“Men come together in cities in order to live,” said Aristotle, “but they remain there in order to live the good life.” Indeed it is in our large cities where three out of every four Australians live, and it is cities that generate 80 percent of our national wealth.
Yet our cities face profound challenges. Last year, the Australian Government released a policy to address some of these challenges: Our Cities our Future – a national urban policy for a more productive, sustainable and liveable future. Through an agreement with the Council of Australian Governments, all State and Territory leaders, along with the Commonwealth, have signed up to a set of criteria to guide our capital cities well into the future.
The criteria include integrating transport planning and infrastructure development, preserving the transport corridors needed in the future, appropriate land release and infill development, improving urban design and architecture and preparing cities for climate change, population growth and demographic change. Interestingly, when the results were in and the city by city plans were compared with each other, Adelaide was a clear leader. It is a city already thinking the right way.
Liveable cities mean better designed cities. This doesn’t simply mean a better standard of new homes, apartment blocks and public buildings, but a more thoughtful approach to how we create and manage the spaces in between. In short, our urban spaces need to put people first, so that they feel safe and comfortable about moving around our cities.
We need to make it easier to get around, so that more people consider walking, cycling or using public transport, rather than taking to the roads in their own cars. To help achieve this, the Federal Government worked with teams of planners and designers across Australia to develop the Urban Design Protocol for Australian Cities.
One of 40 national champions of this protocol has been Adelaide’s Integrated Design Strategy which is helping the city to become something of a model for other Australian cities. The strategy puts people at the front and centre of every planning decision. It follows the approach of Danish urban planner, Jan Gehl: First life, then spaces, then buildings: the other way never works.
Indeed, the Integrated Design Strategy for inner Adelaide actively encourages people to get involved right from the outset. And it is working. Hundreds of people so far have taken part in workshops, meetings or have contributed in some way to making inner Adelaide a better place to live, work and play. There have been almost 180,000 on line interactions and 32,000 downloads of videos and information.
The strategy is achieving something remarkable. Not only are planners, designers and the community working together and talking to each other, but governments are too. This approach lies at the heart of the Federal Government’s urban policy which relies on the principle that cooperation from the outset is the only way to make effective and lasting decisions. This can be seen in the partnership between all layers of Government such as the massive $290 million Noarlunga to Seaford rail extension that will cut commuter times by up to ten minutes and encourage a further 3,000 passengers every day onto rail.
An impressive feature of the Integrated Design Strategy is its potential to serve as a model for other Australian cities. That’s why the Australian Government was pleased to contribute $1 million to get the strategy off the ground. Earlier this year, a further $1 million was allocated under the Liveable Cities program to assist with the rejuvenation program of Adelaide’s West End.
Adelaide’s Integrated Design Strategy shows how good design, smart research and collaboration can set a new standard in the planning of Australia’s towns and cities. It is a foundation that will guide the design and sustainability of Adelaide for decades to come. Seeing it come together in the Collaborative City exhibition gives locals and visitors the chance to share this vision. Adelaide is one of the world’s great small cities. This strategy is making sure it stays that way.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.