• PLANNING THE FUTURE OF OUR CITY

    Perth is an amazing city, with a beautiful coastline, the Swan River and everything in between. Like all metropolitan areas with millions of people needing to get around for work, families and recreation, we have our growing pains.

     

    In my role as an elected representative and as the Chairman of the City's Planning & Development Services Committee, I'm very interested in being part of a Perth-wide discussion on how we can create better planning outcomes for the various communities we serve.

     

    It is only through working hand-in-hand with the private sector and all levels of government can we create vibrant, liveable and attractive centres in which people genuinely enjoy working and living in. I believe existing communities should never lose their voice in the process. Stronger local leadership is needed now more than ever to look to the future of what Perth needs to become, rather than remembering how it was decades ago and when people lived and worked very differently.

     

    Local governments across Perth are well-positioned to take advantage of new projects like Metronet and City Deals, but if we get stuck concentrating on short-sighted angst we'll miss the opportunity of huge capital investment from higher levels of government and the lose all the benefits that come with it.

     

    Below you will find articles I have written on planning, development, addressing urban sprawl, public transport and everything in between! I always appreciate hearing feedback, so please let me know your views.

    A local councillor's role in development applications

    11 April 2018 As my favourite footy commentator says, boy oh boy!

     

    A whole new front just opened up in the planning battle in Perth. Have a read of this article first then read on below: http://www.watoday.com.au/comment/wa-state-department-wants-to-strip-local-councils-of-planning-powers-20180410-p4z8sc.html 

     

    I agree there's a strong argument to be made that key precincts across Perth require the State Government to come in with extra resources and take the lead on planning and development, especially for future Metrohub sites. If that doesn't happen, we'll look back in a decade and wonder what happened to that great idea of Metronet. We need to accept our City can only achieve so much alone.

     

    What I don't agree with is that local councillors should be shut out of assessing DAs. In our local example in the City of Bayswater, because of years of inaction by previous administrations with respect to structure plans and other key strategic planning documents being either non-existent or not suiting to the modern climate, Council since 2015 has been playing catch up. The way we have done that is re-engaged with people who want to have their say on the future of their area. We are close to seeing a Structure Plan on the table for Baysie and we are seeing more and more density projects coming through in other suburbs. Just last night we approved two infill projects in Maylands after reviewing the City's recommendation, after listening to deputations and taking into consideration what that local community thought.

     

    More often than not Council agrees with the City's planners. When we disagree with our own officer's recommendation we must have good reason based in planning law, and those reasons are often tested at the State Administrative Tribunal. I won't go into which decisions I agree with or disagree with and on what basis, what I need to tie in is the term most often tested for its weight at SAT being 'amenity'. It's defined in cl 1 of Sch 2 of the Planning Regulations 2015 as "all those factors which combine to form the character of an area and include the present and likely future amenity." I never like reading a definition of a word that includes the word itself, though it's abundantly clear the best judge of the character of an area are those closest to it. How can an unelected faceless bureaucrat know the amenity of an area better than a local councillor and further the people in that street/community?

     

    So, that's my long-winded position on this idea. Yes to the State Government taking the reigns on planning for Metrohubs. No to local councillors losing their ability to judge development applications. There's no value to be gained in disconnecting the decision-makers from those who will be impacted and those who we are all ultimately accountable to.

     

    It's a better idea to improve access to quality real-world training in how our planning system works for all parties, what we need to plan for in the future and invite more of a visionary approach to land use planning instead of just shuffling councillors through money spinning courses provided by WALGA and ticking the box saying "training completed".

    Perth's eastern suburbs primed for a City Deal

    5 April 2018

     

    With the recent tour of Senator Dean Smith and Paul Fletcher the Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure & Cities, a lot of attention has been cast on the eastern suburbs of Perth being the next region ripe for a City Deal.

     

    A City Deal isn't just a flashy headline, it's a new way of combining the strengths of the three levels of government to build what is needed for the next two decades of population growth.

