Needs of tomorrow can only be met via innovation and courage
THIRTY-FIVE years might seem like a distant horizon, but in terms of the life span of a major city it is just a blip.
By then, the southeast corner of our state is expected to be a giant conurbation of some six million people stretching from Noosa south to Tweed Heads and west to Ipswich.
Brisbane itself will have doubled in size to be home to four million people.
Truly successful and liveable cities don’t just expand by osmosis, with ad hoc additions that respond to growth pressures after it becomes painfully clear the existing infrastructure is groaning. Rather, good planners think long term; well beyond the narrow view afforded by electoral or even economic cycles.
This is the challenge facing Queensland if we are to cope with the exponential growth of the southeast over the next few decades.
In that period, governments will come and go. In the past 35 years Queensland has had five changes of government, nine different premiers and 13 parliaments – all of whom have grappled, with varying degrees of success and foresight, with the same challenges of planning for future growth.
Establishing a framework that can accommodate such expansion should have nothing to do with party politics, but rather be a universal commitment to establish a blueprint that can manage change over the long term regardless of who is in power at any given time.
As individuals, we are expected to take responsibility to save and plan for a possibly distant retirement.
So too must our policy makers when it comes to urban planning, rather than succumbing to the short-term thinking that sees the endless reworking, deferral or shelving of a previous administration’s plans for transport links, housing expansion and other key infrastructure components that will ease the growth path.
The key here is to not only rise above populist responses to sectional self-interest, but also devise a sustainable longterm funding model that will keep pace with population growth and deliver the infrastructure we will need for tomorrow; not scramble to fund something that should have been done years prior.
Treasurer Curtis Pitt’s decision, for example, to examine using some of the tens of billions of dollars locked away in the QIC’s defined benefit super funds to invest in Queensland infrastructure may or may not stack up. But it is the sort of innovative thinking we need to explore.
It is the sort of thinking that saw planners during the Great Depression 85 years ago, a time when few few people had cars, proceed to build a sixlane Story Bridge, and not just something to meet the immediate needs.
They knew how to think long-term, despite the financial constraints of the time. The current generation must do the same.