Viv Straw is the immediate past 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 framework. This interview is with Tony Trobe a member of the ACT Institute of Architects.

Tony: Viv you have some ideas about the future of planning in our cities in general would you like to explain them to us?

Viv: Tony, Globally four major trends characterise changes in metropolitan typology. The first of these is urban resurgence, which is a function of people moving back to cities to live. It is becoming more common for urban centres to be seen as attractive, lively places to live and work, and as centres of intellectual and creative capacity.

The second is the High-tech, global economy, which has been a driver of recent economic expansion and new opportunities in cities. The third is recognition that there is a need to diversify land uses and build new business opportunities, creating liveable urban centres. And the fourth is a trend towards an increased investment in mass transit or urban transit opportunities and to orient development toward urban transit and away from private commuting options that were once seen as the way of the future (see the work of Jay H Moor and Rasna Warah 2002).

The convergence of these trends leads to the realisation that a substantial market exists for new forms of walkable, mixed use urban development around new light rail, rail or rapid bus interchanges. More than 100 American cities are looking at introducing trams at the moment. Our cities are defined by congestion, growing obesity problems and other community health issues and the rising cost of running individual transport systems as well as isolation from our neighbours to name a few. Canberra is not immune to this and while we are a long way ahead in terms of being a beautiful city set in a beautiful landscape we are not immune to the need to provide for those that will want to live car free lives in the centre (Birch 2009). All of this can be framed within what is being described as a disruptive culture. Technology is helping us to rethink the way we communicate, commute and commune. The likes of AirBnB, Uber and GoGet, are just the start. German car manufacturers have been planning a move toward the provision of transit solutions and way form the sale of cars for some time now.

Tony: How will planners and our civic leaders deal with these changes in the future?

Viv: I think that last century’s planning that got us out of trouble with polluting industrial development, is having unintended consequences this century. Planners will gradually stop using zones, creating residential enclaves, commercial areas and industrial areas and we will begin to live in more diversified localities using collaborative diversity principles, putting together more things that add to improved amenity and removing things that create conflict (Hester 2006).

TT: But how can that be achieved when our cities are so entrenched with the current systems?

VS: Recognition that the private sector has the money, the imagination and the innovative capacity to develop the economy and change our technological base is a good starting point. The private sector and the marketplace are open to change as a process while the government sector plays the guiding hand in a governance framework rather than a command and control framework. A great place to begin is with the link to how cities have changed in the last century. ( 2015). (Birch 2009). In addition we need to recgnise the value of existing infrastructure and the cost of making these changes and that they will be slow to implement, they are not done quickly.


Birch, E. L. (2009). The urban and regional planning reader, Routledge London.

Hester, R. T. (2006). Design For Ecological Democracy. Cambridge Mass, MIT. (2015). Century of Cities Economic Change Since 1911.

This is about events in the United Kingdom. This paper looks at the change in the cities accross the time frame of 100 years to see how they changed their ratio of employment bases from low knowledge based employment to high knowledge based employment. They note that there are few that actually do. Most of the cities that relied on repetitive industrial work in 1911 still do in 201. Those that have grown on the high knowledge based industrial growth pattern since that time were well placed to do so at the turn of the last century. They make no comment on whether people move from one employment base to another or what happens to the unemployed. They do note that Manchester is a striking exception to the rule and that there are explanations for that that migh be applicable to other cities.