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Population growth - Government planning
Extract from Hansard
[COUNCIL — Thursday, 8 March 2012]
Hon Matt Benson-Lidholm; Hon Helen Morton; Hon Lynn MacLaren; Hon Wendy Duncan; Hon Helen Bullock;
Deputy President; Hon Simon O'Brien; Hon Ken Travers
POPULATION GROWTH — GOVERNMENT PLANNING
HON MATT BENSON-LIDHOLM (Agricultural) [10.10 am] — without notice: I move —
That the Council condemns the government for failing to accurately predict and plan for Western Australia’s rapid population growth.
HON LYNN MacLAREN (South Metropolitan) [10.41 am]: I welcome the opportunity to speak to this motion. There is no question that this state has been caught on the hop with population growth and it is not the fault of only the current government that we have not planned properly for that growth. I disagree with the mover of the motion and the attempt to point the finger at the current government, which has, after all, been in power only a few years. Over time the government of Western Australia, under both parties that have held the reins of leadership, has failed to accurately predict and plan for Western Australia’s population. As a result, we have an unsustainable sprawling city and a high level of car dependency, leaving much of the population highly vulnerable to rising oil prices. As Hon Matt Benson-Lidholm said, the media today was a good source of information, with the headline, ―Petrol price rockets to $1.50 a litre‖. We know that petrol price increases particularly affect people living in the outer suburbs and those most dependent on using their cars to get to work. I acknowledge the minister’s contribution in saying that this state has invested quite a significant amount of our money on infrastructure projects; however, the one outstanding failure is the failure to get us away from our dependency on the car for transport. This week we have debated the Perth Waterfront development, and in my remarks I indicated that I wanted to see some light rail links throughout the city. I think that Western Australians would enjoy and be increasingly grateful for infrastructure that could get them around the city without making them car dependent and fuel dependent.
Hon Helen Morton: Can I just ask if you are happy about not having the tunnel?
Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Am I happy about not having the tunnel? What do you mean? Is that the trade-off?
Hon Helen Morton: What I am saying is that is only increasing the reliance on cars—you see.
Hon LYNN MacLAREN: One of the big challenges that the government has faced over time is the siloed approach between land use planning and transport planning. While the government looks at one particular project—for example building a tunnel and sinking a road underneath the surface to create space above, which links cities and creates land space; it really is a form of land-use creation—it avoids the much more comprehensive analysis. If the government only builds roads and tunnels, it does not put in infrastructure for light rail or even more heavy rail. We know we have great needs for heavy rail on the east–west links. That siloed approach has left a position in which we are kind of stuck with sprawl and with a concentration of activity in the commercial centre in the CBD, and the big waterfront project exacerbates that problem. As a member for the South Metropolitan Region, I have, over time, seen the City of Fremantle decline in significance as a regional centre. At the same time that Fremantle has declined in significance, Perth city has become ever more dependent. We are focusing all development activity on the inner city and I do not think that Western Australians are particularly grateful for that planning approach. By investing in places like Fremantle and other places such as Midland, which are outside the city central, we will not only have really beautiful places to live and work, but also not be creating that dependency. I do not know whether anyone was on the road this morning, but I was on the freeway at 9.15 and traffic was crawling all the way from the Canning Bridge into the city. That was at 9.15, when it would be thought that the peak traffic period had passed. We are not doing anything to reduce our dependency on these major arteries into the central city, and I think that is one of the things that population growth will, over time, exacerbate. We know the solution.
Only this morning I was looking on the web to see how the city of Seattle’s planning has evolved over time. When I visited Seattle last year, I saw that it was sinking a freeway along the water’s edge and creating parkland and commercial space, and really activating the city with the waterfront. It is the same thing that we are trying to do in Perth.
Hon Helen Morton: Is it good?
Hon LYNN MacLAREN: It seems as though it is working really well. Straight off the bat, I noticed that it is a process of increasing liveability and involving communities and their needs, which is what I tried to focus on in my speech on the waterfront development. It is about how people want to use the waterfront, not which buildings we can put there or how we can create an inlet. It is about what people will be doing in the area. I encourage the minister to look at the process in Seattle, which is a huge city with a much bigger population, in creating that waterfront.
I want to point out in talking about our increased vulnerability to transport costs—this science has been mentioned several times—a document called ―Unsettling Suburbia: The New Landscape of Oil and Mortgage Vulnerability in Australian Cities‖. This document has come out several times and has been updated for several years. The version I have was updated in 2006. The study finds that outer metropolitan areas in the growth corridors suffer a high degree of vulnerability both in oil prices and interest rates. The maps in the document are called VAMPIRE—vulnerability assessment for mortgage, petroleum, and inflation risks and expenditure—maps because they show redder areas as we move further away from the centre of the city. Those individuals are extremely vulnerable when interest rates or oil prices increase.
I seek leave to table this document so that members can refer to this Griffith University research.
Leave granted. [See paper 4301.]
Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Thank you very much, members, and Mr President.
The document describes the problem of transport planning being a key factor in reducing the cost of living, which increases our quality of life and which keeps us high on the liveable cities list, and not slipping to twelfth position, and at times even lower. This is the type of investment that we hope the government will make now, recognising that growth is inevitable in this city; especially now the projection is for a population of three million by 2026. There is simply not enough room on our roads to maintain this current reliance on the car.
I support the motion to the extent that we see that successive governments have failed to invest in infrastructure to future proof the state in times of approaching peak oil and in times when climate change will affect the rising cost of living. I urge the government to pay attention to what members are saying today about appropriate planning and the need to invest in infrastructure that will make it easier for a city with high population growth.
I will finish my remarks by saying that the Greens have long advocated higher density living in areas of high population. It is a matter of investing in not only Fremantle and country centres like Albany—I know Hon Wendy Duncan will probably speak about regional centres—but investing outside the city centre to make us less needful of long-distance transport and more contained within a sustainable footprint. It is also a matter of building our city into a higher density and liveable city where people can enjoy the natural environment of Perth. By creating that high density, we can also make a successful economic investment in public transport in our city.