Sprawl has gone too far

Canning Times - - FRONT PAGE - Ben Smith

RE­CENTLY crowned WA Sci­en­tist of the Year Peter New­man be­lieves Perth’s ur­ban sprawl will do more harm than good to the city.

The Curtin Univer­sity pro­fes­sor was recog­nised for his con­tri­bu­tions to ur­ban de­sign and sus­tain­abil­ity at the Pre­mier’s Sci­ence Awards last week.

Prof New­man said Perth could not have both ur­ban sprawl and sus­tain­abil­ity, and needed to in­stead fo­cus on build­ing dense cen­tral hubs closer to the city, rather than ex­pand­ing the met­ro­pol­i­tan area.

“It’s go­ing to cre­ate wide­spread poverty in those ar­eas and wide­spread use of cars, which in­creases traf­fic prob­lems but also makes it harder to tran­si­tion away from oil,” he said.

“It is bowl­ing over the most im­por­tant bio­di­ver­sity in the re­gion; the ar­eas of bush­land to the north and south are very im­por­tant and we have to trea­sure it.

“Build­ing the city back in to­wards dense cen­tres, not fill­ing in our back­yards, is the agenda and it is crit­i­cal we un­lock those dense cen­tres by pro­vid­ing track­less trams to pro­vide bet­ter op­tions than cars.”

For­mer Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull once said Prof New­man was the man who taught him ev­ery­thing he knew about trains and cities, so the State Gov­ern­ment will be happy to hear he ap­proves of its Metronet project.

“I’m ex­tremely pleased to see Metronet hap­pen, es­sen­tially fix­ing the fast train down each of the main cor­ri­dors,” Prof New­man said.

“There’s plenty more to do; the cir­cle line from Ken­wick to Cock­burn needs to go all the way around to Fre­man­tle, but things like that are fairly ob­vi­ous. They will even­tu­ally get done.”

As di­rec­tor of Curtin Univer­sity’s Sus­tain­able Pol­icy In­sti­tute, Prof New­man was en­gaged by sev­eral lo­cal gov­ern­ments this year to in­ves­ti­gate a vi­able track­less tram con­cept. He said de­vel­op­ment of the con­cept would be a break­through in im­prov­ing pub­lic trans­port.

“It is a mod­ern day, 21st cen­tury light rail and an ex­tra­or­di­nary piece of new tech­nol­ogy which will en­able us to trans­form the in­ner and mid­dle sub­urbs to do the kind of ur­ban de­vel­op­ments we need to make our city a far more at­trac­tive place and far less car de­pen­dent,” he said.

Prof New­man said track­less trams were one of three con­cepts he be­lieved Perth needed to fo­cus on in or­der to get the best out of the city.

“Lithium Val­ley has had a fair bit of pub­lic­ity re­cently and that’s a way of mak­ing sure we man­age this tran­si­tion to the new en­ergy econ­omy,” Prof New­man said.

“It is about us us­ing the fact we have all those en­ergy bat­tery met­als here and they’re all crit­i­cal, so we need to make the most of that.

“Song­lines and Sus­tain­abil­ity is a deeper one, about the role of Indige­nous peo­ple in help­ing us man­age our land­scape and that is best done by en­abling us to un­der­stand their song­lines.

“It re­quires us to un­der­stand and ac­cept their lan­guage.

“Their songs are 60,000 years old and about the land­scape, which we in our ar­ro­gance think that we know be­cause of sci­ence.”

Pro­fes­sor Peter New­man

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