We talk to key decision-makers about what’s being done – and, more importantly, what needs to be done – to take our state into the future.

Western Australia stands on the cusp, ready to take its place as one of the world's most notable destinations. We talk to key decision-makers about what's being done – and, more importantly, what needs to be done – to take our state into the future.

History shows that the fates of great cities, the outcomes of wars and the future of our communities often lie in the hands of a single leader and a few key decision-makers. The future of our home is no different. The decisions and investments made now will dictate the look and feel of our city and state in the future.

The built environment is critical. We need the infrastructure, ports, airports, roads, rail, hospitals, schools and universities upon which the future of our economy depends. But we also need a vibrant and accessible living environment that lifts our spirits and inspires us – a creative environment to attract talent and tourists from around the world, fuelling our future as a global centre for art, business, education and science.

To make this happen we need a cohesive plan for what Perth and WA will look like in the future. We need politicians, government and business leaders, architects, builders, designers and creatives, all striving to build a better WA.

Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi calls for a serious bipartisan discussion about our city’s needs for the next 50 years, so the changes of government don’t influence us so much. “If we know that over the next 50 years we need to spend $x billion, we can budget effectively and people can understand the bigger picture.”

But it’s not just the government investing in infrastructure. investing in our future is also the role of the private sector.

We need more public/private partnerships to get key projects up, and tax incentives to encourage philanthropy of key business people. It is suggested we should look in part to the American model, where philanthropy is often the driver behind cultural institutions.

The centre of Perth has changed dramatically since we ran a similar Vision WA feature two years ago. Elizabeth Quay and Perth City Link are making our city messy and at times frustrating, but Perth has become a more vibrant place, and these projects will further fuel that vibrancy, stimulating economic activity and the further construction of infrastructure and residential, industrial and commercial developments. The rise of small bars and restaurants, improved opening hours, place-making efforts and festivals have already made a substantial change, and more people are starting to live in our city centre.

Several sub-centres, like Fremantle and the inner-city suburbs, are also booming with residential redevelopment.

But are we seeing enough urban infill in appropriate places, namely on our transport routes? Down the track, are we going to be wondering why we didn’t go higher, increase density more? And most importantly, do we have a substantial long-term transport plan in place?

Curtin University Professor of Sustainability Peter Newman says that as young people and empty nesters look for a more urban lifestyle, Perth has a real chance to build on this urban trend and create a much more interesting, lively and productive city as we move towards 2040.

“The most creative cities have dense city centres where people can walk easily
to major places of creativity and interaction,” he says. “The arts scene that provides opportunities for the creatives now and into the future needs much greater densities in and around our city centres.

“Town planning can make this happen or stop it dead. The next million in Perth could easily be accommodated in and around the major centres, or be dispersed further and further outwards, stretching Perth from Lancelin to Myalup (nearly 300km),” says Peter, who this year received an AO for his contributions to urban design and sustainable transport.

Peter believes we need to put our emphasis on new rail lines to connect these centres and create a walkable and lively central Perth fed by light and heavy rail. If we don’t, traffic in Perth will drive us crazy – if it hasn’t already – and we will lose much of the attractions in our lifestyle.

“However, if we do this we can look forward to being a global, productive city that attracts young people from around the world.”

It's an opinion that is shared by most of our interviewees. without doubt, the most common theme was transport and the need for a long-term transport plan.

“We need to stop putting hundreds of millions of dollars every year into roads and put it into other forms of transport,” says Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt. “As goes one of my favourite quotes:  ‘Building bigger roads to deal with congestion is like loosening your belt to deal with obesity.’

“We’ve got to invest in the kinds of high-quality transport infrastructure we want to see people using. People will follow the investment. We’ve got to bring land-use planning and transport planning together. It’s a really exciting opportunity to create great, vibrant livable neighbourhoods along the transport routes.”

We need to develop a sense of a shared identity, feel proud to be West Australian, believe that we can be the best and have enough confidence in our home-grown, Perth-located architects so we develop our own design culture that responds to our own community. We need to develop a sense of who we are as a unique city.

With the new Perth Arena and events like the Perth International Arts Festival and Fringe World, the exposure of Perth has increased, and we are getting international visitation from performers who go home and talk about our city. People are analysing WA from afar – our location, good governance, proximity to other centres, and lifestyle – and big-business players are making decisions to invest money here.

The WA economy is expanding and that’s driving population growth, creating jobs, wealth and a need to provide our more sophisticated population with the city it deserves. ABS forecasts suggest by 2040 Perth’s population could have more than doubled to around 4.4 million, with WA at around 5.2 million.

By 2028, Perth will overtake Brisbane as Australia’s third-largest city. But Brisbane is home to less than half of Queensland’s population; Perth accommodates four out of five people living in WA. The significant investments through Royalties for Regions must continue to encourage population growth and create sustainable regional economies, which, aside from making our regions places where people want to live, visit and invest, will take the pressure off Perth’s infrastructure.

We also need to broaden our economy and employment base, which is currently blue-collar dominant.

“People are living for longer, working for longer, so there needs to be a broader base economy and diversified employment options,” says social researcher Mark McCrindle. “Opportunities need to be provided for people to be innovative, an economy where they can start small businesses. This creates geographically smaller employment locations as well as community-based employment, rather than mass employment in terms of big mine sites.”

Mark says that WA has a younger, more mobile population than other states, making a society that is more pragmatic, aspirational and flexible.

“Leaders can therefore step out with bolder visions and be prepared to back decisions not based on tradition but more on innovation. People want multiple solutions. It’s not just about economic stability and public transport, it’s also about quality-of-life measures.”

Mark says people start to have an opinion on population growth or immigration when they start to feel an impact on themselves, such as congestion compared with five years ago, or queues in hospitals.

“When the basic expectations of the Australian way of life are impinged, people
say the population is growing too fast. But it’s actually the planning that’s inadequate. It’s not that these things haven’t been planned, but that they’ve been planned on inadequate data. A lot of forecasts have been upgraded over the last decade and we’ve been caught short on infrastructure planning.

“However, it’s recognised we’re now in a sustained trend. We can’t pull the lever on migration, because industries and employers are crying out for it. Births are higher and there’s continued longevity. The right data is available now and the leaders, developers and planners are starting to plan with those figures before them.”

Brad Pettitt – Mayor of Fremantle

If we’ve been successful, Fremantle will be a mixed-use, mixed-demographic, vibrant, seven-day-a-week urban centre served well by transport from the north, south and east, and will offer a diverse range of affordable housing, great open spaces and high-quality architecture. Fremantle’s diversity is its strength. It’s natural for areas to gentrify, but we need to keep the diversity alive and nurture our bohemian, artistic and working class. My vision is that, by 2040, we will predominantly run off renewable energy. We will have wind turbines at the port and a large-scale solar farm at South Fremantle tip site. All buildings will be energy-efficient, and as a city we will have nearly a zero carbon footprint.

Across the metropolitan area, a successful 25 years will be about investing in the right kind of infrastructure for what’s going to create a really livable and environmentally sustainable place where community is possible. That means we probably need to stop investing in what a colleague of mine calls ‘blingfrastructure’ – infrastructure that’s gold and shiny and looks good. I think Perth City Link is a really good project, but when the government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on Elizabeth Quay and not doing projects like MAX Light Rail, or they’re not doing key basic infrastructure projects because they’re spending a billion dollars on a new stadium, when there’s a perfectly good one in existence, I think there’s a problem.

Fremantle is on the cusp of a transformation. We have $1 billion of new private investment coming through in the next 10 years. As a comparison, there was $800 million of investment for the America’s Cup, half private and half government. This new investment will result in more people working here and playing here. We’ve got five new hotels either recently completed, being built or recently approved, along with new interesting residential developments. We’re just starting to see a lot of hard work come to fruition, which is really exciting.

We need this development to happen in a timely way. We need the State Government investing in Fremantle, moving State Government offices into Fremantle. That will rapidly speed up the transformation. And we need a commitment to light rail, a proper investment in transit that links new hubs into Fremantle. That is vital. I would have a great regret if I was here in 2040 and we’re still a car-dominated city that is increasingly congested because we failed to embed good transit planning into our future.

