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> Ingo Kumic

Dear Sirs,

I’m new to the site and based on a quick scan of past and present articles felt compelled to write and thank you for offering an alternative voice to the current orthodoxy characterising Australian urbanism (and the praxis of planning generally) today.

Your current article on ‘The crisis of academic urban planning’ is not only relevant, it should serve as the basis to something vastly more comprehensive, mainstream and transformative. A recent (failed) interview for a position with an academic institution further reinforced the irrelevant nature of what was being taught. I would of course say this seeing I was unsuccessful.

Nevertheless, I believe Australian urbanism has on the one hand been hijacked by urban planning practitioners who believe that the subject of their practice is ‘urban form’ (rather than the urban condition – ie society and economy) and that their practice is a statutory (rather than strategic) one by which the material evidence of our societies is rationalised. To compound this we have on the other side of the ledger academics who continuously confuse new facts about urban form with new knowledge about the urban condition.

I agree entirely with your criticism that in the real world things aren’t anywhere near as simple and as seamless as the triple bottom line implies. The issue of where housing goes or doesn’t go, whether cities are walkable, green, have great events, or are projected by contemporary design solutions are all profoundly moot when discussed in isolation of ‘the’ productive condition. No city on this planet exists to be green, to be connected, or to be accommodating per se. They exist to be productive (the economy). It is the productive condition which must be tempered with strategies that manage the time and space it takes to live without compromising the ability of society to produce the evidence that they were here (ie culture).

To promote a business case which simply reduces time and space for the sake of it disenfranchises society (and therefore the market) from its productive habit. Instead of facilitating or enabling the sustainable production of space we seem more concerned with using the city as a vehicle by which we manage the aestheticisation of politics. Enter Clover Moore

I’ve spent the last decade revising neo-corporate strategy around urban regeneration and the making of the productive environment both here, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Key to reforming planning praxis and therefore the expectation of globalising city governments is helping them make a distinction between the mechanisms which produce value (society and economy) and the evidence (buildings, streets events etc) of this value. The real value, and therefore basis to the investment/ business case around making cities, is that the urban spectacle is in the everyday process of producing place. By gentrifying we remove the very mechanism which creates the value in the first instance. In my opinion, housing, transport, parks, etc simply become the means by which this more fundamental urban-end are met

I wrote an opinion piece with Gerard Reinmuth a while back for Monument Magazine. It’s a fairly light critique of Sydney’s Vision 2030 exercise but picks up on similar criticism raised in the subject article and the article on Jahn Gehl’s pedestrian visions. Unfortunately I don’t have it with me, but can send a copy through if interested.

Many thanks again and hope to keep in touch

Ingo Kumic

> Chuck Berger

Dear John, 

I read with interest your recent piece on Online Opinion regarding ACF’s consumption atlas. As the coordinator of that project and the author of the “main findings” report, I thought you might be interested in a reaction from the source. 

You note, correctly, that one of the main conclusions of the research – that inner city areas are having a greater per capita impact on some environmental indicators (especially greenhouse pollution) – came as a surprise to many, although for ACF it was hardly unexpected. We’ve suspected for quite some time that consumption of food, products and services was a very large wedge of most people’s overall environmental footprint. But I’m fairly baffled when you state that the findings “would return to haunt ACF”. We haven’t been “haunted” by the findings one bit, and we stand by the research and its conclusions completely – I’ve repeated them dozens of times in presentations right around Australia and in response to media queries about the Atlas. 

You also state that by “pointing the finger” at inner city professionals, we risked offending a core constituency in some way. It was not our intent to “point the finger” at anybody, rather the goal of the exercise was to illustrate the impacts we are all having on the environment. The purpose is to illuminate, not condemn. 

(By the way, the notion that environment groups have their stronghold among inner city, wealthy professionals is a common but erroneous assumption. ACF counts a great many supporters in peri-urban and regional areas – our support base is more diverse politically and geographically than is usually taken to be the case.) 

