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Inquiry into the Australian Government’s role in development of cities

The Federal Government is now conducting an ‘Inquiry into the Australian Government’s role in development of cities’. In recent weeks, members of the Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities conducting the Inquiry have been holding public hearings in major Australian cities, meeting with individuals and organisations that made an effort to participate in the Inquiry.

 I was invited to attend a public hearing held on 29 September in Brisbane, to represent Tweed Shire Council’s (northern NSW) view on the matter. Submission made by Tweed Shire Council earlier in the process articulated a need for stronger involvement of Federal Government in development of cities.  This role however has to be positioned between two seemingly opposing objectives: firstly, to facilitate the ongoing decentralisation of the governance of cities.  As put some time ago by the Mayor of Montreal, “you don’t define the world through countries and continents anymore. You define the world through cities”. Tweed Council’s point of view was that Federal Government’s role in city planning should therefore be based on efforts assisting Australian cities, both metropolitan areas and regional centres in reaching their aspirations and realise their full potential, both nationally and globally.

 Secondly, at national level, Federal Government needs to identify the role of cities in delivery of national, regional and local ambitions, and the impact of their policies upon them. Here, as identified in European’s “Lepizig Charter on Sustainable Cities” the efforts of Federal Government should aim to ensure that all three levels of Government in Australia working or having an impact on urban issues need to be better aligned and integrated so they complement rather than conflict.

The discussion that followed Tweed’s statement revolved around a theme of activating Australian regional towns, particularly those in convenient distance from capital cities, to help them become not only dormitory towns, but most of all attractive employment hubs, able to attract businesses that currently reside only in the capital cities. This certain (presumably minor) decentralisation of key Australian cities, combined with the growing role of regional areas may be one of the recommendations resulting from the Inquiry, potentially influencing planning systems in Australian states and territories in near future.

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