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Planning for regional development - address to Liberal Party

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"Urbanisation is detrimental in itself. It is lack

of planning which has resulted in urban overgrowth, loss

of amenities, substandard living conditions and social

maladjustment. Controlled and modified urbanisation provides

the social framework for living and the type of environment

desired by the majority of Australians. Whereas s ome

capital cities have tended to become too large, almost all

country towns have remained too small to function efficiently

as modern social and economic units." . ■

Are these words from the present ? No. They were

written in 19^9 by the then Commonwealth Division of

Regional Development. The subject has been thus under

consideration for a long time.

• ' i· ■ ■

In addition,· of course, the term "decentralisation"

ha^ been used for a long time also. The fact is the

great7percentage of Australians live in seabord cities. Between

I96I-I966, when the Australian population increased by a million

people, over 80 per cent of the increase found its way into "

the pre-existing metropolitan areas. A policy for

"decentralisation", or the more modern term of "regional

development" needs definition. The quote I used was a true

statement but it only stated a fact that urbanisation creates

evils and that small towns do not grow into large towns or

even cities especially if they do not have the wide blue

ocean lapping at their doorstep - unless we do something about it.

of regional development

To implement a policy means being able to divert economic

activities which are themselves geographically mobile away from

the metropolitan centres where they would otherwise locate

themselves. Industry fulfils these criteria - it is both

an economic activity and geographically mobile.· By industry

I mean both secondary and tertiary industry. ·

The "classical decentralised industry"- if I may use the I v v

term - was embodied in the Australian Constitution under Section

125· This was that the National Capital by the Constitution

"shall be in the State of New South Wales and be distant not

less than one hundred miles from Sydney."

Here i^e have seen the growth of a planned - and I emphasise

i .. . ' "

the Word, planned - regional development of a city. Under the

previous government, the activities of the National Capital

Development Commission set a standard of excellence of planned "

long tdrm development. The vision of Walter Burley Griffin

was translated into reality - there have been modifications. How

ever, this is what one would expect in a planned long term . .

development. ' .

The experience gained from the venture, and I point out that

the development of Canberra proceeded at an increasingly

accelerated pace during the 1950's and i960's and in fact in the and ·

1970's,, has reached a stage where it is considered to be self­


generating as a viable city where both public and private expenditure

are mixed together to sustain the coninuing growth pattern.

During the life of the past Parliament the Government set up

the National Urban and Regional Development Authority. The horizon

had broadened with the evolution of expertise gained in the

development of Canberra. One of the keynotes of this Authority was

selective decentralisation - that was the concentrated development of

a small number of centres which had been carefully selected having

regard to factors likely to be favourable to their growth.

The Authority was set up under Sir John Overall who had

for many years headed the National Capital Development Commission,

and the Authority was directly responsible to the Prime Minister.

The Authority was charged with pilot studies of a number of possible

centres to be established in Australia. The names of possible centres

have leaked out - Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst-Orange, Holdsworthy—Menai,

to name at few. These have been continuing under the present

Government who are in the throes of changing names and ministerial

responsibility. It is now to be the Cities Commission, responsible

through thezDepartment of Urban and Regional Development to Mr. Uren.

This, despite what may be stated to the contrary, is a piece of

legislative gymnastics consequent on Mr. Uren being given the portfolio i

I feel that it is worth making the point as the whole concept

will probably quickly have funds appropriated; and the fact that it

was a Liberal/Country Party initiative will be buried, or at least

the Government will try to do so.

Philosophically, there would be two competing views of

regional development. One is that we should develop inland

because we are essentially a maritime metropolitan nation.

This has a strong emotional appeal. The other view which has

some merit in terms of climatic and probably recreational

facilities but probably not in terms of conserving our magnificent

coastline, is to develop regionally along the seabord. However,

as I understand it, neither has general acceptance and - : : ■ . there are . ·

areas which are being examined both inland and along the coast.

So much for the philosophy. I have stated both philosophies

without as yet any predilection. '

The practic ability of the matter is bound up in land -

the economics of land, the price df the land and the associated

provision of resources needed; water, power, ease of communicatioi

with major metropolitan centres, climate, availability of potential

recreational areas such as lakes, beaches, snowfields, etc. ’

so that the regional development project is viable, not only

economically but socially as well. .

