By John Wynne | 4 Apr 2018

Planning prosperous, sustainable and resilient cities is a national priority. John Wynne, Urbis’ National Director of Planning, recently presented evidence to the Inquiry into the Australian Government’s role in the development of our cities.

Speaking at the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities public hearing, John emphasised that “as the physical focus of our wealth and well-being, ensuring sustainable cities is absolutely vital. Conversely, failing to plan properly will result in declining economic, social and environmental standards which will clearly undermine our much-envied quality of life.”

Australia’s population is continuing to grow and become more urbanised. It is now more important than ever to consider how national policy can foster collaborative and flexible urban planning responses. Urbis welcomed a Federal commitment to a national focus on cities in the cabinet reshuffle which led to the appointment of Paul Fletcher as the Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities.

John reiterated that Australian cities are undergoing profound change. “The megatrends of urbanisation and globalisation are propelling cities rapidly to a future vastly different from today. The complexity, speed and scale of change are challenging traditional models of planning and developing cities, presenting uncharted issues relating to equity and access, social and economic engagement, cultural identity, homelessness, housing affordability, energy and resource use, economic growth and prosperity, biodiversity, and ecological outcomes.”

Securing the future of our changing cities is dependent on developing new and better approaches to planning. John identified that, from a national level, there is a vital role to play in coordinating better place-based outcomes and collaborating across all states and territories. “The Federal role, it’s about vision, leadership and influence. It’s about fostering collaborative actions across states and territories. It’s about creating a unified commitment to addressing common challenges. It’s about engendering cross-portfolio coordination focusing on achieving better place-based outcomes.”

John addressed the means through which the Federal Government can ensure leadership and influence in our cities to achieve better outcomes. One of the key roles the Federal Government can play in our cities is through the quality of metropolitan strategic planning. “Metropolitan plans are where National and State objectives interface with detailed local outcomes…. and fundamentally define the character of cities. It is where planning and infrastructure investment come together.”

We see the opportunity for the Federal Government to endorse consistent urban policies that are applicable across all jurisdictions, focusing on key areas such as accessibility, affordability, productivity, liveability and resilience. This would go a long way to eliminating states and local councils reinventing the wheel every time they come to think about the issues to be addressed in city planning.

John Wynne View Profile

John reinforced that it is time to unify and streamline national planning approval processes. 

Drawing on his extensive experience as a city shaper, John highlighted that the planning system is devoted to process, regulatory compliance issues and managing applications that are seeking to be approved. “An enormous amount of brainpower and energy is going into processes that could be significantly streamlined and enhanced. If that were to occur, it would shift the focus for planners, governments, to turn their attention to the real issue, which is how do we create futures that are great.”

A national planning framework offers the potential for reducing the highly varied, inconsistent and often inefficient processes that hinder the achievement of the best possible outcomes.