Matthew Trigg

While the journey is important, a government that doesn’t know where it is going is likely to waste both money and time. Cities and infrastructure planned in relative isolation can even go so far as to prevent other worthwhile investments from proceeding.

All three levels of government in Australia have a role to play in meeting the needs of our communities both now and into the future, as identified with the recent NSW Intergenerational Report. Such actions need to be driven by a clear vision of what governments are seeking to achieve and how success can be measured.

The Australian Government now has a built environment policy and is firmly back in the space with bipartisan support. Their Smart Cities Plan sets out how the Commonwealth will approach Australia’s cities and infrastructure, and gives insights into how it will seek to work with industry and the other levels of government.

Local government has always been the most built environment-focused level of elected representation. Our councils and shires coordinate the ocean of works, planning, approvals and community activities that go relatively unseen. In line with the principal of subsidiarity, the role of local government is indisputable.

Despite their key role in cities and infrastructure, most state governments, both locally and internationally, lack a coherent built environment or cities policy to act as an overarching guide for planning and investment decisions. Locally, such a policy needs to do more than codify the status quo; it needs to deal with more than just the size and appearance of the latest developments.

Without a built environment or cities policy the various activities of a state or territory can lack coordination and will be more prone to deliver sub-standard outcomes.

Take NSW, where Australia’s largest city now has a single strategic planning body. Here unprecedented levels of investment will deliver the next generation of infrastructure, and tangible innovations such as the Open Data Hub are regularly being announced.

To avoid wasting time and money, the roles, responsibilities and aspirations of the NSW Government must be made clear. Especially with the Commonwealth moving back into the cities space, the ongoing changes to improve the effectiveness of local government, and the limits of private-sector capacity being tested in many parts of industry (such as manpower and skills in the engineering sector).

The idea of a NSW Built Environment Policy will be one of the many topics discussed during a milestone forum to be held at NSW Parliament on Thursday 11 August.

The Built Environment Meets Parliament forum is sponsored by Minister for Planning Rob Stokes, and coordinated by Consult Australia in consultation with BEMP NSW Partners Green Building Council of Australia, Australian Institute of Architects and Planning Institute of Australia, with the support of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects.

The focus will be on presenting new information and insights into how we consider our urban environments, and progressing how we consider areas such as design, planning, policy, funding and infrastructure. The overall theme for the event is The New Great Australian Dream: How can we deliver quality urban living?

To register visit the BEMP NSW website.

Matthew Trigg is state manager of industry association Consult Australia.

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