Australia

Opposition environment spokesman outlines vision for cities

THE son of former Victorian Planning Minister Alan Hunt and Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage, Greg Hunt, has outlined a long-term approach to planning Australian cities.

Mr Hunt used an address to the Committee for Melbourne last week to deliver his first in a series of speeches on a long-term planning framework for Australian cities.

Mr Hunt said that there "is great weight in the concept that through good planning we are purchasing advance options for future generations" and said that over the coming months, he would address areas such as economic liberalism, climate change, building a better society and preparing for Asia 2030.

While focused on Melbourne, Mr Hunt's recommendations applied to all major Australian cities.

The role of governments, Mr Hunt said, is to create a long-term vision for the basic shape and structure of the city and to create a broadly agreed roadmap and implementation plan to reach that vision.

"With the exception of Canberra, I do not believe this has been done adequately in Australia."

Mr Hunt said that there were three steps needed to coordinate the long-term planning of cities, including capital city planning commissions, a sustainable cities taskforce and the creation of report cards for cities.

"Integrated Planning Commissions" would be tasked with planning for open spaces, city boundaries, road and rail corridors, urban water requirements, future economic hubs and future port and transport terminals.

The creation of report cards for cities would help to achieve accountability in implementing city plans Mr Hunt said, calling on the Australian Government to establish a National Liveability Index under which each city would get its own specific set of targets.

While a Sustainable Cities Taskforce, already set up by the Opposition and headed by Jane Prentice and John Alexander, would help improve the environmental sustainability of Australian cities. The taskforce will report on the environmental sustainability of cities by November, with the findings shared with the Australian Government.

Specific to Melbourne, Mr Hunt said the city should aim to become one of the world's three leading biotech centres, as well as transfer as much port-related activity as possible out of the centre of the city to Portland, Corio and Hastings.

Mr Hunt also suggested that Melbourne should reclaim 'wasted' space caused by rail lines and electricity transmission corridors.

"Our overhead electricity transmission corridors and our rail lines can be dead spaces which divide communities."

Mr Hunt said a study was needed to determine where the best opportunities are to clean up overhead space and free up land both for the public and for housing and also said there may be many places where it is possible to build commercial and residential space over rail lines.

Calling for the establishment of a separate Mornington Peninsula planning policy, Mr Hunt said there should be a long-term commitment to a 70% rural and 30% urban mix for the Peninsula.

Mr Hunt said that if policy makers fail to think in generational terms, "then we are in effect stealing the future from our grandchildren."

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