Viv Straw is the President of the Planning Institute Australia (ACT Division). This is the third in a series of articles exploring Themes derived from Randolph Hester and others for development of place/ cities, developing an Australian Ecological Democracy theme.

TT: Viv In our first article you talked about four 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; in the second you developed the role of vision what comes next?

VS: Tony, well the third thing we need is a good governance system. The age of command and control is dead. Successful places will develop a more collaborative approach to delivering city outcomes. This is all about using the community, government, the private sector and the not-for-profit sector to deliver a more diverse future that provides for people to live where they live. It will be all about living, working, accessing recreation and services that are delivered locally. Many will remain in suburbs but the life of the city will be close to its centres and many will want to live in close proximity. Canberra is already a poly centric city which gives it a great skeleton to facilitate this.

The century old design and control approach to dividing the city into zones must be replaced by a system that encourages collaborative diversity: people, land uses, economic and social activity as well as urban styles can cohabit in close proximity. The reason for land use zones is no longer a substantial driver for the inner city, but it does make for lazy planning that is easy to implement and control. Everyone will have to get a clear picture of the what the compact city looks like. It is not just a dense city. It is a city characterised by nodes of activity and lifestyles.

I think that in future our cities will be deliberative, inclusive and innovative, compact and great places to live and will be characterised by collaboration.

TT: You will need to explain that.

At present our planning and municipal services structures and commercial delivery functions are highly separated. There are ideological and practical walls, in government and between them and the community. I heard Chris Wheeler, I think, recently say ‘government has to stop doing all the heavy lifting’. This attitude reinforces a business as usual approach. The private sector gets the need for change and often before government gets the feedback.

We all need to break down the barriers and be more willing to share the load. Places that are successful, have great leadership across sectors that recognise the issues and share in the outcomes. Clarity of vision needs to be connected to the existential and the situational. Good governance provides clarity of purpose, develops a climate that facilitates debate, is collaborative and recognises success and failure quickly while building the capacity for delivery.