     

    As you can see from the example linked below in Western Sydney, the most recent City Deal announced, there are potentially billions of dollars set aside over the coming years for projects which improve public transport, provide a more efficient way to transport freight, to redevelop town centres, help address affordable housing, and create new jobs across a number of local government areas. Along with this comes strict targets and KPIs, with new governance structures put in place to ensure accountability, all available online for all taxpayers to see.

     

    For our region, combining the shared vision of the Town of Bassendean City of Bayswater City of Belmont, WA City of Canning City of Kalamunda Shire of Mundaring City of Swan Town of Victoria Park and Perth Airport, a proposal has been put forward to the State Government called 'Connect Perth's East'.

     

    This is the next step in our growing region of Western Australia finally getting the attention it deserves through a City Deal.

     

    Unfortunately, there has been little movement from Mark McGowan in endorsing this proposal. While other regions are advocating hard for their fair share of federal and state investment, we remain largely ignored.

     

    I am a big supporter of the potential of Metronet and Metrohubs, these will undoubtedly form the backbone of our region for decades to come. I urge the State Government to endorse this City Deal proposal and take advantage of what is on offer by Canberra before we lose out to other proposals from WA.

     

    I encourage you to take a look at the link here, watch the short videos and you will quickly realise how much potential will be realised if we are successful in securing a City Deal here in Baysie and beyond.

    Is this the year when Perth finally admits it has a problem?

    5 January 2018 Sprawl is costing us billions!  

     

    As last year was winding down I was listening to WAPC chief Eric Lumsden discussing Perth’s lack of density on 720ABC. After the show I got into a debate on Twitter with a State MP on the issue of sprawl, mainly around housing choice and cost to the taxpayer.

     

    The Guardian’s Douglas Murphy put it well when he said “to live in sprawl means driving to work, driving to get dinner, driving to meet your friends. It means congestion, as its inhabitants travel ludicrous distances for work or basic services, and isolation due to the lack of the perks of compact city life. Sprawl eats up huge areas in very inefficient ways, destroying arable land and creating monocultures.”

     

    I think most people would want to eliminate as many of these problems as possible when planning for the future of Perth, so will 2018 finally be the year when we do something about it?

     

    Perth is home to some 2 million people but with a metro footprint from Two Rocks to Mandurah we have one of the lowest population densities in the world (for a major city). From June 2006 to June 2016, the ten SA2s with the largest population increases in Western Australia were all within Greater Perth. The SA2 of Baldivis in Perth's outer south had the largest growth in terms of absolute numbers, increasing by 27,400 to reach 34,300 people. Large growth also occurred in Ellenbrook (up by 23,600 people) in the north-east and Forrestdale - Harrisdale - Piara Waters (18,800) in the south-east.

    In 2016 the Urban Development Institute of Australia revealed lot sizes in Perth fell 7.7% from 2015 to an average 395sqm, with our city being the first and only major market with an average lot size below 400sqm. In 2017, that fell to 375sqm.

     

    Providing people with the expected high quality public services right across this area is a huge recurring burden for federal, state and local government budgets. In October 2017, Joe Spagnolo from the Sunday Times reported a list of potential road and rail announcements the Federal Government is looking at. Most of these projects, if not all, are in the outer metro area. This type of huge expenditure will have to continue because Western Australia is being ripped off in the GST situation, but more so because we aren’t working together to accommodate future population growth in the right areas.

    Hopefully this year we see progress in answering these questions:

     

    1 - How do we work better with existing communities through local councils and the State Government to plan for the future to accommodate a tripling of our population within the existing footprint in the next 4 decades?

     

    2- Do we allow Dongara to become North Yanchep and Bunbury to become South Rockingham and then ask all taxpayers to cope with the various extra costs, or

     

    3- How do we strike a balance between achieving higher infill targets using existing infrastructure corridors while also attempting to decentralise some of Perth’s population to regional hubs?

     

    In my local area within the City of Bayswater we have three train station precincts primed for higher density. Unfortunately for us, if you compare these with other precincts around the inner city area, we are far behind in providing a framework for future quality development. Maylands has to be regarded as a missed opportunity, Meltham has just had its structure plan approved by the WAPC which was submitted by a developer and Bayswater is ground zero in the ongoing war between the NIMBY brigade and those who rightfully want the area to reach its full potential.