The $220 million public/private redevelopment of Kings Square, kicking off in the second half of this year, is the key transformative project for Fremantle. There will be a high-level design outcome and the civic part is the result of an international architectural competition won by local architects Kerry Hill.

Another key project is the transformation of the East End, from Target to the traffic bridge. There’s not a lot there that is worth keeping. We’ve increased allowable heights to between six and ten storeys, depending on the site, which has provided a new impetus for development. With new residential accommodation, retail and offices, it will be a modern East End to complement our historic West End. Concept plans are also being developed for a $350 million redevelopment of Victoria Quay so that will be an exciting project down the track.

So many other parts of the world take design quality as a given. We need to start demanding it – high-quality buildings for the 21st century that are energy- and water-efficient. Everything we invest in must be at the forefront of dealing with climate change. WA has the biggest carbon footprint, per capita, of anywhere in the world. We have an obligation to invest in green buildings, renewable energy and efficient transit. If there’s a fundamental failing over the last decade it’s that we haven’t done that. The technology, in terms of storage of renewable energy, is almost there but we really need to start investing in it now. I see Fremantle showing leadership in this area.

In order to raise the bar for design excellence in Fremantle, we have a design advisory committee, which is an independent panel of design experts. Unless a project meets certain design quality thresholds it doesn’t get through. We’re still feeling our way but the recent buildings approved for the Spicer and Queensgate sites are quite stunning. The city is looking at mandating that any major project of three storeys and above must be designed by a registered architect. Using architects in combination with the design advisory committee gives us the best chance of design excellence.

Many people in the Fremantle community are nervous about new development. It’s the challenge of the council to show them we can do density and development a whole lot better than was done in the 1960s and 70s. As said by a friend of mine in the book Boomtown 2050, ‘Everyone in Perth has a density hangover’. Because we did density so badly in the 60s and 70s, we’ve got the great challenge of showing how the next generation of density can not only be great for affordability and diversity, but can also be beautiful.

What Fremantle definitely doesn’t need is a whole lot of mock heritage – new buildings pretending to be old. We need to be confident and proud enough in our future to say, ‘Let’s create a new design language for the 21st century’. Bold, innovative green buildings. They won’t look like the West End, and nor should they. We only cheapen the West End by trying to copy it.

Liquor licensing is heading in the right direction but it hasn’t gone far enough. There are still so many arbitrary rules that are taking away the innovation around some of the micro bars we want to see – be it rules about how many toilets you have to provide or even when you can’t stand up with a drink in your hand. We need to take a series of incremental steps to be heading towards a more adult, European drinking culture. Liquor licensing has the capacity to take a much more flexible approach, especially when there’s a supportive council that wants to see innovation. We’ve reduced red tape, in that change of use of a business premises in the Fremantle CBD is automatically approved.

The City of Fremantle is currently 30,000 people, becoming 75,000 with the expanded boundaries, and we expect another 20,000 people by 2040. The CBD is currently less than 1000 and the aim is to quadruple that within a decade. We need at least 4000 to 5000 people living in the city centre to give a seven-day-a-week, day/night economy. A populated city is also a safer city.

By 2040, Perth should have an urban growth boundary. We can’t keep sprawling from Dongara to Dunsborough, and we need to protect our agricultural and biodiversity-rich bushland. This makes the extra people and density in Fremantle all the more important. For every new dwelling we create in Fremantle, that is one less that is required on the sprawling suburban fringe.

David Karotkin – Australian Institute of Architects (AIA), National President 

By 2040, we’re going to see a completely different density than what we’ve got at the moment. We don’t really have even any small pockets of genuine high-density living and working environments, but that will change if the population continues to grow at the current rate. In terms of the way we live and occupy the city, I don’t think we will be very different to other big Australian cities, but what I would hope is that we have enough confidence in our home-grown Perth-located architects so we develop our own design culture that responds to our own community, and develop a sense of who we are as a unique city in Australia and the Asia Pacific region. 

We’ve got to around two million people in Perth over 200 years of development. And now we’re talking about increasing the population by at least another 50 per cent in the next 25 years.

We need a plan in place to understand where we want to be and deliver the necessary infrastructure. We have less and less time for the vision to evolve. It has to be locked in and delivered.

Transport is a key to the way the city will develop. If we get some early action on that next layer of transport infrastructure – it seems light rail is the missing ingredient – then it will facilitate development in a certain way. It will facilitate people continuing to come into central areas to work and recreate, but it will also facilitate developments along transport routes so that we can get some decentralisation.

Seattle, which is a similar scale to Perth, has invested heavily in light rail. It’s been a catalyst for a whole lot of new development that essentially follows the pathway of the rail network. Many more people can now live a life where they can walk to work and places they recreate. It’s better for the environment, for health and for community building. It’s an essential piece of infrastructure and needs to be right at the heart of planning the future of the city.

The last election was the transport election but there was a sense of one-upmanship, which doesn’t necessarily lead to the right outcome. And now light rail has been deferred. It needs to get out of that politicised arena and more into an arena of rational thoughts and proper strategic decisions.

We are a global economy now but we are going to become more and more linked to the Asian economy, competing with big Asian capitals to get businesses here. That will only happen if the young stars of the various businesses want to bring their families here and that comes down to livability. There’s no question Perth is a desirable place to live, but we need to make sure it’s still going to be desirable once there’s another million people added. The nature of the city will change so we can’t just be focused on trying to keep what we’ve got. We need to take some of the great features of what we’ve got and look at how we can reinforce them and supplement them with new qualities as the population grows.

Elizabeth Quay and Perth City Link will change the way people perceive the city and move through it. They will create a highly defined north-south spine through the city, from an active focal point on the water’s edge, up through the treasury precinct and malls and then to the Cultural Centre and Northbridge.

I have a concern with Perth City Link in that the government-owned land that was created by sinking the railway line has been sold off to one master developer. I think the government has taken the path of convenience rather than retaining some of the responsibility. I’m not saying we’ll get a bad outcome but I don’t think we’ll get the level of richness, grain and diversity that you’d expect in such a big chunk in the heart of the city.

Perth is lagging behind other great cities in Australia and the world in that our developers don’t really have a culture that sees value in quality. It’s a chicken and egg thing. Developers say they respond to what the public wants and the public say they respond to whatever is presented to them. It’s incumbent on government and various planning and delivery agencies to break that nexus.

At the coalface of the individual building delivery, the AIA is working with City of Perth, MRA and the Office of the Government Architect to develop a strategy for the delivery and design quality of buildings in the city. One of the models we’re looking at is what they do in the City of Sydney where, for certain value projects, the city requires the developer to invite three architects to do a design competition and the city has a stake in the process of establishing the brief for the competition and assessing the design. We’re looking at a similar model for some project types in Perth.

The idea with having a design competition as part of the process for getting development approval is that it sends a very clear message to developers and everyone involved that design is critical and the community is a stakeholder, via the city being the guardian for the people. The private developer who is ultimately the owner still gets to choose their architects. But ultimately, if the result is an apartment block that’s much better than the standard offering, the community gets an opportunity to respond to that. The nexus is broken and it creates a scenario where expectations are raised and developers will then respond to those expectations.

I think we’re on a journey from a government point of view, developer point of view and community point of view, and we need to keep pegging away at it. Perth Arena, for example was a very publically, highly discussed project. Aside from the questionable delivery process and much discussion about whether people like the building or not, there is recognition that the level of design rigour that was applied to that building has resulted in something that has delivered benefits to city and state. It works and it creates stimulus for other things to happen around it. And off the back of it, even if people don’t like the building, they start to realise design has an impact on their life.

Warren Kerr – Hames Sharley, National Director, Health Portfolio 

If the right decisions are made, we will have a very vibrant, design-led culture where design is recognised for the benefits it can bring. There will be policies in government to engender younger people training in that area, and there will be organisations similar to the Commission on Architecture and the Built Environment that was established in the United Kingdom under Tony Blair’s government – where they actually fostered good design, reviewed all projects to ensure they were getting good design value, and ensured the public demanded that because of the groundswell of opinion.

We need bipartisan support for a long-term plan, a strategy that we can work to over these 25 years. At the moment we’re seeing very haphazard progress and we’re hoping we end up with a good outcome. We’re missing the sequential progressive building blocks that would lead to a great outcome. Part of that vision would be to create a world-class built environment that would be seen as a major tourist drawcard because we have done it so well. The opportunity is there, but we’re just not taking that opportunity.

