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Tuesday, 15 May 1973
Page: 2069

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - One would find it difficult to disagree with a lot of what the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) has just said. I think that he voiced a lot of thoughts which we need to consider in the future. Planning new cities, planning new growth centres and planning where people are going to live is not an easy task for anyone. I believe that a lot of poeple are missing the whole point when they criticise this Bill which, after all, is really just a vehicle for what is going to happen in the future. The Bill essentially involves changing the name of the National Urban and Regional Development Authority to that of the 'Cities Commission'. However, the Bill foreshadows all sorts of action. I would like to point out to the House that the department concerned with this legislation is the Department of Urban and Regional Development; it is not the Department of Cities'.

The Cities Commission Bill will give the necessary emphasis for the particular work which needs to be done as far as our cities are concerned. I believe that emphasis is necessary. About 40 years ago Lewis Mumford wrote a book called 'The Culture of Cities' in which he coined the word 'megalopolis' when he talked about the way cities joined together to form vast urban conglomerations. The spectre of the megalopolis hangs over us in Australia. Unless we do something positive about what I believe will be a great problem in the future we will be faced with a huge urban sprawl, very much worse than we have now. For instance, in Victoria we could see a continuous urban area from the southern side of Geelong right round Port Phillip Bay to the other side of the Bay with a population of 10 million, 12 million or 15 million people. I do not believe that that is the sort of way in which we ought to plan. We need to give some sinews or guidelines to the Department of Urban and Regional Development, and this Bill is designed to do that.

The problem confronting the cities is probably the biggest problem which faces this Department, but that does not mean to say that country areas do not need assistance; that country towns, or the small hamlets to which the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) referred, do not need assistance. Of course they do. I think that the guidelines which the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) has set out in the various statements that he has made indicate that the Department will be just as interested in that sort of development as it is in development in the cities. But, firstly, the cities need our attention.

I think that it was the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) who talked about federalism. Unless we have a structure upon which federalism can really work, that concept will not work. Over the past few years it has become evident that local government authorities have become increasingly less able to cope with the situations that demand their attention. We need strategies for development which will enable the Department of Urban and Regional Development to assist both State governments and local government authorities to achieve properly planned development. Cities are an expression of man's organisational ability. They started off in a very small way. They started off basically as a means of defence against enemies, but now they mean much more. Cities can be very efficient, but once they have reached a certain size they become very inefficient. We, as a nation, will be much more efficient and we will provide much more p'easant habitation for the people of this country if we plan our cities accordingly.

I think that one of the biggest problems that we face in Australia is the problem of transport. This is a big country, and when we put huge cities into this big country and try to get people to work across cities, we find that all sorts of difficulties develop. It is not of much use talking about a 35-hour week or a 30-hour week or any other figure which might be arrived at with increasing technology without considering the effort and time needed to get to work. Many people spend hours getting to and from work. On y this week I shifted my office from the centre of Melbourne into my electorate. It is not a great distance from the centre of Melbourne, but I am saving up to an hour and a half a day in travelling time and I can put this time to good use. Many people spend much more time than that each day in travelling to and from work.

We ought to consider what will happen to the cities of Sydney and Melbourne and to the other capital cities if they grow much bigger than they are. I hope that one of the things that the Cities Commission will do is to consider the actual patterns of urban development. Do we need the sort of pattern that we have in most cities now? It is not just a question of sprawl; it is a question of how a city is planned. Hugh Stretton m his book talked about linear cities - that is, long cities where people were always close to a spine of public transport and to public open space. That is one concept which we could well have a look at, depending upon the topography of the country. If that type of concept were followed and there was, for instance, a very high speed rail service down the spine of a long, narrow city where everyone was within walking distance of open space areas, one could travel from one end to the other of a city that stretched for, say, 50, 60 or 100 miles in a shorter period of time than it now takes to get across Sydney or Melbourne.

Planning in every way means progress. Without the sort of planning which the Cities Commission can give this country we are not going to achieve the objectives that I think most of us believe are necessary. It is not that the Cities Commission is going to consider cities only, but cities are an important part of man's development of this country. The Cities Commission will draw upon the resources of State governments and local government bodies to assist it in proper community planning. The Cities Commission's planning of new urban areas will assist in the reduction of pollution - air pollution, water pollution and noise pollution. In addition it will enable cities to be built - like the city of Canberra - where people can walk a few hundred yards away from their offices and be in pleasant surroundings with trees and lawns. This is not an impossible dream; it is something that can happen. But before it can happen we need the structure to enable it to happen. There will be problems, but we cannot have it both ways. We cannot draw up an extensive plan for urban development and expect that there will not be other problems arising before we implement it. We are faced with a situation that exists at the moment and we must plan according to what happens as we go along. I believe that the Cities Commission will be able to do that. I believe that it will be able to draw upon the resources and brains available and ensure that within a concept or plan we will be able to adjust to changing circumstances.

The honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) mentioned the Yarra River and Finn's Reserve. Finn's Reserve is within my electorate. At that spot there is a great deal of pollution, although it is quite a distance from the city. The pollution is primarily due to household sullage. It is not due to septic tanks but to the fact that the State Government, the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works and, of course, the local council have not been able to cope with the growth that has occurred in that area. I do not know whether many honourable members realise that ordinary household sullage, without toilet waste, is half the concentration of raw sewage. If 100 houses are replaced by 200 houses and there is no sewerage but only septic tank treatment, the 200 houses will produce as much pollution as if all waste went into the creeks, rivers, streams and drains in the area. It is a problem that we must consider. In my electorate there is also the beautiful Plenty River. If development continues without proper planning the Plenty River will suffer the same fate as the Yarra River. There are already indications of that happening.

I believe that the rivers and streams around our metropolitan areas are the lungs of our cities and that we must preserve them. The Cities Commission will provide a means by which the increasing urban sprawl can be contained, lt is my contention, formed over a number of years of association with local government and town planning matters, that unless public authorities either own or have control of the areas surrounding our major cities we will not be able to control this sprawl. The pressures upon governments of all character are so strong that very often planning considerations are overridden. 1 believe that large areas of land around our major cities should be bought at the ruling market price so that no one suffers to any extent, and that they should be either retained for public ownership or leased back to the people, farmers and others, who can put the land to good use.

It was necessary to emphasise these very important questions by introducing this Bill. I stress again that this Bill does not mean that the Department of Urban and Regional Development is any less concerned about country areas and about the need to develop our smaller cities and towns. It does mean that this Government believes that proper emphasis must be given to the tremendous problems which face us in the cities, 1 support the Bill.

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