     

    If these three local precincts (located within 6-9 minutes of the CBD and close to airports and existing road infrastructure) are developed properly with buy-in from all levels of government, the community and the private sector, we could potentially be home to an extra 10,000 people in the next few decades without diminishing our quality of life. It makes more sense to me to first explore these infill opportunities before continuing the unchecked sprawl requiring new infrastructure 50-60km from the CBD which certainly isn’t paid for by greenfield developers.

     

    In this context I see our role as a Council as welcoming infill, taking the lead on preparing for it by properly engaging the community on where it goes, and importantly planning where our services and infrastructure need to go. Where will the future sports ovals be? Where will people be able to get out and enjoy the area? Where are people going to walk to get to the train or the shops? What are the future traffic implications? Where are the trees going? I want to welcome more people into the area, we just need to ensure we can cope with it in time and it needs to make sense.

     

    Of course I am not saying we should stand in the way of greenfield development, and I am not saying that we should all live in apartments next to a train station, I am saying we should limit our metro growth to within the confines of the existing area. We need to better utilise existing hubs and we need decision makers to have a vision of Perth that doesn't expand from Geraldton to Bunbury.

     

    If we don’t act in 2018 to arrest this situation, we should expect taxes, local rates and charges for all government services to grow far too quickly.

    The future development of the Bayswater Town Centre

    16 October 2016 Welcoming growth in an exciting area of Perth  

     

    It is my opinion that the Bayswater Town Centre is in need of defibrillation. I do not believe this fact is open for debate. However, it is clear there are some very passionate people in the community who would like to keep this potentially exciting place stuck in neutral. I clearly do not subscribe to this NIMBY view of the world, and I firmly believe that most people who live in the City of Bayswater realise that progress and growth cannot (and should not) be stopped.

     

    The Bayswater Town Centre has the potential to be the next big thing in the Perth metropolitan area. That might be a big call to make, but consider the following unmatched geographical advantages:

    • The ease of access to major road networks and tourist attractions;
      • 15-20min to the CBD
      • 20min to the Swan Valley
      • Minutes away from both racecourses and the Maylands Golf Course
    • The close proximity to the Bayswater Train Station;
      • 9-12 min to the CBD
    • Proximity to all four airport terminals; and
    • Quality of local amenities: various parks, the Swan River, cycling infrastructure, and a growing retail/hospitality sector (just to name a few).

    What is unsettled and open for wide community discussion in 2016 is how to proceed from here with facilitating sustainable and quality development which adds value to our City and our residents. It is not an option to do nothing, as Perth’s population continues to grow and infill is required.

     

    The face of Bayswater for the next 50 years and beyond will be shaped by what we do here. While it is regrettable it has taken so long to commence work on a Structure Plan for the Town Centre, for now I believe the height cap set in SCA12 is acceptable.

     

    When the City of Bayswater engages a consultant to commence work on the Structure Plan, I believe this will present a great opportunity to lift the bar on engaging the community in ways which go well beyond what was considered acceptable in previous years. An advertisement in the local paper should no longer be considered an integral part of ‘consulting the community’. I suspect in the next term of government we will see improvements to the minimum standards set in the Local Government Act 1995.

     

    My vision for the Bayswater Town Centre (King William Street in particular) is to see a proverbial ‘open for business’ sign, with a clear set of broadly agreed community expectations having genuine input into future development proposals. I want to see multi-use developments providing a stable population for a growing retail and hospitality precinct. I want to see the old charm of historic Bayswater blended with new projects to bring together the best of both worlds.

     

    All development would clearly focus on incorporating the heritage of the area, without the word ‘heritage’ becoming an impossible roadblock to development. When the consultation phase is finished and we get this foundation right, we can move to the next stage of bringing this magnificent Town Centre into the 21st century.

     

    From this, it will not come as a shock to you that I am most certainly not supportive of any motion which provides a blanket cap of anything below 5 storeys in this important Town Centre.

     

    I look forward to being part of the community debate and being a leading voice to see common-sense prevail over the overly-protectionist views which are espoused by the vocal minority.