Perth could become a gem of the southern hemisphere. However, to achieve this we need an overall vision and strategy for Perth and our state. I would like to see our built environment planned in such a way that it could become a tourist attraction in its own right, just like people travel to Paris or Venice to experience the built environment that man has created in those areas. At present, many tourists travel to Western Australia to see its natural environment and the beauties of our forests and beaches. My wish is that by 2040, citizens from all over the world will wish to come to WA to see the wonderful built environment we have created.

In an ideal world, I would like to see a ‘Council of Elders’ established in the planning and design field. People who have spent their career in appropriate fields such as planning, architecture, engineering and so on, who could be there to advise the government, not as a political appointment, but as an advisory committee on the future of the built environment in the Perth metropolitan area.

What we’re talking about is creating design value. In the case of the Arena, you’ve got a functional requirement to seat a certain number of people, you’ve got the materials and you’ve got the site. You can put those all together in a thousand different ways. But an inspired architect can create far more than the sum of the whole of the parts. That’s my personal design philosophy, trying to create that additional design value so you actually give the client and the community far more than they ever envisaged.

Geoff Warn – WA State Architect

I’d like to see Perth project its creative capacity more and really take a strong, bold hold of its position as a capital city in the Indian Ocean region. Our cultural profile will naturally increase if we can draw a whole range of different people with different skills and capabilities to our city. Business, arts, lifestyle and culture will blend to make a balanced, vibrant and accessible city, physically and in business, life and education. As a city with a very strong education base, our people will be better educated, more deeply educated, more tolerant – those qualities that tend to come with education and the arts. As for the regions, I’d like to see them become more distinctive in their character so they become interesting places to visit and for people to live, so there is a choice, not only by work but also by the character and quality those places can offer. We could really expand on the differences of our regions so we have a much richer and more diverse state. 

Variety and diversity has a very powerful effect on a sense of identity for a society or community. We’re starting to get a sense of pride for our city. We’re starting to shift from a more generic city to one that has a clear identity and that will only get richer as we get more diverse and more imaginative. We will end up with greater depth of capability and more confidence, and more willingness to try something different. To me, that’s probably the next wave of development. It will be more challenging and innovative.

The new stadium and surrounding parkland at Burswood will be another valuable asset for the community. Importantly, it will include recreational space that is not necessarily tied to ticketing for a sporting event or festival. All these government projects have a knock-on effect of stimulating private enterprise.

Early in 2013 the government adopted Better Places and Spaces: A Policy for the Built Environment in Western Australia, which is a national first. It’s been well adopted by the different delivery agencies and has become a respected mechanism for raising the conversation about design, and good design is now addressed in the evaluation of projects. It would be good to roll this policy out to private enterprise.

Good design means longevity. We have had tradition from the 1970s that we were knocking over buildings in time frames of 20 years. That’s a lot of embedded energy that is trashed and wasted. The consequence is also a sense of impermanence to the culture and to the place, which almost always generates a sense of lack of care. It all comes back to pride, identity, self-awareness and sustainability.

Buildings and design are a manifestation of the capability and capacity of a culture. You can build for utilitarian need but you can also build to stretch your capability in terms of organising and designing and constructing. We need to get a shared vision and sense of pride across a large part of the community. You don’t get good architecture and design without discourse and debate. It is as intellectual as it is physical and we are yet to fully grasp that. We’ve been very complacent as a society. Perth Arena was very controversial and confronted that complacency.

We definitely need more adventurous and affordable housing projects. The industry is fully aware of this but these things are hard to change because they’re so ingrained in material supply, trade ability, trade laws, unions, how things are financed, what people expect, what they’ll buy and what the banks will lend on. I think government could play a role in setting standards – provide a variety of housing models that people enjoy living in, that private enterprise can follow. People have become more adaptable. As our population gets bigger and as affordability is harder to achieve, we need to get more inventive rather than apply the same formula.

By 2040, I’d like government to be genuinely talking to artists, respecting their ideas and putting them into debate. With their creative background, they see things differently and are fantastically capable of contributing to problem solving. People like Einstein made their theories by not thinking to convention. We need to be open and confident enough to be able to absorb those artistic ideas and hold them in even balance to science and engineering. It builds a richer society.

If we don’t engage in public transport, across all modes, and are too shortsighted in value and expenditure, it will be hard to correct. We need to commit to it properly. Getting it right – and getting it right for the long term – will be crucial. The lack of long-term thinking across governments as they change could be a lost opportunity.  

John Day – WA Minister for Planning; Culture and the Arts

Perth will be an interesting, vibrant and exciting city that is a great place to visit and live, with a whole range of different cultural and sporting options for people to engage in while appreciating the natural environment. We will be well established as a major centre for the region. As the Premier often says, WA looks as much or more to Asia than to the eastern states. We are seeing that manifest now. For example, the recent announcement of the new hotel for Elizabeth Quay has the Far East Consortium as the property developer and Ritz-Carlton as the hotel operator, both based in Hong Kong, and that is a demonstration of the interest from that part of the world. In relation to being a destination to visit from overseas, and the Asian region in particular, Perth will be established as
a destination of choice. 

The projects are for the people of the state. Not only to provide opportunities from recreational and cultural perspectives, but also to stimulate economic activity, not only through construction, but in the longer term in having a destination that people from outside the state want to visit. We need to continue to diversify more outside of resources, including tourism and construction activity in the residential sector.

The increase in population obviously means a challenge in meeting housing needs but it is also a substantial opportunity for our state. It provides for a lot of economic activity and construction of infrastructure and residential, industrial and commercial developments. Having a larger number of people creates greater opportunities for activation and improved amenity in appropriate locations, and a prime example of that is Elizabeth Quay, where a space that was previously largely grass is being much better utilised for a very active precinct. Elizabeth Quay and Perth City Link will change the face of the city and the interaction with the river and Northbridge.

In suburban areas, we are seeing a greater focus on urban infill projects to make better use of infrastructure that is already there, particularly within about a 10 to 15km radius of the Perth CBD. That does not mean wall-to-wall increases in density, but increases in density in appropriate locations. We’re already seeing it in East Perth, North Perth, Highgate, Claremont and Joondalup, and over the next 25 years we will see more of it, potentially in Midland, Stirling, Fremantle, Cockburn, Coogee, Gosnells, Maddington and Murdoch.

In Cottesloe, after much debate about what should be permitted along Marine Parade in relation to height and density, the planning scheme amendment process is almost complete. This will facilitate responsible, but substantial development and I hope the landowners take the opportunity and get on with substantial redevelopment to improve the amenity.

Down the track, three hospital sites will be vacated – Royal Perth Hospital’s rehabilitation site in Shenton Park, Princess Margaret Hospital site, Swan District Hospital site – and will become important locations of new development, largely residential.

The government has committed to the Forrestfield-Airport Link, to be completed
by 2020.
There will be a big opportunity for a transit-oriented development to the west of the airport. The MAX Light Rail project has been deferred by three years and the revised timeframe will see construction start in 2019, with first services running by late 2022. The light rail network will run from Mirrabooka in the north to the CBD, before splitting into two branches to Victoria Park Transfer Station in the east (via the Causeway) and to QEII Medical Centre in the west (via West Perth).

We have to ensure high-quality design outcomes, particularly in medium- and high-density residential developments, otherwise the public is not supportive. Some of the major commercial buildings and government buildings, with the oversight of people like Geoff as Government Architect and the design review panels through the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority, have a very important role to play in that respect. We are also looking at making changes in the planning system in a range of ways. One way specifically is putting in place a requirement that any multi-unit development must have architectural input as opposed to lower-standard design input.

Our political system means we have a government and opposition and both present alternative plans in a range of areas of government. There is bipartisan acceptance of some things, such as the need for public transport expansion. However, there will always be debate on the specifics so I think it is unrealistic to think we could have bipartisan agreement on how projects like this will be delivered over the next 20 or 30 years or so. 