But to the crux of the matter: many commentators closely associated with the property development industry, have utilised the findings in the Atlas to imply that current forms of peri-urban development are somehow environmentally acceptable, or at least that they’re not a comparatively serious contributor to the environmental problems we face.  

This is a conclusion we strongly dispute. What we believe the Atlas demonstrates is that neither the current inner urban, consumption-intensive lifestyle, nor the peri-urban, automobile-dependent lifestyle, is anything even approaching ecological sustainability. Both urban form and lifestyle patterns have to change dramatically, right across our urban landscapes. Is this an uncomfortable truth for ACF? Perhaps, but we do not recoil from it. Is it an uncomfortable truth for property developers who generate tidy profits from building cheap but inefficient and poorly serviced housing, often by clearing remnant native habitat? Yes, and many of them are doing all they can to avoid the needed changes through obfuscation and self-interested claims. 

Your ultimate conclusion, that “singling out” low-density suburbia is a poor choice of priorities, is in a sense correct, but I’m puzzled by your assumption that this is a finding we won’t like. ACF generally doesn’t “single out” a particular area or practice for condemnation. I can’t stress this enough: assigning blame for complex, multi-variate problems like biodiversity loss and greenhouse pollution usually doesn’t get us very far; ACF is all about constructive solutions that improve environmental outcomes while furthering the ability of people to lead satisfying and meaningful lives. ACF is not anti-suburbs. We are against a form of suburban development that results in water and energy waste, degrades landscapes, imposes significant costs and risks on residents for the benefit of developers, and deprives suburban residents of access to good employment, community facilities, cultural life, transport and environmental amenities. 

Making our cities more sustainable will require dramatic change in inner urban areas, particularly by improving building standards and reducing the emphasis on high-impact consumption activities. More focus on wellbeing, less on wealth accumulation and conspicuous consumption. It also requires dramatic change in our outer suburban areas: improvements in building standards, active and public transport infrastructure, and here too reducing the focus on consuming for consumption’s sake. These changes are not only environmentally required, they will also enable people to improve their real quality of life. 

Many Australians are thirsty for a more balanced lifestyle, which emphasises growth in quality of life, environmental health and resilience rather than growth in GDP. Rethinking and restructuring our suburbs, and our inner cities, has to be a part of that quest. 

Chuck Berger

Charles Berger
Director of Strategic Ideas
Australian Conservation Foundation
Floor 1, 60 Leicester St, CARLTON VIC 3053, Australia
Ph 03 9345 1173   Mob 0419 134 913   Fax 03 9345 1166

Response from The New City:

Dear Chuck
Thanks for your measured and thoughtful comments. You will have gathered that the ACF was not the real object of criticism in the article. Indeed, we believe the Consumption Atlas is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the issue of settlement patterns and GHG emissions. You deserve credit for this. 
Your objections to some of my figures of speech are noted, especially your point that the ACF does not apportion blame or single out particular demographic segments for attention.
Nevertheless, we feel that the broad vision outlined in your email would, if implemented, result in undue harm to certain segments which happen to be amongst the least advantaged in ouir community. This is a theme we have been exploring in The New City for some time. In our view, the environment movement tends to overstate the environmental damage attributable to suburban growth while understating the negative social and economic consequences of urban containment policies. 
For instance, you repeat the common myth that suburban growth is bad because it forces people to live far from their jobs. This reflects an outdated model of urban development which assigns commercial activites to the core while dispersing residential settlement to the periphery. This model has long since passed into history. In today's western cities, improvements in transport and communications technologies have enabled many industrial and large scale commercial activities to gravitate to the periphery where rents and land values are lower. This is a comparative advantage which, to some extent, compensates western businesses for their higher labour costs relative to those in rapidly rising emerging economies. Naturally, when workers follow these businesses to the fringe, they are locating closer to work. Only 13 per cent of Sydney's population works in the CBD.
By raising land values across the whole urban region, containment policies pose a risk to the viability of countless such industries and enterprises. The economic consequences for many un-skilled and semi-skilled workers would be very grave.
You also raise the misconception that residents don't prefer low density, detached housing but this form of development is forced on them by arrangements which benefit self-interested developers. However, several surveys, not to mention the actual choices of thousands of homebuyers, confirm that most Australian families with children still aspire to this type of housing. That's hardly surprising in a warm country with an outdoors culture.
Given all of this, your comment that the ACF "is not anti-suburbs" needs to be heavily qualified.
I could go on, but I will just conclude by thanking you again for taking the time to respond to my article. We can all benefit from a dialogue on these vital issues. We will post your comments on our feedback page for the benefit of readers.
John Muscat

