LETTER: 30 July 2010 – Since “Big Australia” was announced by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in October 2009 the new Prime Minister Gillard’s call for  sustainable population policy” announced in July 2010 is timely. The key to sustainable population is not population policy it is creating livable cities. Livable cities, like healthy bodies need good circulation. The key to livable cities is mass transit connectivity to and from home, work and play.

It is time Australians re-thought their core attitudes and behaviors about “progress” when market forces and individual freedoms are generating major environmental impacts, increased congestion and housing stress in our cities.

Treating Australia like Norman Lindsay’s legendary “magic pudding” and expecting it to regenerate itself is the stuff of fairy tales  Continuing to expand the western suburbs of the east coast cities of Australia is not working. The are suffering from imbalances owing to over centralisation of employment in the city centres, haphazard dispersal of centres and lack of public transport links.

These problems are causing dislocation of the housing and job markets, increasing transport congestion and social stress owing to lack of balanced urban development.

The Australian federal government needs to show leadership by generating new ideas for radical new urban settlements such as the long established Dutch model of the  Ranstaad ring of major cities in the Netherlands that are integrated with high speed rail and transport links.

Other emerging sustainable settlements could inspire. Place such as Masdar in Abu Dhabi,  Dongtan in China and the proposed eco towns that are being developed in the United Kingdom.

In Australia, [leading scientist] Tim Flannery has proposed  a new city in the Cooper Basin – Geothermia, as a hub for mineral processing dependent entirely on clean, renewable energy.

Business as usual is no longer possible. Urban settlement priorities need to be re-thought if Australia is to develop smart city growth.

David Wilson is senior transport planner with MWH. He will be a speaker at the 3rd International Urban Design Conference at the National Convention Centre, Canberra August 30 to 1 September.