Winthrop Professor Dr Joerg Baumeister – Director of the Australian Urban Design Research Centre (AUDRC)

As scientists, we have the huge responsibility to bridge the present with the future. We have the knowledge to learn from the past, the tools to analyse recent problems and, hopefully, the innovative minds to create important solutions for the future. Humankind has been exploiting natural resources for centuries. We use and throw them away as declared waste, which results in irresponsible pollution of the environment and, subsequently, ourselves as creatures of the environment. This results in the death of millions of people every year. Nature does not have the concept of waste and thus we are nowadays neglecting the rules of the planet, on which we are a biotic part. In order to play by the rules we have to tie back in what we call ‘waste’ as a viable source in order to keep the system of our underlying live-source ‘ecology’ alive. After centuries of repression of the environment, humankind has to integrate back into the ecological cycles.

We have to introduce ecological cycles to transform our cities into healthy cities. Production, consumption, decomposition, production and so on, have to be reintegrated into the city structure. The trick is to connect different cycles to create synergies. The more connected the cycles, the more synergies we get as surplus. This why cities will change (in our vision) from centralised to decentralised structures. The city will diversify into a conglomerate of smaller units, like villages or cells of a body.

Thinking in ecological cycles, everything will be transferred – like a plant into a rotting plant into the fertiliser of a new plant and so on. But there is one exception – sun radiation comes from the outside and donates free energy. One hour of sunshine per year is enough to provide humankind with its energy needs. Therefore, the sun plays a core role in future healthy cities. Future cities have to become solar cities.

Photosynthesis is the natural way to transfer solar energy into food or other energies. Therefore, as generators of biomass, future cities will be like sponges – collecting, transferring and storing as much sunlight as possible. Future cities will be green solar sponges.

Based on the biomass production of solar cities, additional ecological cycles can be introduced. The future food cycle starts here with forage plants for humans and animals. The organic waste can be taken to produce bio-gas (energy again) before it cycles back again as fertiliser for the green sponge. By putting the food cycle into water, hydrophytes feed fish, which dung the plants and are at the same time delicate food (human energy).

This is just one of innumerable possible ecological cycles and connections. In general, we call this the strategy of ‘ecolution’. It is a solution (and a revolution), which takes humankind back into ecology. It balances the natural and built environments – and doesn’t pollute the environment and us. It is an approach to generating urban solutions, which tie humankind and their products of civilisation back into the system of ecology. Hence it can also be seen as a revolution to reconsider, redesign and reinvent the built environment and its underlying principles of economy and anthropology in conjunction with the rules of ecology.

We should kick-start this ecological future as soon as possible. Ecolution is healthy and
makes us wealthy. Billions of dollars will be pumped into the renovation and upgrade of the existing infrastructure. But we should take that investment to change into decentralised infrastructure, which is less expensive and, at the same time, creates new future technologies. Cities were always places of innovation.

Could you imagine walking along St Georges Terrace in a garden landscape, between fish ponds, sheep grazing under fruit trees, vegetables growing on building facades and no noisy traffic, just some electric golf carts? This could be a first step to showcase ecolution and promote Perth.

AUDRC is working on three different missions, which are related to ecolution on three different scales. The smallest scale is the Perth metropolitan area. How can we handle, in an ecological way, rapid growth as well as affordable housing?
To deal with the growth scenarios, we are focusing on intensification strategies. Our proposition for the latter is a building expo. This expo will create and exhibit buildings as case-study projects for affordable housing, which has to be competitive in the suburban real estate market.

Our second mission deals with future cities in the north of Western Australia. Special interest lies in the mapping of location criteria and in projections of economic growth. Cities are no short-term camps. A long-term strategy should strengthen Australia’s economical independency and resilience. Therefore, in addition to the resource-oriented primary industry, the north has to produce manufactured goods in the secondary and tertiary industry sectors.

This is challenging for a country with such a high wage level. Hence the solution is the promotion of innovations. Innovations are the base of a healthy and independent industry landscape and ecological cities as potential innovation drivers. Wouldn’t that be an elegant symbiosis – ecological cities creating innovations, which support the economy of future cities?

Future innovation potential also offers our third mission, which acts on a global level. The more people living on the planet, the more food and energy is needed. But we are already running out of farmland. The 70 per cent surface of the ocean is the only loophole. Therefore the task is to build ecological cycles, or ecolution, which create a surplus production of food and energy. They must work in enclosed cycles so as not to pollute the ocean. These kind of floating oases won’t have the shape of ships or fixed platforms. The required dimensions determine innovative shapes, functions and techniques. Until now we have the suspicion that food and energy production/storage on floating objects is feasible, and ecologically and economically worthwhile. We will continue to work on these missions – to bridge the present with the future and to realise our visions.

John Poynton – Chairman and co-founder of Azure Capital

Our engagement with Asia is inevitable, which is going to help us. We are going to have an increasingly Asian population and it will happen with our acquiescence and support, or it will happen anyway. I’d like to think we’ll become a real international city. There’s been a surge of more cosmopolitan, international people into the city in the last 10 years. Because of our climate and our lifestyle, we’ll be a place that attracts people – people who otherwise might want to live somewhere else, but because it’s so compelling here, they come here. But if it’s gridlocked and not much fun, they’re not going to come. It’s incumbent on government to sell some of their assets and reinvest in the sorts of things that avoid the pessimistic scenario, such as transport infrastructure. 

In terms of education, we’ve got to be careful we don’t become complacent. China in particular, and Asia generally, are building significant capacity in education themselves. At an elite level, they are hooking up with the likes of Harvard and Stanford and places like that, so they’ve got really good brand connection. We can’t assume people are going to keep coming down here to be educated when other options exist that may be cheaper, or as good as or better, in their own region.

The cost issue is such an elephant in the room now because of WorkChoices. It seems there’s a few of those sorts of issues that are impossible to debate rationally. The hysteria builds and anyone who might have a desire to fix it backs off. The idea of bringing in guest workers seems a normal and rational thing to do. Even in an environment where you can demonstrate you can’t get the volume or the skills, there’s still a hysterical response.

You think about exporting grain and protein to Asia. We’ve got productive land, plenty of places in the north where it rains and you can run cattle and finish them down here, but try and run a station or a farm at current wage rates. Try and run an abattoir at the current wage rates. You can’t do it. There is this enormous opportunity for another industry that’s not being fulfilled and yet there’s huge demand at the other end. The fact that there’s not a rational, non-hysterical debate about it is what intrigues me because historically you can see the benefits, whether it’s directly by labour costs or through efficiencies like tariff reductions.

It seems there’s a huge amount of capital in the market at the moment for quality infrastructure assets – admittedly ones that are built and running. If governments have to actually build things first, run them for a while and then sell them, that’s fine but there’s been huge underinvestment in infrastructure, and governments need to do more. In that sense, to me it was a retrograde step to say we’re going to have a modest asset sales program in WA, and while we’ve got a problem with our debt and our rating, we’re going to stop investing in things like light rail. It doesn’t make any sense.

There’s an easy $20 billion worth of assets that could be sold by the State Government in the next three or four years. You could then easily fund all the existing capital expenditure, such as Fiona Stanley and the stadium and a few other things. You could then get rid of the debt problem, get the AAA rating back and build light rail, and still be under-geared. Sell assets that it doesn’t make any sense to own anymore, and sponsor assets that it does make sense to seed, in the sense that no one else is going to do them until they’re viable, and then flog them when you can.

Micro economic reform is required but there isn’t a great appetite for it. Planning, the Department of Environment and Conservation and the councils are great perpetrators of these delays. It’s extraordinary what delays and duplication can cost. Yet it could be fixed and it would make a big difference.

Michael Chaney – Chairman of NAB and Woodside

Optimistically, Perth will be an international, cosmopolitan city with a great lifestyle and strong service industries, including those servicing a very strong resources industry. It will be a vibrant, exciting place to live, and seen around the world as an outstanding city. For business, it will be recognised as a ‘can do’ place, not shackled by conventional wisdoms and constraints but where people are creative and innovative, and I think there’s a certain element of that already. It ought to be a centre for education and research. Pessimistically, it will be a gridlocked city if we don’t do a long-term transport plan and it will be a city people decide they can’t base themselves in because it’s just too logistically difficult to get anywhere. I think that’s a real possibility, but it’s all avoidable.

