River an as­set for tourism

The Sunday Times - - OPINION - Re­spon­si­bil­ity for ed­i­to­rial com­ment is taken by the ed­i­tor, Michael Beach, 50 Hasler Road, Os­borne Park, WA 6017. Postal ad­dress: PO Box 1769, Os­borne Park DC, WA 6916.

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.

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