to provide affordable housing, jobs, services and a range of supporting infrastructure," he said.
"Australia's states, territories and local councils will struggle dealing with the future challenge of our cities and regions unless the Commonwealth takes a more active and complementary role in the strategic planning of the nation", argued Mr Nelson.
"Australia's national position when it comes to cities is lagging behind many of our OECD colleagues, and it is time that the Commonwealth seriously consider becoming more engaged in national urban planning policy. It's high time that the Australian Government works with other levels of government and the broader community in developing a long term national settlement strategy."
In a wide-ranging discussion, the PIA President also suggested the value in appointing a National Commonwealth Chief Planner, re-establishing a national First Ministers planning council and adopting a national urban design protocol. He suggested that the Chief Planner could host a national discourse on Australia's long-term future using scenarios and acknowledging the implications of the current megatrends shaping the form and function of our cities and regions.
Mr Nelson reminded the Committee of the significant contribution made by cities and regions to the Australian economy and its impact on overall social wellbeing.
"It therefore makes sense that the Australian Government accept there are wide spread national, regional and local benefits in developing a strategic settlement framework that helps to coordinate urban development activities at all levels of government, and also places existing sectoral policies within a spatial and sustainability context," he concluded.
Photo: 'Australia seen from space at night' / Craig Mayhew and Robert Simmon, NASA/GSFC / Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.