River an asset for tourism
FOR a city obsessed with water, Perth is strangely fixated on restricting the enjoyment of its river. When it comes to development — any development — the Swan has seemingly long enjoyed protected status. The irony is that early colonists spent decades dumping rubbish into the water along St Georges Terrace to reclaim land that today represents prime riverfront real estate.
They wanted a park — something that was in short supply at the time — and they went out and built one.
More than a century later it is high time we took a cue from those early settlers and began thinking about what we want for our city as it hurtles along towards a population of three million.
Former premier Colin Barnett deserves credit for getting the ball rolling with Elizabeth Quay and Optus Stadium.
The projects have added vibrancy to the riverfront and the CBD and, despite initial trepidation, both are now widely hailed as fantastic additions to the fabric of the city.
But it would be foolish to think it is mission accomplished — just look at the latest international visitor numbers.
As City of Perth commisisoner Eric Lumsden says succintly: “We talk about developing Perth Airport — which is important — but there’s no point having a great airport if when they get off the plane there is nothing to do.”
It is vital that this city makes the most of what happens next between the quay and the stadium — or, more importantly, from the old Langley Park airstrip around to the Gloucester Park trotting track.
The commissioner should be lauded for moving to capitalise on the momentum those major additions have created, to spark a sweeping rethink of the way Perth uses and interacts with its river.
It is early days and a year of consultation will call for submissions from a wide range of stakeholders and, importantly, the community.
Consider this one from The Sunday Times: The Swan must be protected, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be showcased.
Major cities across the globe are synonymous with rivers that can’t lay claim to one-tenth of the natural beauty of the Swan, because over time they have given rise to precincts renowned for their dining, their culture or their night life.
No one is lining up to swim in the Thames, the Seine or the Yarra, but visit the water’s edge at any one of the three and you’ll see colour, sound, surprise and excitement.
Contrast that with the section of the Swan River running from the quay to Matagarup Bridge — which no one is lining up to swim in either, by the way.
Nice to look at and walk along, yes. But an experience worth travelling from China to enjoy? Hardly. They’re not even travelling from Carine.
Premier Mark McGowan trumpets loudly his commitment to tourism.
That has to start with creating a capital city, and CBD, viewed internationally as more than a stopover on the way to Margaret River or the Coral Coast.
No one is advocating for high-rise and concrete right to the water’s edge, but there is plenty of scope for sensible and sensitive development.