The New City


> Dr Joe Flood

It has often been my role as a CSIRO expert on housing and planning since the late 1980s to try to sort out the reality from the ideological hyperbole when it comes to arguments about urban consolidation. It is good to see some serious debate on the issues, albeit by an environmental group. a developer's council and an academic "fair broker".  In particular ACF are to be complimented on their objectivity in presenting data that seriously challenge the environmental orthodoxy, "dense is good".   

In reality, all this combined analysis exposes is the complexity of the issues and the difference between what is possible and what is real. Human beings actually enjoy consumption and unless they are constrained they will consume until the environment is exhausted. They are capable of subverting most attempts to limit their consumption, and if they are prevented in one direction, their activity will bulge out again in another. 
A reading of these three studies shows some fairly common sense principles. People with more money will consume more. People who need to travel more will use more fuel. Small households consume a lot more energy per capita than larger households. Congested areas use more energy for cooling, lifts and clothes drying (and less for heating). Dense living encourages the proliferation of energy-intensive recreational facilities. In Australia, electricity generation using coal creates more greenhouse emissions than road transport using petrol. None of these things have to happen but they will happen in an unconstrained environment.
Yet in their attempts to rein in energy consumption, local planners have only a single lever to pull - urban densities - which has only a marginal relationship to each of the above real-life phenomena.
It is one of the simplest and most ignored facts in planning that broad spatial interventions never ever work - they usually just divert resources to the rich who are best placed to subvert them. The only interventions that work are the ones that directly target observed undesirable phenomena. So - if you were serious about the above - here are the obvious strategies -  tax higher incomes; use sticks and carrots on travellers to reduce their fuel use and get them out of their useless 4WDs, discourage dense living in warm areas, tax or restrict inner city recreational facilities, get rid of coal generation.
Sounds like a recipe for electoral disaster and "fascist state" demonstrations? Sure. Then there is only one thing for it - do what Griffith University recommends and pull the only single lever that actually works; price energy up as high as it is going to go twenty years from now when it really starts to run out; wear the electoral backlash, use the money to support any industries you really want to keep or minority social groups who are really going to suffer; and let the market do the detailed dirty work.  The only real alternative is quotas and energy trading, and once again, these will make the few much richer.  
Dr Joe Flood
Urban Resources
Adjunct Professor/Senior Research Fellow, Flinders and RMIT  

>Daniel Kogoy

Dear Labor Right Mouthpieces,
Your articles bashing Clover Moore, the Dane and integrated public transport are ridiculous. A decent public transport system would reduce congestion Sydney's streets. Just have a think about it for a moment, its pretty simple. More people on buses, trains and light rail means less cars, less congestion. Its a win-win situation, people who have to drive will get to their destination quicker and so will those who take public transport. Sydney's west (and the entire city) would benefit greatly from higher density and the improved amenities and public transport that can come with it, including parks and public space. All it requires is good planning, listening to experts rather than accountants in Treasury.
Hope you are enjoying the kickbacks from our corrupt, and useless state government.
Daniel Kogoy

Editors' response:

Thanks for your comments. We are always interested in hearing divergent viewpoints. Nevertheless, we must disagree with your overstated praise of public transport.
It's a pity you felt the need to descend to baseless insinuations. We are nobody's mouthpiece and nor do we receive 'kickbacks', as you put it. We extend you the courtesy of believing your views are sincerely held, and we are entitled to no less. 
The New City

> James Bolton

You are right when you say that Labor hasn't been doing the right thing.But your conclusions are wrong. Labor hasn't been representing its supporters, not the bleeding heart left or the working class conservatives.

