In 3 days Brisbane will vote. This is a particularly important one because it feels as though this city we love is at a tipping point. We know our population is growing quickly. And we’re ready for some new ideas. Ready for ideas that focus on pedestrians, public transport, green spaces, women and child-friendly spaces. All the things the most forward-thinking cities are currently doing.
The Labor, LNP and Greens candidates have put forward their plans for tackling congestion. Lord mayoral candidate Rod Harding has said Labor would spend $139 million on bikeways, with a $90 million dedicated cycle and pedestrian bridge that would link the CBD and Kangaroo Point the guts of the plan.
Lord Mayor Graham Quirk recently announced $100 million would be spent over four years on bicycle infrastructure, including a 1.2km segregated bikeway along Stanley Street, linking the Gabba to the Goodwill Bridge.
Greens lord mayoral candidate Ben Pennings would spend $345 million to build two new river crossings - one between Newstead and Bulimba and the other between Toowong and West End.
Taking this one step further, Labor’s Rod Harding has announced his intention to divest from fossil fuels by not placing Council’s term deposits with financial institutions that invest in fossil fuels.
While I’m an unreserved supporter of the idea that we should be moving to a fossil fuel free future and sustainable, smart development of our cities, the obvious question is are we ready?
If we keep the focus of the conversation on developing Brisbane to be the ‘new world’ city Council has been espousing over the past several years, what does this actually mean, and how are local Brisbanites going to adapt?
According to Dr. Greg Clark, Chairman and founder of ‘The Business of Cities’, a New World City is a globally connected city. It must have a metropolitan economy in excess of $100 billion, with globally oriented business clusters and must be "at least in the top 100" for commercial investment and visitors, innovation or brand and be in the top 20 in at least one area. This is critical to standing Brisbane alongside emerging new world cities, including Abu Dhabi, Auckland, Cape Town, Copenhagen, San Diego, Singapore, Tel Aviv, Vancouver, and Vienna.
Dr Clark suggests that "the path that leads to these cities succeeding is the smaller size, the specialisation, the life/work balance. Efficient infrastructure is absolutely key for them because that's the way the liveability is delivered."
If connectivity and efficient infrastructure are critical, then yes, we must invest in smart planning and delivery of new public infrastructure that provides greater access for the most number of users between the developing community and economic hubs.
Brisbane’s 2022 New World City Action Plan recommends mapping Brisbane’s key districts and precincts by industry clusters and defining attributes, to identify and prioritise trends and opportunities. To some extent this may require a decentralisation of the CBD and a redistribution of certain industries away from the busy city center.
This is the obvious solution to relieving congestion an
d reducing the strain on our existing transport infrastructure, so why do we persist with political rhetoric that focuses only on encouraging greater numbers of commuters into the CBD?
It’s a fairly basic and logical argument to predict where this is leading. We have a finite amount of space in our CBD bordered by established residential communities and the Brisbane River. Expansion out to the CBD fringes may buy us some time, as does redevelopment of older, redundant space. But ultimately, by encouraging commercial growth with centralised, traditional enterprise, we will continually be looking to compromise our planning laws to build higher and increase our transport infrastructure capacity.
This is the logical conclusion given our reluctance to accept flexible work arrangements, unconventional business hours and remote working…
So again, the question we should ask ourselves is are we ready?