Sixty per cent of the world’s population lies within plus or minus one hour of our time zone. I think we’re going to see an increasing number of people from Asia visiting here, buying property here and living here at times. Companies will realise this is a very convenient location to be in the same time zone, with european/American companies realising this is a society where they would be comfortable housing people and basing their regional offices. That Asian time zone is really important, and by default we become less dependent on and connected with the other Australian States.

I think the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is going to give rise to an influx of technical people and knowledge in mathematics, computing, astronomy and physics. We have to build the biggest computer in the world to service the SKA and I think the universities here have a real opportunity to become world centres in those sorts of fields. The Forrest Foundation [being administered by UWA with the goal of attracting the brightest young minds from around the world as part of a plan to establish Perth and Western Australia as an international knowledge and innovation hub] is an exciting prospect.

Education itself has huge potential here with Asia. Already universities are sourcing, on average, around 25 per cent of their students from overseas, and I think that will increase. At the moment, WA punches well below its weight in numbers of students from China. There’s a big emphasis on Singapore and Malaysia, but not on China, which dominates enrolments in other states, so that’s likely to increase.

Cost is a huge issue and problem here. Things like penalty rates just can’t survive in a globalised world. What I’d like to see is a totally open, transparent, flexible economy and that means having the sort of workplace relations that exist in most other western economies – flexible arrangements, individual agreements between employers and employees. Penalty rates are an example. It is inconceivable that people will be paid three times as much on Sunday than on Friday.

When tariff reductions were mooted a few years back, people who were benefitting from them objected because they were going to suffer, but it was good for the whole economy. Reducing tariffs increased the efficiency of our economy, created more employment, more prosperity and so on. It’s the same with penalty rates. Anyone working on a Sunday now by choice, and getting paid $51 an hour, will scream blue murder at the thought of them being reduced. But it means higher employment, higher productivity and efficiency in the economy and tourism, and it flows though.

It’s more than wage rates, it’s productivity. When Rio introduced individual contracts in 1996, they found the productivity increases they got were way above what they expected, because once they took the union out of the equation, employee and employer started talking. The employee would say, ‘Well you think that was good, why don’t we try this?’ and they started innovating and they got big increases in productivity. If you reinsert the union, the employee stands back and doesn’t have to think of anything. You can’t go on like that. Productivity is what it’s all about in our economy as a whole and unless we get that right, we’re actually going to have a lower standard of living than we ought to have in another 30 years.

The land issue is a really important one. The supply of residential land, the time it takes to get approvals and the costs involved, makes the cost of housing a heck of a lot harder here than in most parts of the world. That then has effects on economic growth, consumption in the economy because people don’t have the money they would otherwise have. The supply side of the housing issue is a huge issue that needs tackling going forward.

It needs political leadership to say, this is what we’re doing. Time will tell. Some of the things Tony Abbott has done have shown political leadership, such as not bailing out SPC or providing guarantees to Qantas. But it’s a big challenge to do something about it.

Kieran Kinsella – CEO of the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority (MRA)

In 2040, our public transport system will be more developed, and many more people will be living in and around the Perth CBD, using that system. The CBD will have a larger footprint, extending out to 10 blocks by 10 blocks, and we’ll also have more people living in activity centres like Armadale, Midland, Cockburn, Murdoch and Stirling. We’ll have
a more dense, cosmopolitan city, not only in the City of Perth but also in surrounding areas where there will be a patchwork of vibrant places like Oxford Street in Leederville and Beaufort Street in Highgate – people won’t have to travel to enjoy vibrancy and choice. As the tax base for government increases, there will be more investment in cultural facilities, adding more pieces to build the city into a cosmopolitan being.

In 1990, before the East Perth Redevelopment Authority was created and the East Perth redevelopment began, I think the whole concept of inner-city living was pretty remote from people’s thinking. What’s been created in East Perth and Subiaco provides a sound base for people to imagine increased density. Subiaco is a great example of how you can create an activity centre around a railway station, and create amenity and lifestyle. We learn from those opportunities and down the track the question will probably be, why didn’t we go higher, increase density more?

The biggest change in the city will be brought about by the Perth City Link development. It will provide crossings between Wellington Street and Roe Street, some 1600 apartments and commercial and retail opportunities. But importantly, because of the development opportunities it creates, it’s a very big step towards creating the 10 block by 10 block city I’ve been talking about. In places like Hay and Murray streets, we’ll see some of the old office accommodation either converted or pulled down and rebuilt as residential apartments, and as part of the north-south expansion created by Elizabeth Quay and Perth City Link we’ll also see more residential development in Northbridge.

As part of Perth City Link, MRA is developing City Square within the arms of the Horseshoe Bridge. The Horseshoe Bridge used to be home to a food market so we’ll be bringing a food market back into the square. We’ll be providing lots of shade, end-of-trip cycling facilities, public art, an outdoor cafe/bar area and a rooftop Australian bushland setting. It will also be an event space. We’d like the whole area to be an 18-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week place. It’s about bringing vitality to the city centre – getting people out enjoying the city. We’ve been benchmarking against city markets in places like Copenhagen, Madrid and Adelaide.

Elizabeth Quay will be a place where people can interact with the Swan River in a sensible way and enjoy the ambience of a cafe culture around the inlet. It will be a place where people can enjoy things like Skyworks and other festival events that the MRA will be jointly developing and promoting with the City of Perth. It will be a place that features some really iconic design and architecture and will bring another level of sophistication to the city. Elizabeth Quay will become woven into the fabric of the city.

Two of the nine development sites are set to become significant commercial headquarters for oil and gas giant Chevron, which is exciting, while a Ritz-Carlton hotel and 420-apartment tower have also committed to join the quay. Expressions of interest for two mixed-use lots have gathered interest from developers from all over the globe, with five groups shortlisted. 

The MRA is a planning authority in its own right and we are ensuring world-class architecture and design by requiring a design review process for all development applications for Elizabeth Quay. As part of the bidding process for each site, the applicant needs to provide us with confidence regarding the architect/s they are going to use, the design they are going to use, and how they are going to fit in to the rest of the offering at Elizabeth Quay. We call that placemaking, and we are very keen to make sure that the developments at ground level – shops, cafes and restaurants – all integrate into the public realm that we’re developing alongside the development lots. Design guidelines have been set for the precinct, and architects and designers will have to work to these guidelines.

For all of the MRA’s 12 projects we develop a masterplan and vision. One of the big strengths of the MRA is that because we have planning powers we’re able to maintain the integrity of the masterplan and we do that through the design guidelines that sit alongside our planning schemes.

The State Government has provided the MRA with $30 million to redevelop Scarborough Beach, and the City of Stirling has committed to match that funding. Most of it will be spent on enhancing the Scarborough beachfront and we’re concentrating our planning on creating a destination where people will come and stay longer, with back-of-beach activities, cafes, restaurants and recreation experiences. Our investment in the landscape will ensure that the private sector will have the enthusiasm and the incentive to start spending on its own development opportunities. Working with the business community, the broader community and the City of Stirling, the MRA is providing the leadership for Scarborough to be reinvigorated.

For all developments, I think we should be drawing on inspiration from around Perth, including our geographic circumstances and our climate. One of the core fundamentals of placemaking is about creating organic and authentic places that locals want to use. A lot of work goes into creating the fabric of a place – making sure the paving works, the seating works, the shading works, the ambience of the public art works, and the buildings interact well with the public spaces. From my point of view, although we learn lessons from other places, if placemaking isn’t centred on the natural advantages of the climate and environment, the heritage and the people connecting with it, then it will fail.

Lisa Scaffidi – Perth Lord Mayor

Perth will be a vastly more evolved and different city by 2040. I think it would be fair to say that with the speed of technology, the globalisation of business, and how business is done, we will see constant evolution. Key infrastructure works currently underway will be operational, and therefore traffic and movements around and to them will have also adjusted, and new travelling patterns been created. Larger metropolitan transport solutions will ensure appropriate commute times from outer-lying suburbs and urban infill along key transport routes and around nodes will create even more livability. Perth will be a fully engaged global city via the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project. Ongoing mining and medical research issues and our industry diversity will mean fewer boom and bust periods for our economy. We will have regained our AAA credit rating and there will be an iconic landmark on our Swan River for our 2029 bicentennial. 

