With the Lord Mayor’s recent announcement that Victoria Park Gold Course in inner Brisbane will be converted back to a large-scale parkland, Peter Seamer AM’s recent book launch on the future of Australian city planning could not have been better timed!

Peter’s knowledgeable background and career in urban and regional planning and design, public administration, and Local Government has seen him receive the Member of the Order of Australia.  And, to add to his many roles, fellowships, and committees – he has just published a book which distills the knowledge brought together over his career into thoughts on how the future growth of our cities could be best managed.

Discussion began with the current state of affairs in our sister cities on the East coast: Sydney and Melbourne.  The inevitability of more congestion, inability to feasibly fund many new projects, the inequality between city dwellers and suburbanites over where public money is spent (mostly within the inner-city ring), and overly centralized employment structures were all mentioned as issues relating to city growth.  The outcomes of which are the creation of a two-tier society comprising an inner city economically rich class and an outer suburban poorer class with inequality becoming more marked by job prospects and their locations within the current system.  Leading inevitably to further serious social issues.

In Brisbane’s case specifically, Peter mentioned how our extremely quick growth and different population density from other cities means that we could never expect to have a city that is similar in style to those in Europe.  And, more importantly, he questioned why we would actually want to mimic a European city when many of these are not actually very livable either?  Our extremely high rate of car use compared to other Australian cities, along with no real suburban working hubs like those in Sydney and Melbourne (apart from our CBD) where factors that Mr. Seamer quoted as being detrimental to our future sustainability here in Brisbane.

The solution?  According to Peter, more public transport won’t solve Brisbane’s issue of congestion and neither will higher subsidies for public transport.  Autonomous vehicles are high on the list of what will assist us though, along with planning and social change to reduce the frequency and extent of travel.  A move to localizing work within our suburbs and providing major suburban hubs to cater for this were also touted, as well as a move to higher rates of working from home and potentially charging more for travel as a deterrent.

Whilst many of Peter’s points were valid, one can’t help feeling that this view of our future city is based on the values and outlook of the baby boomer generation, not taking into consideration the rapid social changes and housing issues facing the 40 and under generations.  Social issues and cultural value were not really discussed either.  It will be interesting to read ‘Breaking Point – Future of Australian Cities’ to see if these absences are actually addressed within its pages.

 

Care of the Committee for Brisbane and hosted by Hopgood Ganim Lawyers supported by The Suburban Alliance

Thursday, June 27th 2019 – 5.30 to 7.00pm

https://bda.org.au/event/breaking-point-future-of-australian-cities-with-peter-seamer-am/