. In planning any regional development the basic commodity is

land · The primary economic consideration is the cost of thisfejid.

In order to control speculation in regional development, some

form of price stabilisation must be considered. It is now a

sensitive time for instituion of such control when a National

Authority - or a Cities Commission - no matter what you call it -

is investigating the feasibility of a number of areas. Knowing .

human nature, there are always those who want to "take a punt


to make a quid on land speculation". Price stability demands that

the States co-operate in any scheme that the Commonwealth may develop.

If the States do not co-operate then the Federal Government is left

with a grand design and little else. When we set up the National

Urban and Regional Development Authority we were sensitive this

issue of Federal-State relationships in the establishment of a

Ministerial Council between the Commonwealth and the States.

Joint involvement of the States, by setting up regional

development at the border, may in one sense bring two States

together to think the question through in a concerted manner,

but against this one has the problem of differences, in pre-existing

legislation to cppe with setting the pattern for future economic and

social growth.

Increasingly it is being manifest - in any planning one

must involve local government in any endeavour in the direction of ■ * '

regional development. It is, after all, the local government who

have to deal with the day to day consequences of growth in the

provision of services and in establishing priorities in the overall


Planning itself with beautifully coloured diagrams of

population "corridors" of expansion is the glamorous side. The

actual provision of facilities such as sewerage, roads and waste

disposal on a day to day basis where there are the intense pressures

exerted to modify the priorities, is far from glamorous. I have

great sympathy for the local government, which is entrusted with an area of

6 .

regional development. ,1 am very impressed with the approach

of the City of Wagga Wagga Council, who proposed in 1969 selective

decentralisation for the city„

The reasons for the selection of Wagga Wagga are cogently

put; Wagga Wagga envisaged two different patterns of land use

with the current town plan able to accommodate a further 10,000

to 15*000 people. Public utilities were estimated to be able to

handle a population increase of 10-15 per cent annually. The

cost of providing such utilities were calculated as considerably

less than for Sydney or other parts of New South jtfales. The

social desirability of Wagga Wagga was explored. The local

government here had grasped the nettle 0

The question which must arise is tbat given the trend of the

population to cluster in the maritime metropolis, what are the

incentives which can be used to reverse the trend ? Industries v * ■

should be given direct positive financial incentives. In Victoria

the State Government has recently introduced a Dill to provide

incentive payments to decentralised industries, based on payroll

tax rebates.

An Industry Location Survey of 118 metropolitan and country

manufacturing firms was undertaken by the Department of Decentralisati which in New South Wales, attempted to qualify the net balance of private industry . . ■ .

^advantages and disadvantages attributable to decentralised location.

This estimated the average net cost differential was 9 2 ^ per $100

of sales. Transport and communication costs were the major cost

disadvantage of the decentralised location. However, with suitable

incentives this could be overcome.

7 .

What the study did emphasise was with the problemsof unbridled

growth of the giant metropolis without regard to the mounting costs

of suburban commuter services, the spiralling cost of urban land,

and the problem of industrial waste disposal, were going to increase .

and increase.

Therefore, there must be incentives to stimulate regional

development in a direct manner. This must be supported.

. I

Other incentives are the' dispersion of educational facilities,

in particular regional Universities and Colleges of Advanced

Education, exploitation of the tourist potential of'areas of

regional development, encouragement of government agency,placement

in the areas - these are all important.

To establish the social medium by which a small town grows to

a medium size town to a city is one in which planning is all

importhnti. The planning must be aware of people's motivation.

Tt must be aware that for a free country people cannot be dragooned to in an area just because it is in an unexplained way "desirable for

the national interest". Nobody at present tvould appear to have

solved the problem of when a growing area of regional development

in fact .becomes self-generating.

I believe you, as citizens of Wagga, are concerned. The

concept of regional development is attractive, .to you - as a planned

long term exercise. It is an"urgent problem. It is not an ""

academic exercise to keep town planners in work with nebulous schemes

It must be a joint effort of Federal, State an d , I emphasise, local

government authorities.