Page 628 - Week 02 - Thursday, 19 February 2015

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

As with many cities around the world, Canberra’s population growth and car dependence have led to a low-density urban sprawl. In particular, we can see the similarity with US cities, where about half of the suburban spread has stemmed from population growth but the other half is the result of increases in land consumption, the dominance of single-family housing and reliance on, and easy availability of, the private motor vehicle.

When we look at how this has played out in the United States we see that towards the end of the 20th century land was being consumed at the rate of 50 acres every hour, every day—an unprecedented rate in human history. And, as populations have become dispersed due to the availability of cars, the numbers of cars increased twice as fast as the human population. This was unsustainable. Since the turn of the century, and the collapse of the housing bubble, we have seen an increasing focus on inner city urban renewal in countries like the United States.

So, as a city not unlike other 20th century cities in other places like the US, we need to learn these lessons to ensure the competitiveness of our city upon the global stage. Urban sprawl is unsustainable. It leads to higher per capita costs of providing services and utilities to our community. It costs more to develop as large expanses of roads, water and sewerage are required, and other government services are needed to service the growing population. Research has indicated that urban infill can cost up to 130 per cent less than greenfield development.

Urban sprawl also threatens social equity, convenient accessibility, livability and environmental quality. We are a landlocked territory. As we begin to run out of easily developable land within our constrained borders, it makes sense to look at how we can maximise the use of our already developed urban areas. It is common sense that growing outwards is expensive; we do not have limitless land.

Canberra’s population will hit 400,000 residents in just two years, projected to reach over 600,000 by the middle of this century. This growth must be directed by a vision which includes high quality transport connections, more active lifestyles and urban revitalisation and renewal. The traditional approaches applied over the last century will not meet the demands of this projected growth.

The most effective tool for stopping urban sprawl is a shift from investment away from new roads and, instead, investment into public transport, particularly in rail as a proven technology that can shape effective and well-functioning cities. In the last decade, as a territory we have spent over $1.2 billion on road infrastructure, with very little public debate. It is time to change our approach and start investing in a public transport network that is accessible to all and helps us to create that more compact and sustainable urban pattern of development.

The introduction of light rail to the city’s transport infrastructure will fundamentally change the way that the city grows and develops. It is a city-shaping project. It helps bind together the city’s urban renewal plans, including city to the lake, which will extend the city centre towards the beautiful lakefront address, creating a world-class recreational facility for all residents and visitors to enjoy. We can take the lessons from across the world on high quality urban design and apply them to our own urban renewal plans.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video