We get so caught up in political cycles, and economic cycles of boom or bust. But our big issues are our global connectivity, how our greater city presents to the world and focusing on our Perth brand. We talk in small ways of that brand but I would like to see a more strategic position coming out of our government departments, like State Development.

We are seen as an oil and gas city but equally there are some young people doing great work in our technology and creative spaces. We have a great opportunity to develop our creative side – fashion, arts and culture, science. For example, the new headquarters for the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research is a huge attractor for skilled professionals, but these professionals also need to come for lifestyle. Our lifestyle is enviable, but we need to meld strategy with livability – employability with dynamic industry sectors.

Core drilling is getting cheaper. My dream is to mitigate the snaky drive into the city from UWA by tunnelling under Kings Park, also tunnelling under the Swan River to Melville, instead of thinking about land-based transport. There’s been discussion about tunnelling under Elizabeth Quay but this is very blinkered thinking – it’s a project-specific solution rather than broader thinking. We need to start thinking ‘blue-sky’ – things like bore tunnelling to the western and southern suburbs.

State Government is finding it very hard because of the loss of our AAA rating. We need to realise it’s about doing things for ourselves. We need to look at more public/private partnerships to get key projects up. Some big players are really starting to get more involved in philanthropy and with that mindset we need a paradigm shift and more collaborative talk about what we want for our city at this point in time.

It’s the attitude of the movers and shakers around the city who can help us evolve into a better space. Taxation incentives are the best way to encourage philanthropy of key business people. That’s what they do in the US to encourage philanthropy.

We’ve got to promote ourselves more astutely. There’s a world of hundreds of millions of people out there. Sydney and Melbourne are the bright lights and the naturally bigger attractors. We need an active participation in global events such as trade shows – real estate, tourism. There’s not enough recognition of that. We need to spend a dollar to make a dollar. We need to be talking about the Australia and WA story to potential investors.

Where are the conversations about what is going to happen to some of the vacated sites? I’d like to see a creative industry of some kind given the sites of Princess Margaret Hospital, Royal Perth Hospital or Subiaco Oval – focus on that industry and how we can help it to flourish, then bring in mixed use.

Where are those conversations? God help us if Subiaco Oval becomes more McMansions. Those conversations start with a realisation that we need to work more collaboratively with media and both sides of politics and leadership that pushes this agenda. There’s some great work coming out of the Committee for Perth and other thinktanks but we need more meetings where we’re all sitting together – dedicate a couple of days to a strategic planning session for our state, including the leaders of the day, aspiring business leaders and so on. 

Craig Smith – Perth City Architect

The aerial map of Perth will look very similar to today, but it will be a different place. Modified by more than a generation of change, the city will have reached the threshold at which we will have an underground rail system – the great advantage of which is that it will be subservient to the quality of the development at ground level and will see the removal of critical parts of existing infrastructure that has separated and eroded the physical quality of our city. Buildings will be better designed, more environmentally efficient and planned to better handle our climate and changing lifestyles. Available choices in housing and changes in employment options will drive the type of development that takes place. Denser, more urban development will have occurred along the lines of transport, particularly at existing centres, and limits will have been placed on urban sprawl. Parts of the river and ocean front will be more active and engaging. We will show more pride in our city and admire the achievements that have made it a better place. Perth will remain a great place to live and grow in, as long as we concentrate on the quality of life that can be achieved.

There is no reason that the laidback lifestyle of suburban Perth can’t be wedded to a new and more dynamic city. Our generation has spawned offspring who have very different ideas and expectations to our parents and us. They are more urbane, more mobile, earn more money and are perhaps more demanding. I like Melbourne planner Rob Adams’ view that you can double the city’s population by redeveloping just 7.5 per cent of the developable land, leaving the bulk of suburbia to change at a much slower pace.

From an architectural and urban design viewpoint, more exploratory design work should be done. More engagement with the public about what can be done to improve the physical environment. Perth has changed dramatically with each generation, but has remained a great place. We need to have a little faith in the future. Somehow the negativity that is circulated about change needs to be replaced by enthusiasm for continuing to make things better.

I think one of the things the city needs is the unanimity of thought about where we’re going. We need to indulge in planning exercises that bring people together. We need a realisation that transport planning is a subset of town planning and not vice versa. Perth is still perceived as a great place to live and bring up kids, but we need to do the sorts of things Lisa was talking about in terms of melding strategy with livability.

In terms of current projects, Elizabeth Quay and Perth City Link are game changers. However, from our point of view, populating the city centre remains a bigger project than either of them. In the areas surrounding the city centre we will see increasing density at existing centres of development that will maximise access to transport and, further out, the provision of transport links will build on long-term development.

Transport planning needs to be a long-term view – planning for transport connectivity across the whole metropolitan area as a means of encouraging the consolidation of existing centres and the development of the new. A population of more than three million people is likely to trigger the undergrounding of parts of the rail system. If this were to happen, how good would it make our light rail decisions look? Underground is the answer. The only thing stopping us is long-term commitment and funding that is linked to the four-year terms of governments.

We need to be talking about and exploring these kinds of opportunities. And they need to be common knowledge in the public domain. The level of debate is not brilliant, and it should be.

The City of Perth continues to encourage housing diversity. The issue of affordability has created a lot of innovation including very small but highly appointed units, though the banks have been dragging their feet in funding this change in demand. The city encourages diversity and a choice of housing and these tiny, beautifully designed units have a role to play.

There have been almost 20 hotel applications over the last two years, of which only two or three are under construction. The trifecta of high cost of land, construction and operating hotels has been ameliorated by the city offering plot ratio bonuses for hotels and short-stay accommodation, as well as increasing the base plot ratio in many parts of the city. The city planning scheme now allows for 14 million sqm of development, but as yet we have only used four million sqm so there is plenty of room for growth. Sometimes physical change takes a little longer to achieve than people think.

Stefano Carboni – Director of the Art Gallery of Western Australia

If we do things right, Perth will be a city that is well-connected and has grown exponentially, especially in height. It will have a series of cultural offerings that are spread throughout the year and multiple cultural places throughout the city so there is the perception that it is a very lively, vibrant city. As a city, we will be confident of who we are, and what our place is in the world. We will have our own identity, self-confidence, sense of belonging and of owning this place. 

Not only do we need to cater for the growing population in terms of infrastructure, we need to cater for a much more diversified population and develop annual plans for a consistent and solid offering of diverse cultural and arts activities. Cultural activities are a vital part of society and for personal development. It’s in the nature of man to think in a deeper, creative way.

It’s important for the next generation that the Art Gallery of WA (AGWA) grows exponentially. A great architect would probably manage to keep us in the Perth Cultural Centre by integrating the existing 1979 building and two heritage buildings into a new structure. But on the other hand, in a growing city there may be the need to have a fantastic art gallery somewhere else as well. The cultural centre is a great hub at the moment, but in a future city of more than 3 million people, one hub is not enough. You need other places for people to visit and add a sense of the depth of the city.

With WA being so rich in Indigenous history and art, Perth is certainly one of the best candidates to have a national centre for Indigenous culture. If it’s properly planned it should benefit from both federal and state funds. The location should be chosen in very close discussion with the Nyoongar people, who should have the most substantial input.

In countries like Australia, the United Kingdom and Europe in general, it’s often expected that government funds new buildings entirely. Certainly government should have the larger responsibility, but in a growing city, a percentage of the funds for new public buildings should come from private sponsorship. It’s only through both public and private efforts that you can achieve excellent results. We should be looking in part to the American model where philanthropy is often the only driver behind cultural institutions.

In my ideal world, public institutions in WA would have a mixed funding base. Provided the state funding is enough to run the building and main programs, then the philanthropic contribution can be used to start an upward spiral that will generate additional government and private sponsorship, feeding each other and contributing to reach a very high level of performance. This would ensure AGWA would be flexible and able to work entrepreneurially, but also enable it to be a strong and consistent presence in the city, state and beyond.

One of the most important things we need to do in the next generation is grow private sponsorship to the point where the donors feel totally engaged. It’s a matter of ensuring everyone understands the impact that cultural life has on the wellbeing of society, and gives more importance to its development. It’s an educational process that needs to happen at all levels. It’s getting that sense of progress and pride for what Perth is and what it needs to be as a city that has its place in the world.

