Greater Brisbane — Darren Godwell BHMS MHK currently serves as an Advisor to the World Bank on community development and lives in South Brisbane. For the first time in history, the majority of the world's population is living in cities. The challenges of city living have been with us for thousands of years but obviously we’re finding ways to deal with them.
In 1924 the Queensland parliament amalgamated the cities of Brisbane and South Brisbane plus a slew of other towns and shires to create the City of Greater Brisbane. Brisbane has usually been behind the eight ball when confronted with the pressures of population growth. In its first decades Council couldn't find enough money to pave streets, source sufficient water or sewer our suburbs. Clem Jones' election in 1961 came with a promise of the city's first town plan, paving the roads & laying sewers.
Today, the pressures of population growth again push the City of Greater Brisbane. How are the city's residents and ratepayers responding this time around? Unlike the 1960s, Brisbane is awash with plans. Politicians crafted the SEQ Regional Plan with its prescriptive Local Growth Management Plans. Every year City Hall employs hundreds of staff and spends millions of dollars to draft, consult, engage, write and implement plans. However, the modern City of Greater Brisbane demands more than bitumen and flushing toilets. People only choose to live in cities when they offer something better. Last century's civic preoccupation with roads, rates and rubbish was required but its not sufficient for our future.
Greater Brisbane will have to harbour a resilient city economy, protect a unique Brisbane lifestyle and sustain lives that are better for living in this city versus Barcelona, or any other city that competes to retain the most talented, creative, hard-working residents. This competition to offer something better is the civic challenge of the today.
Our new circumstances demand new ways of seeing the challenges of living in cities. Traffic congestion isn't a problem, the failure to have regular, reliable commuter solutions is our problem. The drought isn't a problem, the failure to have water management that befits the planet's driest continent is the problem. The skyrocketing price of petrol isn't a problem, the failure to unhitch our city economy from car dependency is the problem. Increased population density is not a problem. The problems come when we ignore the principle of local leadership over local development.
The closer to people's immediate lives we can empower residents the better off our streets, neighbourhoods and Greater Brisbane will be. The evolution of Brisbane's civic development will take us out of city hall redtape and towards greater responsibility for local development initiated by locals. Vibrant neighbourhoods and safe streets are created by ordinary people living their lives in the homes they love. Everything we do as a city must make these lives better for being lived in Brisbane.
It’s time to take the next steps towards making the city of Brisbane greater.