Albo outlines national urban policy vision

Albanese outlines national urban policy framework and blasts government and business for lack of leadership

By Brad Gardner

The Rudd Government has outlined its vision of a national urban policy framework, but warns self-interest and a lack of leadership will stifle attempts at reform.

In a keynote address at this year’s Infrastructure and Investment Conference, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese articulated a broad reform agenda aimed at revitalising cities plagued by congestion and a lack of infrastructure planning.

Claiming a focus on cities "is more urgent than ever" due to a boom in traffic and population levels, Albanese spoke of a national framework capable of assessing urban policy challenges and allocating resources to much-needed areas.

"It will highlight how a systems approach to thinking, policy decisions and allocation of resources can achieve greater benefits," he says.

"Targeted consultations are well under way and I expect the main content of the National Urban Policy to be completed in the coming year."

But while charting a long-term vision, Albanese told the conference that "cultural change" was necessary if urban planning was to improve.

Bemoaning parochialism from government and a lack of leadership from business, Albanese urged both parties to set aside self-interest and work with the Government to develop a framework capable of sustaining cities.

"Our disparate decision-making processes are producing sub-optimal planning, land use and settlement patterns," Albanese says, adding that the current approach is leading to insufficient use of infrastructure funds.

He says international best practices standards are available, referring to Germany’s national approach to urban systems.

"All we lack is the right leadership – from government and from business," he says.

"The big problem in essence is the lack of a consistent national policy focus."

In a comprehensive address, Albanese spoke of the need to slash traffic congestion, which was estimated to cost $9.4 billion in 2005.

But he erred against turning cities into concrete jungles, saying more lanes on roads is not always the answer to improving traffic flows.

"In Sweden, an intelligent road system gives Stockholm’s commuters enough information to reduce traffic congestion by 25 percent and carbon emissions by 40 percent," Albanese says.

He also spoke of the importance of driving reforms in the road, rail and port sector, but says they must not come at the expense of urban issues.

"We’re clearing the arteries of the nation with these reforms but clogging up its heart by neglecting our cities," he says.

As well as traffic congestion, the address focused on the need to ensure cities were liveable and affordable, promoted healthy outcomes and improved housing designs.

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