Bernard Salt Article – Melbourne sets planning agenda for other cities

My published comments re Bernard Salt’s article in today’s Australian:

Bernard, your bagging of the term sustainability is shallow and unnecessary. Sustainability is either a warm fuzzy term, or a straw man for bagging, for those who don’t understand what it means. I’d expect someone in your position would be able to read a planning document to see if there is a real sustainability prospect in it, or if its just greenwash. So if you believe that the words are used without the real prospect of sustainability, critique the planning documents on that basis and don’t give the impression that you believe that sustainability is just a word without any real meaning, ignoring it as a whole system of principles, strategies, actions, tools and measurements. I expect better from you.

Bernard Salt: The Australian Thursday 3/3/2011 Extracts

I HAVE a theory about the strategic planning process in Australia’s five largest cities.

There is a sameness to the plans that is hardly coincidental. No metropolitan plan is truly unique; they all embody much the same principles. Or could it be that each of the states have independently come to the same conclusion about how their capital cities should be managed in the future?

Even the time frame of strategic plans is similar. Planning documents for Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide look out 25 years to 2036 while southeast Queensland and Perth work on a 20-year blueprint.

Why don’t strategic plans look 40 or even 50 years into the future?

It was the Melbourne at 2030 plan, released in October 2002, that set the 21st century strategic planning agenda in Australia. All other current strategic plans followed the Victorians. I think it is Melbourne that is the intellectual stronghold of strategic planning in Australia. The planning agenda, vision horizon and key ratios that apply in that city end up being only moderately modified in later plans for other states.

And I suspect that Melbourne continues its lead in the national planning agenda with documents such as Delivering Melbourne’s Newest Sustainable Communities. (Notice the word “sustainable” inserted into the title. It wards off the evil spirits of negative public sentiment. If it’s sustainable it’s warm and cuddly.) Not only do the Victorians set the planning agenda, they also determine the politically correct language to use.

If you are a developer seeking development approval in any part of metropolitan Australia, make sure you read and understand planning documentation coming out of Victoria. And make sure you use the language of the Victorians: insert the word sustainable into the title of your project. It has an oddly calming effect on the planning community.

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