20 Feb 2020

Australia’s cities could lose out in the global competition for events, talent and capital because of a lack of big-picture thinking and bold decision-making by our leaders, say international experts in city planning.

Cities like Singapore, London, Paris and New York are becoming more successful because they’ve made brave choices and have delivered on their long-term vision. This is something Australia is yet, consistently, to do, says James Tuma, group director of Australian city-shapers and planners Urbis.

“Other cities are lights on the hill in this, but we’ve now reached a point where we have to make decisions for the future and act on them if we’re not to be left behind,” he said.

“Australian cities now have significant opportunities and the most obvious lightning rod is the heightened public awareness of climate change and environmental sustainability as a result of the recent bushfires. We now need to look beyond political cycles and risk-averse approaches to ensure our future success.”

We need to take a long, hard look at the kinds of cities we want to create, building on their successes and their draw cards, and then working towards the legacy we want to leave for our children.

Kate Meyrick View Profile

The time is right for real city-building, he believes. Locally, we now have a Minister for Cities, Alan Tudge, who’s the Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure, and globally, there’s the dramatic rise in urbanisation, with, for the first time in history, more people living in cities than not.

In Australia, we also have an ageing demographic with a proportionately smaller productive population and, in an increasingly global economy, are having to compete much more often on the world stage for resources and big occasions, he said.

While other cities are consistently seizing the day and carving out a niche for themselves in tomorrow’s world, Australia seems to be relying on its past successes and not facing up to the challenges that exist on the horizon, says Kate Meyrick, the former CEO of urban strategy consultancy The Hornery Institute, and now director of Urbis’s Future State service.

Ms Meyrick, who’s worked regularly in London, Singapore and San Francisco, feels that our cities rank highly on the global stage and are growing fast. Yet, the thinking behind them has arguably stagnated, leaving us ill-equipped to face the future.

“We can’t place the blame squarely on our politicians,” she said. “A lot of their decisions are positive, but we need far more long-term thinking aimed at providing good long-term solutions, rather than short-term immediate problem-solving for today.

“We need instead to develop a strong, compelling vision that is shared by politicians, business and the community to corral everyone’s energies, and which informs all the decisions we make. We need to create a movement that’s frank, fearless and future-focused.”

Our capital cities are facing new challenges of sustainability, resilience and congestion, say the planning, design, policy, heritage, engagement, economics and research experts at Urbis, which also has an international business Cistri.

This article was originally published by Domain, click here to continue reading.