Aiming for elegance, one thought at a time

Urban growth boundary & population expansion – Letter to the editor

Posted: June 26th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Correspondance | No Comments »

I managed to get through school without writing a single letter to the editor, and felt none-the-worse for it. Recently, though, I’ve felt compelled to do something to execute my civic duty. In the absence of a concrete action plan (as yet), I have decided that letter writing will be the thing to do. My first attempt is a response to Abby McKee of Greensborough (The Age Letters, 24/6), who wrote:

Where do we draw this grey line?

WEEK after week, letter writers to The Age suggest that the solution to urban sprawl is to limit Melbourne’s population growth.

We are yet to be treated to suggestions about how this should be achieved. How do we decide who is privileged enough to live here? Those of us who were here first and don’t want to see unit developments from our big backyards? Perhaps you need a family connection? An employment sponsor? A minimum bank balance?

Those who wish to see population growth limited clearly see the advantages of living in Melbourne, or they wouldn’t be so desperate to preserve their personal living standards. I am interested to hear how they propose to deny these advantages to others.

My response, submitted The Age on Wednesday 24/6 at 7PM EST:

Abby McKee (Letters, 24/6) reasonably requests those who would prevent expansion of the urban growth boundary to suggest how population growth should be accommodated.

I have lived in Melbourne my entire life, and love the city. However the need for change is undeniable. The high social and environmental costs of outer-suburban expansion are clear.

Melbourne is a great place to live, but it can be improved. More importantly, the coveted Melbourne life-style can be recreated elsewhere. This is the key to accommodating population growth – providing genuine, socially- and environmentally-effective alternatives.

Melbourne needs to change its current CBD-centric thinking. Both within the existing boundaries, and beyond in potential satellite cities such as Geelong, our focus should be to create walkable or rideable ‘villages’. These higher-density ‘villages’ would provide all necessary services without the need for lengthy car trips, and act as a hub to connect to the city-centre when necessary. To achieve this in an affordable way, efforts should focus on the expansion of existing communities, by filling gaps in service provision rather than starting from scratch.

I would be perfectly happy to live outside of Melbourne if a little bit of Melbourne could be recreated elsewhere.

Admittedly, I’m not sure I directly address her central concern – how are limited places to be assigned. This is, however, a first attempt, and I was labouring under a 200 word limit. My point is rather that we should seek to limit demand to live in Melbourne, by providing alternatives, rather than pandering to the demand. If I had responded to Abby’s central point, though, I would have said that they would be allocated as they are now: by the cold hand of the market. Which is effectively to agree that, yes, they would be allocated according to bank balances (or one’s willingness to take on debt) and the forces of supply and demand.

Update: I held back on posting this because I don’t know what The Age’s policy is regarding re-publishing letters. I suspect it doesn’t matter, and in any case, given the time lapse, I think that worthier letters have now been preferred for print.

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