Since the establishment of the Major Cities Unit three years ago, the Australian Government has become increasingly involved in cities. What impact will its policies have on planning and urban design in Australia, and what is the role of urban design professionals in this context?
The centrepiece of the Australian Government’s contribution is the National Urban Policy, which establishes a national approach to urban development and investment in our cities. The central premise of the policy is the need to address complex challenges such as population growth and demographic change; the security of our water, energy and food; keeping up with advances in technology and communication; maintaining our productivity and prosperity within the global-socioeconomic context; and reducing our vulnerability to environmental hazards, climate-change and human-induced events.
We need to continually work to maximise the opportunities our cities present, and to also adapt and minimise the exposure of our cities and regions to risks. The National Urban Policy sets out the framework for addressing this within the national context. The Council of Australian Governments, which is made up of the Australian Government and each of the State and Territory governments, has agreed that by 2012 all capital cities will have nationally-agreed strategic planning systems in place.
The objective of these reforms is ‘to ensure Australian cities are globally competitive, productive, sustainable, liveable and socially inclusive and are well placed to meet future challenges and growth.’ The report is due to be submitted to COAG in December this year. One of the nine criteria agreed to by COAG is that the strategic planning systems must ‘encourage world-class urban design and architecture.’ As part of the Commonwealth’s contribution to this criterion, it has been developing an Australian Urban Design Protocol in partnership with government, industry professionals, academics and community stakeholders.
Ms Sara Stace, Director National Urban Policy, Major Cities Unit