Viv Straw is the President of the Planning Institute Australia (ACT Division). This is the first in a series of article exploring Themes derived from Randolph Hester and others for development of place/ cities, an Australian Ecological Democracy outcome
TT: Viv In our first article you talked about for global megatrends, city centre living becoming more popular, technology driving the new economy, a diversity of land uses together and the re-emergence of mass transit as an alternative to connecting people to other parts of the city; what we need to do to take advantage of these trends?
VS: Tony, The first thing we need is a clear vision about the type of city that we want and what we want to get out of the city. I think it’s apparent that the global trend is toward lively mixed-use centres that are walkable, provide employment that is meaningful and give us a healthy lifestyle. But diversity is important too and we have some beautiful suburbs and a city set into a great landscape that already works on a lot of levels. Its framework, thanks to the planners who went ahead of us, is robust and will allow for a lot of change.
To develop a vision our civic leaders need to have a clear understanding of the type of city that we want to have: is it to be more inclusive, is it going to be innovative? There is going to be a great deal of debate about the difference between a dense city and a more compact city if we are going to introduce mass transit systems. How are we going to service parts of the city that are sparsely populated and how are we going to manage developments in the inner-city that will need to be more transit and less private motor vehicle oriented?
TT: It is difficult for people to connect with the vision when they think that it is going to change in a few years because our circumstances have changed.
VS: Yes, it is clear that a vision must have three components to be successful. A vision needs to have a wow factor that people can associate with and want to be part of.
A vision of the future needs to be owned by the people rather than imposed from above and needs to connect existentially, it needs to identify the “what’s in it for me?”
And thirdly vision needs to be anchored in the reality of the current situation be deliverable and be based on an understanding of how cities will change over time.
To deliver on a vision it is important that we have an appropriate governance system in place. We will talk about this in the next article but for now it is important to recognise that while the global mega trends are changing the shape of cities they are also changing our perception of government. Any vision for the future needs to recognise the development of deliberative and inclusive government processes.