This article is the first in a series exploring themes derived from Randolph Hester and others for development of place/cities, an Australian Ecological Democracy framework. Viv Straw if a Fellow of the PIA and Tony Trobe is an Architect who writes for the Canberra Times.

TT: Viv you have some radical ideas about the future of planning in Canberra and our cities, in general, would you like to explain them to us?

VS: Tony, Globally four major trends characterise changes in urban typology. The first of these is urban resurgence which is a function of people moving back to cities. Cities are attractive, lively places to live and work, and 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 a recognition that there is a need to diversify land uses and build solid revenue basis, and the need to create livable 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 rather than private commuting options.
The convergence of these trends leads to the realisation that a substantial market exists for new forms of walkable, mixed-use urban development around a new light rail, rail or rapid bus interchanges. More than 100 American cities are looking at introducing trams at the moment. Our cities problems are congestion, growing obesity trends and other community health issues and the rising cost of running individual transport systems as well as isolation from our neighbours. Canberra is not immune to this, and while we are a long way ahead in 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.
TT: How will planners and our civic leaders deal with these changes in the future?

VS: 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 highly prescriptive 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.

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

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. Industry 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 structure. Perhaps next time we can talk about how we bring this together and set up the principles.