At Beveridge Williams we have watched from afar over the past few months as first the Brexit vote in the UK, then the US Presidential vote in the USA played out. These events have given us much to talk about during our regular Friday night drinks.
Leaving aside the deeper social science interpretations of the outcomes (and they are in hot dispute across the globe), it seems to us that these results can be broadly categorised as messages delivered to governments by people who, rightly or wrongly, felt that the prevailing political regimes did not deliver sufficiently useful outcomes for them.
It has been noted that the prime locations of ‘discontent’ were those urban areas of the UK and the USA that had borne the brunt of long-term economic change: i.e. the midlands of England and the mid-west of the US. Americans have a typically direct nickname for these areas – the ‘flyover’ states – i.e. you flyover them on the way to somewhere else
Australia is a nation with a much smaller population, living together in relatively few large urban areas. Whilst there have been examples of regional areas hit hard by economic change, such as Newcastle, Geelong and the Latrobe Valley, the impacts of economic change are generally less isolated, or rather, are felt by all of us. Whilst there are pockets of our large urban areas that collectively are struggling, we remain a prosperous and reasonably egalitarian country.
But we should not rest on our laurels.
Planning and creating communities is our core business and we are acutely aware that the greenfield land development process has, in the past, been the subject of (justified) criticism. For too long, communities were established on the fringes of our cities and, in effect, left to fend for themselves.
Our previous article identified Selandra Rise in Cranbourne East as a government Demonstration Project set up to address the isolation that new communities could face. The VPA has now completed its review of the outcome of the project, including a detailed community survey.
Overall, the majority of the respondents were satisfied or neutral with how living in the precinct met expectations, which is a welcome outcome. The areas for improvement could be clearly defined: Public Transport, Road congestion, Connectivity, Public safety and Jobs.
‘Nothing new’, you say? ‘We’ll collectively get to all that, and eventually these will be complete suburbs’. Well, the lessons of Brexit/Trump on greenfield land development is to never assume that populations will continue to accept less than optimal outcomes for their areas.
Whilst the initial establishment of Selandra Rise has succeeded, we must ensure the next stages of outer suburban development – those that deliver the quality of life – are planned for in as detailed a manner as was the establishment of these suburbs. And then delivered in a timely manner.
Why should a resident in a new suburb wait 20 years for a rail line extension, why should they suffer sitting in constant traffic jams in over-capacity roads? Why indeed, when governments now collect considerable sums from taxes such as GAIC in Victoria. How are governments promoting and achieving local job establishment?
We have thankfully seen recent governments start to provide infrastructure upgrades and delivery across our urban areas. Whilst welcome, the focus remains on established areas, and not sufficiently in our outer, or peri-urban areas. This needs to be further addressed.
The Brexit/Trump outcomes have arguably ushered in an age of uncertainty, but one caused by populations running out of patience with the results of the prevailing economic and political climate. They supposedly felt that government and other ‘elites’ arguably weren’t listening.
In greenfield areas, the message from the community is loud and clear. It is that the industry establishes the new urban areas well, but that is only the start of the process. In these good economic times we should continue to focus on infrastructure delivery to all areas of our urban areas, to promote equity and to provide opportunity for all.
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