AGWA ambitiously set out to run six exhibitions from New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) over three years. We initially took for granted that a large portion of people in Perth would recognise the brand MoMA. However, audience research demonstrated that a much lower section of the population knew the brand, so we had to adjust our campaign accordingly. For a series of financial reasons, we had to discontinue the project after three exhibitions.

It was extremely disappointing because the partnership with MoMA was working beautifully. We are a small institution in a relatively isolated region, yet the director of MoMA saw it as an opportunity for his institution to achieve visibility in a part of the world he feels is going places. The ideal attitude by 2040, or a lot sooner hopefully, would be that a very large percentage of the Perth population knows what MoMA is. If we reach that level then we are in business.

Brisbane provides inspiration. Twenty years ago, the Queensland Government and other stakeholders were enlightened enough to make a decision to invest more in the visual arts. The Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) was created as an additional, more modern building to the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) and the operating budget of the QAG was almost tripled. The QAG’s creation of the Asia Pacific Triennial gave Brisbane a new identity and generated pride in the local population. Two years ago, the QAG was the most attended gallery in Australia, which is amazing with a population that is about the equivalent of Perth.

Barcelona and Vancouver are also excellent examples of how cities can become destinations because of their cultural offerings. And 30 years ago, why would anyone visit the sleepy, fishing town of Bilbao in Spain? Because the Guggenheim decided to build a museum there and commissioned architect Frank Gehry to do
it, all of a sudden it became a viable city from a commercial point of view.

Sometimes it’s a single institution that makes a difference, but in an ideal world it’s the vibrant and growing city that leads the way. I believe Perth is that city and I continue to be inspired about leading AGWA to realise this vision. 

Alec Coles – CEO of the Western Australian Museum

By 2040, WA will have changed and grown significantly – grown in size, of course, but also, importantly, grown in stature on the world stage. Perth will be a thriving, colourful multicultural city, and WA will be an exciting and vibrant place to live, work, play and visit. A place that treasures its ancient landscapes, its environment and its human heritage, and embraces its incredible diversity and the cultural vibrancy that creates. West Australians will have developed their sense of shared identity and we will be proud to call ourselves West Australian, proud to live in WA, and proud that people will be coming here from all over the world to experience our culture – in all its forms. 

We need to revel in the role of a young city that’s constantly changing and diversifying, while honouring the ancient past of our Aboriginal people. Too often people look at the bricks and mortar of the last 200 years and suggest that we have limited heritage, but we’ve got 50,000 years of Aboriginal heritage. We need to acknowledge those places that represent our Aboriginal heritage, state- and city-wide, and make more of them. We need to view our heritage through a different lens with a sharper focus, and contemplate it with more open minds.

Arts, culture and participation are not the domain of institutions. They are the right and responsibility of everyone. We cannot and should not think that we can demand engagement, but we should provide the opportunities for it to take place, and then it is up to all of us to engage on our own terms. Of course we need more public investment, but we need to keep encouraging business and the independent sector and, as individuals, we need to invest our own time, energy and money. I believe that as a state we are on the right path.

Cultural activity is vital to our state and city, not only as an economic driver and tourism attractor, but also for what it contributes in terms of livability, social capital, and giving people an opportunity to express themselves. We’ve all got our own identity, background and heritage, and museums, galleries, performance, music and food all provide important ways for people to broaden their experiences and express their identities.

There is a definite appetite for culture and the arts here, with sold-out events, queues, and growing audiences and appreciation. But we can all be more than consumers. It’s time we better understood the role culture, in its widest sense, can play – on one hand as a promoter of social cohesion, pride and identity, and on the other as an economic powerhouse.

People still talk of travelling to see things in other places, but sometimes we need to open our eyes and see that a lot is going on here and there’s a lot more to come. Too often people are disparaging about the cultural richness of their own home, but we should be confident, aspirational and believe in ourselves. There is no reason for WA and Perth to have an inferiority complex. Right now, there is no place I’d rather be. In the past, other places may have been investing more conspicuously in cultural content and infrastructure, but right now, this is our time.

One of the major challenges is self-belief. Believing we can be the best, or as good as the best. One challenge is to understand that culture and creativity have many guises and are about everything we do. Scientists, engineers, journalists, chefs – these are all very creative people. Cultural investment breeds a sense of creativity in a community that is self-perpetuating.

The State Government has committed almost $430 million to the new WA Museum. Opening in 2020, it will be a centre for cultural activity, expression and enjoyment – a hub that also works with cultural partners in the city and in the regions. The New WA Museum is a major commitment to the future, which is an irony of museums. People may think they’re about the past, but they’re also about the present and very much about the future. They can help us understand ourselves, each other, our environment and our world. The WA Museum covers such a range of subject areas – science, arts, history, culture, communities – it has the potential to touch everyone. In many ways, we transcend and stretch beyond the concept of a cultural institution – we are a ‘whole of life’ institution in both a temporal and philosophical sense. Our aspiration is to be the heart of the state and the soul of our people.

If you look at the major financial centres of the world, they are all cities with great cultural resources. These things go hand-in-hand. It’s about co-investment, creative capital, and creating an environment where people want to explore, experience and try new things.

Singapore extremely exciting – its multiculturalism is very young, but there has been incredible investment in culture and in architecture. Wellington used to provoke the response: “Where’s that?” But New Zealand’s national museum Te Papa (Maori for ‘Our Place’) was key to promoting the Absolutely Positively Wellington campaign that saw the city become a major international destination. Houston in Texas is a resource capital just like Perth, but it also promotes the fact that it has 18 museums all within close walking distance of the city centre. And let’s not forget that Victoria made brave decisions to invest in cultural facilities as Melbourne’s unique selling point – I think we can learn from that. 

It will be disappointing if, in 26 years, we look back after a time of relative economic prosperity and reflect on a missed opportunity to invest in the cultural capacity of our state and our people. It would be tragic if we failed to understand that, as a creative hub, we can be just as good as anywhere else in the world.

Stephanie Buckland – CEO of Tourism Western Australia

With the significant infrastructure projects in Perth such as Elizabeth Quay and Perth City Link taking shape, by 2040 I would like to see these paying off and becoming key tourism assets for our city. Some of WA’s most extraordinary tourism experiences are found in our regions, and by 2040 I would like to see these destinations and experiences complemented by world-class tourism infrastructure such as hotels, as well as affordable aviation access from some of our key interstate and international markets. It would be great to see WA attracting increased visitation from high-growth Asian markets such as China. WA has significant tourism potential and it’s vital that the State Government, private sector and industry work together to ensure a successful industry by 2040.

There is no doubt that tourism is vital to WA’s economic future, with huge growth opportunities. A recent report by Deloitte Access Economics identified five ‘super-growth’ sectors which have the potential to add a quarter of a trillion dollars to the nation’s economy over the next two decades, and tourism was one of those industries.

In Perth, I think we’re on the right track with some of the developments we’re seeing – investments by the private sector in small bars, new hotel accommodation and attractions. Over the next 25 years I’d really like to see that the investments are paying off for those who have made them – whether that’s the private sector or whether it’s government investing in infrastructure like a new stadium, arena or Elizabeth Quay. I’d like to see that all of those investments are really paying off and working in synergy.

Tourism Council WA recently launched its Destination Perth strategy. It’s fantastic to see industry actually taking leadership in pulling together a strategy like that and not relying on a government agency to do it for the industry. One of the points made in the strategy is about making sure we’re working together to activate the investments government is making in a range of infrastructure. For example, ensuring the new stadium takes advantage of the opportunity presented by sports tourism, or making sure Elizabeth Quay is not just a weekday precinct but is a precinct that’s activated with tourists on the weekends as well.

Rottnest Island is often compared with South Australia’s Kangaroo Island. Our accessibility to Rottnest Island from Perth is so much easier for visitors than from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, so we really need to figure out how we’re going to capture that market. Southern Ocean Lodge is particularly amazing, and I think something like that on Rottnest Island, or even something a level below that, could be quite an addition to what we’ve got available.

Another thing I’d like to see developed more is the accessibility and link to the Swan Valley. I think we’ve got a great opportunity to connect Perth, the Swan Valley and Rottnest Island as a complete package of tourism experiences for our visitors.

