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“Directions 2031” Planning Document and Draft Activity Centres Policy

Extract from Hansard: Wednesday, 14 October 2009

MS A.S. CARLES (Fremantle) [6.49 pm]: The Greens (WA) have a different priority, I understand, after hearing the different contributions in this place. We regard the most significant environmental challenges for how we plan our city as being at the forefront of this debate. Of course I am talking about climate change and fossil-fuel dependency. We must therefore get our planning right in the context of these huge challenges, rather than ignoring them or putting them in the too-hard basket. Rising greenhouse gas emissions, excessive natural resource use, increasing population, increasing consumption, increasing waste, issues of water, and soil and air quality all have huge environmental social and economic consequences for the future. Our challenge is, therefore, to create sustainable communities. I just wanted to say that, in the context of the big picture, before I talk about the minister’s planning document, and then
specifically about Fremantle at the end of my speech.
We are concerned about the assumptions for growth that are contained in the planning document. We believe that they are not projected far enough into the future, nor do they take into account that we will have reached our ecological limits at the current rate of consumption. Neither do the assumptions take into account the certainty of a low-carbon and eventually a zero-carbon future. We are also concerned at the lack of serious urban growth management.
The “Directions 2031” document predicts that the population of Perth and Peel will grow by just over half a million from the current level of 1.65 million to 2.2 million by 2031. In order to accommodate this growth, the document also estimates that we will need another 328 000 houses and 353 000 jobs. However, Professor Richard Weller, author of Boomtown 2050: Scenarios for a Rapidly Growing City predicts that the population of Perth will be 4.2 million by 2056. He strongly argues that the predictions in “Directions 2031” are extremely short-sighted in space and in time. If he is anywhere near right in his predictions, we do have serious problems with the 2031 document and the planning for the future of Perth. The “Directions 2031” document refers to 18 000 hectares of zoned or deferred land to provide the 328 000 houses that I referred to. If we lock that into this prediction, what land will there be left for generations beyond 2031? The Greens say that the growth scenarios and the density targets for 2031 need to be urgently reevaluated in light of the recent future scenarios being reported, such as those by Professor Richard Weller.
With regard to the pattern of low-density development, the fact is that we have one of the most sprawling cities on the planet. Our density of 12 persons per hectare is the second-lowest density recorded for any city in the world. We come second only after Houston in America, which has six persons per hectare. The average suburban home in Perth requires an ecological footprint of 58 hectares to sustain it. Clearly we cannot keep going like this.
The urban growth management strategy in the document needs to be accompanied by an urban growth boundary. If we look to Melbourne, in 2002 Melbourne created an urban growth boundary as an interim boundary to protect Melbourne’s highly valued farming, conservation and recreation areas. We can also look to the urban growth boundary in Portland, Oregon, which is renewed every five years to determine its 20-year supply of land for future generations. We recommend that the department further investigates the urban growth boundaries and other areas that I have just mentioned so that we can ensure that we get our urban boundary tailored in and we stop the sprawl that is currently so very damaging to Perth.
The 2031 plan also acknowledges a number of strategic issues and challenges for the future. We Greens say that they are not just strategic challenges, but also moral and ethical challenges. Specifically, we are talking about the need to ensure the integration of urban development with the provision of community services, the need to ensure mixed-use developments and the need to protect valuable biodiversity. We want to see genuine measures so that these are not simply put there and lip service paid to them. These are really big strategic and moral imperatives for us to get right.
Some of the recommendations that we put forward are as follows. In terms of ensuring urban development, we would recommend an end to the hidden subsidies for new developments on the urban fringes, which actually amount to $85 000 with a free infrastructure for each lot. We would provide incentives for developers to provide genuine green and affordable housing, tax breaks and a moratorium on developments until the completion and adoption of the Public Transport Authority strategy, which is expected later this year. We would also like to see the findings of the federal Senate inquiry into public transport infrastructure incorporated into this plan and document.
For the need to ensure a mixed-use development with community facilities and services, we recommend that a social infrastructure needs analysis should be undertaken. It is simply not enough for developers to provide roads and pipes; they need to look at the human aspect of their developments. I can certainly say that a development close to where I live, South Beach Village, is not a village, it is more like —
(A government member interjected)
Ms A.S. CARLES: Yes, but we want to see urban sustainable developments, not developments that turn into white elephants.
For the protection of biodiversity, this is absolutely critical for the Greens. We would recommend that DPI and DEC work to ensure that recommendations made by the Auditor General’s report “Rich and Rare: Conservation of Threatened Species” are adopted. We would like to see a moratorium on all clearing until 100 per cent of species have funded recovery plans. We would also like to see the value of green carbon and the valuable role that our forests play in carbon storage and climate protection actually acknowledged in our planning documents so that we can stop logging our native forests. I want to refer to the coastal developments aspect of the plan and then I will get on to Fremantle.
We note that Perth seems to have fallen in love with marinas, coastal developments and high-rise developments along the coast. They are simply not sustainable into the future if we accept that global warming is here and that sea levels are rising. I see some government members shaking their heads, so I gather that there are some climate change sceptics on this side of the house.
Mr J.J.M. Bowler interjected.
Ms A.S. CARLES: I am not going to get into that debate about climate change and whether it is happening, because I think that we are way beyond that debate. I would be very surprised if we had to debate that issue in this house. I am going to assume that we accept certain science —
Mr J.J.M. Bowler: I just say I do not know. You know; do you?
Ms A.S. CARLES: Ninety-nine per cent of peer-reviewed scientists around the world agree on this.
Mr J.J.M. Bowler:That’s absolutely wrong! That’s not true.
Ms A.S. CARLES: All right. I am going to get back on to coastal development.
Mr J.J.M. Bowler: Don’t assume that this house won’t have that debate. If you want to have that debate, I’d love to have it.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Members!
[Member’s time extended.]
Ms A.S. CARLES: Coastal developments must provide public access to beach and coastal waters. The coast line, the seabed, our rivers, the estuaries and offshore islands of Western Australia should remain in public ownership and statutory plans for all coastal areas, including height restrictions and adequate setbacks, must be put in place. We would like to see a prohibition on all future canal developments. Just look at Port Coogee; it is a complete disaster. The seabed was actually zoned urban for the first time. Please! I just hope we do not see that again. We must acknowledge the impact of rising sea levels and storm surges by at least a 100-metre setback. We say a lot more than 100 metres, but we need at least a 100-metre setback.
I want to turn now to talk about Fremantle. I do not want to get into a debate about who has the best electorate; however, it was a complete shock to people in Fremantle and planning experts when they realised that Fremantle had been significantly downgraded by this document. In fact Professor Newman, who heads up Curtin University of Technology’s sustainability policy unit, says that —
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member, in accordance with standing orders this business is adjourned.
Ms A.S. CARLES: I was just getting to the fun part.

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