Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Australia creates Ministry for Cities and the Built Environment

Liveable cities, efficient productive cities, the environment of cities, are economic assets. 
Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia
Apparently, the previous Prime Minister was a road proponent primarily.  See "Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull cabinet reshuffle: first Minister for Cities and Built Environment appointed," and "PM appoints Jamie Briggs as Minister for Cities," Sydney Morning Herald.  From the second article:
"Historically the federal government has had a limited engagement with cities, and yet that is where most Australians live," Mr Turnbull said. "It is where the bulk of our economic growth can be found. We often overlook the fact that liveable cities, efficient productive cities, the environment of cities, are economic assets."
According to Architecture Australia ("PM Turnbull appoints new minister for cities"), the Australian Institute of Architects supports the change and made specific recommendations:
  • appoint a federal government architect to further promote high quality buildings and public spaces, and provide expert, high level strategic advice
  • adopt an urban design policy
  • develop strategic planning for the built environment to promote globally competitive, sustainable and socially inclusive urban centres and towns
  • increase density through design – to capitalize on the role of good design to accommodate urban growth
  • champion world-class urban design and architecture to help solve Australia’s urban growth challenges and enhance the nation’s international design reputation
My 2008 suggestion of a new federal agency, the US Department of Cities, Regions and Urban Ecology.  This reminds me that when Barack Obama was elected as President, I suggested that he create a new agency out of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and parts of EPA and the Department of Energy and other units called the Department of Cities, Regions and Urban Ecology ("How will Obama relate to the District?").

 But of course that was a grandiose idea, as creating a new government agency requires Congressional approval.  (I recommended other reconfigurations of other agencies as well.)

It doesn't work that way in the parliamentary government system, where the governing party possesses a great deal of authority on how it chooses to organize the way it governs.  Of course, that can be good and bad, as priorities can change significantly from government to government.

Australia is different too from other parliamentary systems, because the legislative branch, the Parliament, has more power vis-a-vis the executive (Prime Minister), which is why the governing party, the Liberals, recently changed its leadership ("Australia shows us what parliamentary democracy looks like," Toronto Globe & Mail).

Urban and transportation policy in Australia.  Like the US, in Australia, much of the authority concerning urban and transportation  policy and practice lies with the states, although the national government in both places is a key funder.

-- Public Transport Network Planning in Australia: Assessing current practice in Australia’s five largest cities, Paul Mees and Jago Dodson, Griffith University Urban Research Program
-- Our Cities, Our Future | A National Urban Policy, Department of Infrastructure and Transport, Government of Australia

Victoria is a global leader in advancing policy and practice concerning transportation demand management.

Melbourne is a global leader in sustainable mobility and livability--The Economist regularly ranks the city as the most livable in the world ("Daily chart: The world's most 'liveable' cities"), retaining a dense network of streetcars, and has been quite creative in using block interiors ("laneways") as innovative spaces to support local retail and cultural activities.

Bike sharing isn't particularly successful there. This is widely attributed to mandatory bike helmet laws.

Note that other ranking systems put Sydney ahead of Melbourne ("Economists say Australia's most livable city is Melbourne, or Sydney or Canberra," Melbourne Age).

The country has a number of bus rapid transit systems and the Public Transport Users Association in Victoria state does a lot of great advocacy work.

As one of the world's early modern examples of starchitecture/architectural tourism, Sydney's Opera Hall is known world-wide, and Australia's capital city, Canberra, was planned in a manner comparable to Washington, DC.
On Sydney Harbour.
Flickr photo by Bernard Spragg.

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