Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Opposition to forced high-density growing

We are faced with a growing population - the result of the increase of the world population and the Commonwealth Government's immigration policy. Whatever we do, there will be plusses and minuses. The high-density advocates claim it is better to cram us in closer together. But research undeniably shows that in Australia high-density is less sustainable than single-residential living. With high-density living greenhouse emissions per person are much more (additional operational energy and embodied energy use far outway any possible transport savings). Housing costs are also much more. We believe that in a continent-sized country there are much better options available such as sensitive greenfield site development, satellite cities and the rejuvenation of declining country regions. There is no necessity to convert our communities into high-rise slums.

Reports from around the world indicate that opposition to forced high-density is growing.

1. The Sydney Morning Herald of 30 June 2009 reports that nearly half of NSW councils have refused to nominate members to the dictatorial planning panels being set up by the Government. See:
Greg Bloomfield of FairGO has an interesting proposal to make on the composition of planning panels. See below.

2. In Victoria, it is apparent that policies are moving away from high-density. See
where the Minister of Planning calls planning critics ideologically opposed to growth suburbs "cultural snobs".

3. In Perth the WA Minister of Planning has announced, couched in carefully constructed phrases, that the previous high-density plan is being abandoned and less onerous plans will be implemented. See

4. The Governor of Texas has vetoed a program to create a new government body that would dictatorially impose high-density. He says policies should be based on the desires of the community. See:

5. You may have read about the controversy caused by Prince Charles' intervention in a high-rise project in Britain. Some interesting ramifications can be read in
The article states "Local people resent more bodies being crammed into an already overcrowded, teeming and increasingly dehumanized London........ Because (the) development offers the highest density, it ticks all the right boxes as far as the planners are concerned. But for residents, looking at results of cramming on their already limited space, 500 new flats squeezed in does not look so good. "

Meanwhile in New South Wales the Government is relentlessly continuing with its devastation of suburbs. Apart from unsustainability these policies result in some of the highest housing costs in the world. I believe this has been the major factor in the collapse of the NSW economy from being 35% of national GDP to the current 30% and for the NSW proportion of national bankruptcies having risen from 25% to 38%.


Greg (of FairGO, phone 02 9988 3312) suggests that the Joint Regional Planning Panels being set up by the NSW Government to approve regional planning developments and issues shall consist of:

Two state government representatives appointed by the minister
Two local government representatives appointed by vote of the local council
Two community representatives appointed by a vote of the presidents or senior unpaid voluntary officers of each voluntary community organisation with more than 30 registered/paid up members within the local government area and registered as such within the local council area, each of which presidents or officers shall have one vote.

A person shall be disqualified from membership of the panel if that person has any financial interest or is employed by any organisation with any financial interest in real estate or real estate development within the local government area except by virtue of owning or renting their own prime residential home, prime office space or voluntary community organisational premises.

In the event of an equality of votes on the panel the status quo shall prevail, ensuring that any approval is supported by two thirds of the panel.


Rob Marchetto said...

Tony, thanks for the post. Yes it seems that the NSW Govt is undemocratically bucking the recent national and global trends. I copied your link for followers on Twitter

Rob Marchetto

Sue Brooks said...

Traditionally every region has a ‘population cap’ which in essence is the ‘planned’ growth area. In other words the urban land zoned for growth has a carrying capacity or density that is easily averaged to give you the expected population size or capacity for growth for any particular area. In Australia what has historically occurred is that we just kept expanding that ‘growth’ area every few years. This is done via the introduction of a new planning scheme that pushes the zoning out further into 'greenfield' land. Most often this land is farming land or environmentally significant land.
Now we also seem to be intent on pushing the density up so while the lines on the maps aren’t moving forever outwards as fast, the permissible density is being increased. The reasons given for this are all the SOS listed ones primarily related to the cost of the provision of infrastructure.

What is happening at the community level however is that people are sick of traffic jams and high rise buildings taking over and negatively impacting on their lifestyle. They are sick of smaller blocks and no green spaces. In coastal towns and cities developers descend. They want good returns and are building high density for tourism predominantly with some residential included for all the retirees that will want to live a high rise unit lifestyle!

The visual impact and increasing numbers of cars etc mean that roads that could cope and not need traffic lights etc, now get choked and lights pop up at every corner.

There is an increasing awareness at the community level that future planning needs to be longer term and that the earths resources are finite. More and more people are realizing that water and food come at a cost and that if we run out of land to grow food and rivers and streams to provide us with water we are knee high in the proverbial deep sh**.

Climate change is adding to this awareness that bigger is not necessarily better. More and more people want a sustainable sized community big enough to maintain a good level of employment, cultural and sporting activity. They want to live in a community that is easy to travel around in but they don’t want perpetual growth. They are starting to see that growth is not sustainable and their lifestyle will be compromised if we can’t be more self sufficient and responsible for our own food and water.

I believe that Government/Councils are more and more influenced by business and developers as these people are very clever and resourceful when it comes to lobbying. The media in my locality is very developer supportive also. It is difficult for me to watch the political process when elected representatives align themselves closely with developers. In an election campaign this is not apparent…so residents are voting for people without any real knowledge of the candidates. Most candidates at the local level seem to have no policies just a slogan or two!

Population growth is seen as something we need to address and I hope that society generally starts to think closely about how many people this wide brown land of ours can carry.

So the whole population cap conversation needs to be related to Planning Schemes and the rules within them. Who and what goes where is the result of a Planning Scheme. Should we keep going the way of the past and letting more and more land go to development? Common sense tells us that this isn’t possible especially along our coastline!
Now is the time to seriously consider the carrying capacity of the planet and plan accordingly. We must develop a sustainable economy that is not dependent on perpetual growth!
Cr Sue Brooks. Fraser Coast Regional Council