Rush to growth ig­nores smarter paths to fu­ture

Sunshine Coast Daily - - OPINION -

NEWS this past week that res­i­dents of Aus­tralia’s growth cap­i­tal have had a gut­ful of the con­stant and mount­ing pres­sure on their city that has turned it into a gi­ant Ponzi Scheme and play­ground for crim­i­nals with money to laun­der, should come as no sur­prise to any­one.

Nor should it be any sur­prise that lit­tle is likely to be done to ease those con­cerns de­spite them com­ing from ev­ery cor­ner of the har­bour city.

A new ReachTel poll has found nearly two thirds of NSW res­i­dents con­sider Syd­ney full de­spite plans for 725,000 more homes over the next 20 years, many of which will be in stack-em-and-pack-em high-rise build­ings that will chal­lenge the amenity and look and feel of many al­ready un­der stress sub­urbs.

South-east Queens­lan­ders reached sim­i­lar con­clu­sions a decade ago lead­ing to then Pre­mier Anna Bligh call­ing a growth sum­mit which was hi­jacked and re­named a growth man­age­ment sum­mit that sim­ply turned into another ex­er­cise by the de­vel­op­ment lobby in jus­ti­fy­ing where more peo­ple could be crammed.

There was talk of de­cen­tral­is­ing the growth out of the south-east cor­ner but no mean­ing­ful progress on that has been made in a decade with all the dis­cus­sion to­day now all about where another two mil­lion peo­ple can be housed south of Gympie dur­ing the next 20 years.

The lat­est it­er­a­tion of the South East Queens­land Ur­ban foot­print is al­ready a blue­print be­ing used to jus­tify plan­ning scheme amend­ments now be­ing pushed through on the Sun­shine Coast which pic­ture the fu­ture as a very dif­fer­ent place to the one that at­tracted cur­rent res­i­dents to up roots and move here.

Sun­shine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson, in ar­gu­ing the case this week for light rail from Beer­wah to the air­port, spoke of re­gional growth of 200,000 over the next 20 years which, if achieved, would in­crease our size by two thirds.

De­spite his sug­gested price of $2 bil­lion be­ing fan­ci­fully low, money for which there ap­pears no ap­par­ent source, light rail could in part be a so­lu­tion to the in­evitable traf­fic con­ges­tion and chaos such a growth rate would in­evitably pro­duce.

What is miss­ing from any of the dis­cus­sions about the fu­ture, how­ever, is whether sus­tained ex­po­nen­tial pop­u­la­tion growth is ei­ther gen­er­ally de­sired or the best path to im­proved pros­per­ity.

There cer­tainly has been no pub­lic air­ing of ways this re­gion’s amenity could be suc­cess­fully lever­aged to at­tract busi­nesses ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing not just more, but also bet­ter qual­ity jobs ca­pa­ble of lift­ing house­hold in­comes. In­stead ev­ery fo­rum that dis­cusses the fu­ture is held in the con­text of growth pro­jec­tion fig­ures sus­tained by na­tional Third World rates of pop­u­la­tion growth.

It’s a very low-am­bi­tion ap­proach that fails to max­imise the re­gion’s and Aus­tralia’s po­ten­tial and one that con­demns us to in­evitably los­ing in­her­ent nat­u­ral and life­style qual­i­ties not only here but across the coun­try.

What is cer­tain, and ex­am­ples glob­ally tell us so, is that con­stant growth is not go­ing to im­prove our qual­ity of life. Nor will plan­ning de­ci­sions that ap­pear to, in the name only of in­creased den­sity, repli­cate mis­takes long em­bed­ded into big­ger places than this and for which lu­di­crously ex­pen­sive re­fits are now re­quired.

Pre­mier An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk, who will be here Mon­day for a Cab­i­net meet­ing, moved on Thurs­day to ban de­vel­oper do­na­tions to lo­cal coun­cil and state gov­ern­ment elec­tion can­di­dates.

But like her pre­de­ces­sor jobs, what­ever the cost and how lit­tle they pay, ap­pear the only tan­gi­ble ben­e­fit she can of­fer for the dis­rup­tion her gov­ern­ment has em­braced but will never have a hope of pay­ing for the in­fra­struc­ture to sup­port. The LNP, to be fair, of­fers no al­ter­na­tive view.

In such an en­vi­ron­ment in which the pub­lic’s role in plan­ning the fu­ture has been di­min­ished to that of by­standers, the least we should be able to ex­pect is to see what is go­ing on and to be al­lowed at least some fo­rum for fu­tile protest.

That is in­creas­ingly not the case at a lo­cal level where Sun­shine Coast Coun­cil ap­pears in­tent on not lis­ten­ing to or heed­ing the con­tent of the Crime and Cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion’s re­port into lo­cal gov­ern­ment which cau­tioned of the need for trans­parency.

In­stead this week the monthly gen­eral meet­ing meant to be open to the pub­lic was trun­cated be­fore lunch to go into closed ses­sion for nine items, three of which ap­peared late on the agenda, adding to the 110 closed meet­ings it has al­ready held since April.

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