Some of the things we’ve got on offer in regional WA, from a natural perspective, are spectacular and unequalled in the world. I’d like to see those natural wonders matched up with private sector tourism infrastructure so people can take advantage of them. We need to address some issues such as affordable aviation access into the regions, as well as additional hotel infrastructure in some of those regional areas, so people actually make them a tourism destination.

I think we have an opportunity to develop some signature properties within some of our natural environments. Properties like Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island or Saffire Freycinet in Tasmania become demand drivers in their own right. They attract their own clientele and attract a lot of attention to the destination.

We also have a real opportunity to develop some sort of high-quality accommodation along the Bibbulmun Track and Munda Biddi Trail. I don’t think we cater for those who want to finish their day with a hot shower, a nice meal and glass of wine, and have a good sleep before they walk/ride again the next day. There are companies specialising in that type of experience and we are having discussions with them about what would be required in terms of support and enticement to get them to come to our part of the world.

The National ANZAC Centre under construction in Albany has potential to be a game changer for the Great Southern region. It is a site of national and international significance, and has potential to be a place of pilgrimage for
people who are really interested in the ANZAC history. The challenge is to make sure we’re working with the local industry to promote it and present it as such.

We are working on a business case for the redevelopment of Busselton Airport; to lengthen, widen and strengthen the runway so it can take larger planes, and redevelop the facilities so they can cope with more people. Then we’d like to
see direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne into the Margaret River region. We know there is a high desire to travel to the region and some of the research we’ve done indicates people are deterred because they would either have to get a connecting flight, or get in a car and drive, making it too difficult for a three-day weekend.

There are two things the Commonwealth Government can do to make the tourism industry more competitive and sustainable. Access to labour is a major challenge for the industry. I think there are opportunities in respect to some of our Commonwealth regulations around things like the working holiday visa that would make it easier for tourism businesses to access working holiday makers as a source of labour.

The cost of doing business is another huge challenge for the tourism industry, particularly for small business. Tourism is a 24/7 business and we’ve got a regulatory regime and a particular penalty rate structure that does not favour businesses that need to operate that way. Certainly when you talk to tourism operators they all say they’ve got no issues with paying people an overtime wage for working more than 37.5 hours a week, but when you’re talking about paying someone three times the wage for working on a public holiday or Sunday, it’s crazy.

Some of the African nations and the things they’ve done in regard to luxury lodges in some of their game reserves are really something we could potentially aspire to. And if you look at New Zealand and what they’ve done over many years of having a brand positioning, sticking to it and promoting it, I think that’s something we can take some lessons from. It’s not just the government that’s promoting 100% Pure, it’s the tourism industry as well.

Liza Harvey – WA Minister for Tourism

By 2040, we will have been successful in the area of tourism if it’s a sustainable, consistent part of our economy and a sustainable, consistent industry performer. I would hope all West Australians will be thinking about where their next WA holiday is going to be, that they take some time to get to know their own backyard and make sure their kids get to experience our extraordinary state too.

We’ve got a strategy in place to double the size of tourism spend from 2010 to 2020, to $12 billion. We have already increased events from 35 to 95 a year, with the aim of getting people moving around the regions for specific events. Margaret River Gourmet Escape had massive attendance last year, including more than 71 international journalists. We’ve also got Taste Great Southern, so we’re now looking at a whole gourmet alley.

Perth is in the top 52 destinations to visit on the New York Times list. Let’s stay there. Cable Beach and Turquoise Bay are listed in the top 25 beaches in world to visit. We need people to understand what our WA tourism product is and have it on their bucket lists – a sophisticated holiday with secluded beaches, five-star dining, world-class vineyards, untouched wilderness and adventure tourism.

One of the major challenges is our remoteness, so we need to sell a high-quality, value-for-money experience – it takes a while to get here but, once you get here, we’ll knock your socks off. It’s getting the message out that what people can get here, they can’t get anywhere else.

China offers huge potential for WA tourism. We need to get into Asia and develop friendships, open up avenues for student travel and then encourage families to visit students. The Tourism Council is running programs to get businesses ‘China ready’.

We are transforming Perth through the Elizabeth Quay, Perth City Link and stadium projects. This infrastructure investment of the State Government will also result in water taxis and a cable car to Kings Park. Once we have more hotels we’ll have capacity to host some of the big world conventions.

Tourism adds vibrancy, quality of life and boosts jobs and the economy. Every new tourism development is also a new experience for West Australians to enjoy.

Terry Redman – Minister for Regional Development; Lands; Leader of the National Party of Australia (WA)

Regional WA will be a strong, thriving place with a broad economic base by 2040. Through significant investment to encourage growth and development, the regions will be taking pressure off the infrastructure in Perth. We will have major cities in the north and hub centres in the south with the capacity to service bigger areas around them. People will want to live, visit and invest in the regions, which will have good sound populations based on strong local economies. All the measurements of community will be there. Technology will play a far greater role in service delivery, and we will have developed innovative strategies to deliver services to remote areas.

We are in the early stages of developing our regions and there is a long way to go but I think we’re definitely on the right track. Since 2008, $4.2 billion of Royalties for Regions funds have been acquitted. Another $4 billion is allocated in the current four-year forward estimates. Royalties for Regions is not going away, but the program will become more strategic in its focus. The private sector has played an important role and will play a greater role in the future. We’ve cracked the nut and demonstrated the vision is achievable.

The first four-star hotel was launched in South Hedland recently and, although we’re at a low point in the economic cycle, we’re still seeing investment. The export of iron ore out of Port Hedland last year rose 17 per cent on the previous year, which equates to substantial volumes. Construction in the resources industry is not at the same levels but production is growing. If you stand at the top of the hill in Karratha it looks very different today to what it did six years ago. Clearly now it can develop into a city of the north, with the Pelago development, contemporary streets and coffee shops, and a normalisation of prices starting to happen.

More people are choosing to move to the Pilbara with their families rather than work FIFO. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach and there will always be a place for FIFO. But I see my challenge as to shift as many FIFO workers to the local community as possible. Karratha’s Baynton West is a fantastically modern suburb with wonderful open spaces, a new school, and buildings to support a Pilbara vernacular. If I were 20 years younger, I’d love to move to the Pilbara. There’s a real ‘can do’ attitude, and services and facilities are contemporary.

In the south, we’re seeing great progress in the Manjimup region, which has been branded Genuinely Southern Forests. Manjimup has become a service centre and is supported through SuperTowns. The farmers have so much passion and pride in their produce, and as an organisation the Southern Forests Food Council, which also takes in the towns of Pemberton, Walpole and Northcliffe, produces more than $100 million worth of agricultural product. The production capacity is significantly higher, and with the right pathways there is huge scope to grow their markets. We’ve provided the catalyst by putting in investments to support the agricultural activity. Maturity is coming into regional development, and the government is able to catalyse that activity.

It’s never an easy pathway, and often we agonise over where we should invest. So far we have been putting a lot of money into areas that have been underinvested for many years. As time goes on, we will increasingly invest into areas to support economic development. The regional development commissions are now working up blueprints for prioritising economic investment to drive economic growth. The key to long-term sustainability of regional communities is a lively economy, built on the natural assets and communities the regions already have. By an extension, a good jobs base can also solve many of the social challenges we have.

Providing economic opportunities for Indigenous communities in the regions remains hard and limited. These are big challenges that won’t be easy to resolve. Indigenous unemployment in WA is 19 per cent. Indigenous unemployment in the Pilbara is 13.5 per cent, which is a good sign, but the rest of the population is 2.5 per cent so although there are gains there is a hell of a long way to go. We are trying to close the gap and ensure the first Australians share in the prosperity of the state.

Technology will solve some of the distance challenges across the regions. Providing access to specialist services through Telehealth is being trialled in some areas and I can see that being a very cost-effective and efficient way of delivering services. A lot of areas don’t have a mobile phone service, and we’ve provided $40 million to build 113 phone towers in regional WA. Access to mobile phone services helps with business activity.

There is a growing international interest in food security, which presents a huge opportunity for WA. We are well placed geographically, largely in same time zone as a significant part of world’s population. Particularly in the northern part of WA, we have significant water and land assets, with huge productive potential. We need access to capital and need to be prepared to find partnerships and develop and support efficient supply chains to get the product to market. It’s important we do some work now to better understand what’s changing in those markets and what bottlenecks are in our supply chains.

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