Alongside PIA and the AILA, we held a morning of great built environment focused discussion featuring Hon Rita Saffioti (Labor), Hon Tjorn Sibma (Liberal) and Dr Brad Pettitt (Greens), as facilitated by Cr Sandy Anghie, Deputy Lord Mayor – City of Perth.
We advocated for:
- We call on the government to undertake a full review of the Metropolitan Regional Planning scheme, including identifying future light rail and tram lines and other key pieces of urban and suburban amenity, one that prioritises public transport rather than the car.
- Consider policies that encourage infill and medium density over sprawl, reduced stamp duty on apartment sales, reduced headworks for medium density development.
- Work to make planning process more transparent for both developers and community- we should all know exactly what we can expect from any piece of land.
- Bring local government to the table to ensure Local Schemes are up to date
- Ensure suitably qualified professionals are mandated in both the design and approval process of medium density projects and above.
- Work to ensure affordable and social housing policies and expenditure are part of any stimulus package
- Enshrine towards zero carbon targets at every stage of design from planning to construction and lifecycle costings
- Recognise the significance of a new Fremantle harbour- not just for improved infrastructure, but as the largest redevelopment project in WA’s history.
WA Chapter President, Peter Hobbs speech
Good morning and welcome to this 2021 Election Debate, where we will have the opportunity to hear from the contenders for the coverted Minister for Planning role in this state.
My name is Peter Hobbs, president of the Australian Institute of Architects, and I am joined by my co-hosts and colleagues from the PIA-Planning Institute of Australia, and AILA, The Australian Institute of Landscape Architects. We welcome special guests Rita, Tjorn and Brad.
Before we start, I will begin, as is customary, by acknowledging that the land we meet, plan, design and build on are the Lands of the Wadjuck people of the Noogar Nation, we acknowledge their knowledge and understanding of this land, and we pay our respects to their Elders.
The Institute is the peak body representing architects in Australia, with 12000 members nationally, and 1200 locally.
Architects, with our colleagues in planning and landscape make the wheels of planning, construction and development turn.
We are passionate proponents of design excellence, of the rights of our our clients, the people we build for, and for the broader community.
Our job is not just aesthetic, but also technical and administrative, often dealing in sums of many millions of dollars., and we are in a position to see all parts of a project. We are the lead consultants projects, and we take this responsibility extremely seriously.
Entering 2021, by all metrics, we can walk forward with a new optimism. In Australia, and particularly WA, we have been kept safe from mass outbreaks of COVID-19, our economy has remained relatively in tact, and yesterday, a vaccination roll out has commenced. We are incredibly lucky.
Our other big challenge, that of climate change, is inexorably forcing change, as reluctant as some levels of government may be- but is becoming a factor in everything we do.
So with these significant issues so forcibly been brought to the fore, we will never go back to business as usual, too much had changed- we have learnt to live, work and play differently, much of it for the better. Some of this will undoubtedly change the way we plan and build our cities. Zoom has transformed our working life, there has been a complete technological revolution in the way we meet and communicate. What does this mean for our CBD and our neighbour hood centres. We know that Amazon is rapidly outstripping bricks and mortar retail. What does this mean for the Main Street. And we know that we can simply not continue to sprawl, transport and energy costs are simply too high. We also know the Metropolitan Regional Planning scheme, drafted in 1950, was a document of a different age- designed with segregated zoning, and stitched together with freeways for cars
So perhaps the first thing we can ask our speakers, is what is their vision for the greater metropolitan area. Is it time for a wholesale revision of the MRS, and how do our speakers think the twin prongs of COVID-19 and climate might mould our cities.
For our second theme, the government’s economic stimulus package for grants for those signing up to build a house has had a significant unintended consequence, that is, to have caused a huge escalation in construction costs. Brickies are charging $2 a brick, plumbers and sparkies are in huge demand and booked for months. This esculation has put pressure on the viability of many projects such as schools and other civic works. Most significantly though, these grants have favoured house and land packages on the fringe over inner city projects, of consolidation, of mixed use infill- all the sectors that we know we need to encourage to provide sustainable, walkable communities. So my second question to our panel, is- what will be the policy settings moving forward that will stimulate the right kinds of development, consolidation, Transit Orientated Development, sustainable housing in walkable suburbs. Will we see the relaxation of stamp duty on apartments, will we see reductions in headworks charges for infill?
The hallmarks of a good planning system is that it is consistent and transparent. That is to say, that when a developer buys a piece of land, they know exactly what they are allowed to put on that land, and equally, the neighbour, and the community know exactly what they can expect next door. This used to be reasonably simple, land was zoned, heights and densities prescribed, and away we went. However, in recent times, its seems local government schemes simply haven’t kept up with the increasing imperative to densify, and few local governments have kept up. As projects have become more complex, we have introduced alterative approvals pathways that consider design excellence- this is something our combined professions whole heartedly support. However, there is still far too much anxst in the system, the density civil wars still rage in various suburbs, and we just can’t seem to agree on what our suburbs should look like. A default position seems to be to encourage high rise along major arteries- think Canning hwy, and recent approvals on Stirling hwy, but we don’t seem to be able to have a sensible discussion as to how to achieve gentle, medium density within our existing neighbourhood structures. So perhaps a two part question- how can we get consensus on the look and feel of our suburbs, and what is the enduring planning regime that can be locked in and that can provide surety of process.
This subject of approval, raises our next issue of concern, and that is one of red tape. As part of the COVID-19 stimulus package, the government introduced a number of stream lining policies that are to be commended, in the area of single residential, and then for Shovel Ready projects of significance, that are given an expedited ride through WAPC. However, projects still take a considerable time to get through the system, and with a design review layer been added to much of this, time frames seem to be stretching. Our next question to the panel is what can be done to continue to streamline the approvals process, and when will government start mandating the use of appropriately trained professionals for both the design and approval process, Ie- mandate the use or architects for certain scales of buildings, and ensure that local authorities employ City Architects to undertake the important assessment of sophisticated projects.
A major issue in the last state election was Roe 8. In this term, we have a new port progressed passed feasibility stage. Our Institute has been advocates for this important transition for some time, and consider a new harbour, and a new life for the existing Fremantle Harbour as the most significant planning opportunity of this generation and perhaps many to come. Moving the containers from the port will solve the inherent congestion of the trucks that blight high street and leach highway and the outer environs of Fremantle, while a new southern port will open the opportunity for associated industries and logistical efficiency. The existing Fremantle can transform into a sustainable, 21st century mixed use place, or tourism, research and other marine based activities, while absorbing an enormous amount of growth for years to come. To the panel, what is their vision for Fremantle and a new harbour, and how will they help advocate and push for this outcome.
And lastly, a recurring COVID-19 recovery suggestion is for social and affordable housing, and the tent village in Fremantle was a striking example of this. There is a lot of rhetoric around this, and a lot of promises, but we are yet to see and really significant projects come out, or any policy reform that really tackles this issue. So as my last question to the panel, what are your key policy drivers for this urgent reform.
So many questions for our politicians, I conclude by re-iterating the importance of well considered design, that needs to be embedded in the culture of decision makers at every level.
We wish you all good luck in the up coming election.