Labor wants to blame inner city elitism for their loss of relevance. But that's waytoo easy. 'Inner city elitism' is just an expression for ordinary people having to do it for themselves because they can't rely on the party to do theright thing. What are those people supposed to do when Labor no longer listens?

Are they meant to be like good Catholics and just sit still, shut up andhave faith?

Working class people in the western suburbs who have never been exposed to a principled party with a real commitment to social justice seem to prefer the Libs and why not, they are nasty and unprincipled and have never pretended any different.

If you are only concerned about your mortgage and worried about interest rates then whynot vote Liberal?

The Labor Party has been taken over by hacks and apparatchiks who havehad no time for rank and file contributions. Heaven forfend. They have no principles and it shows. Why would any smart person with principles wantto join the Labor Party at the moment? What influence could one person have on the policies and functioning of this party? How could that person be preselected for a start?

Labor councillors on Inner city councils are seat warmers doing the bidding of the party. They are lazy and have no dialogue with the local communities and only stir when they are forced by their opponents. No wonder ordinary people prefer Independent or Greens councillors, who firstly respond to their calls and emails, then respond to their concerns.

It's not the fault of progressive people who are actually doing the job they were elected for if they are being supported by their communities. It's the fault of the lazy, power hungry factions in the Labor Party and the unions who for too long have ignored their base and have preferred to keep all the power and control with the executive, and are suffering because their membership has deserted in droves and now they have to hustle for political donations to pay for political campaigns that in past days were run by the branch members.

Labor look to your own behaviour and examine your consciences and you might come up with a solution instead of continuing in a state of denial.

 > Ron

Sorry folks, if I want to vote for the Liberal Party (which I certainly would never do), I am not going to give my vote to the Alternate Liberal  Party.  I don't believe Howard would have been able to achieve as much of  his evil deeds as he has, if it hadn't been for the Hawke/Keating 'reforms'.

For example: we so badly need the People's Bank back in govt hands to keep the insatiable other banks in line (the CBA is, of course, probably the worst in Australia now for out-and-out greed).

What this country needs is a good, solid Left-wing party.  You are not going to win too many votes for the ALP being Liberal-lite.


> Christina Ritchie

To the Editor, New City

The Vision We Have to Have

In the latest neighbourhood diary section is an article about the redevelopment of East Darling Harbour with reference to Paul Keating’s participation in the design. I am not particularly happy with the design as it incorporates too much commercial and residential building which tends to crowd out the remaining public space.

The parkland is to be commended however, particularly as it incorporates the harbour foreshore boundaries. Undeveloped headlands are so important as they provide a green transition to the harbourfront, maintaining the visual shape of the harbour and providing breathing space between the tall solid structures of the city and the natural environment of the harbour itself.

Similarly, the very valuable and extensive White Bay/Glebe Island area, which is currently under review, needs a plan which will provide essential public foreshore access, much-needed public amenities, transport alternatives eg ferry terminal, light rail extension, and breathing space for the high density residential areas of the inner-west. The area does not need more residential development. Nor does it need 24/7 industrial facilities that would be far better situated in designated industrial areas such as Port Kembla or Newcastle, which are in need of further employment opportunities and have the infrastructure in place for such industrial activity. Revenue and employment can still be provided at White Bay by a mix of suitable uses (possibly including light maritime) that does not conflict with the provision of public facilities and the breathing space the inner west desperately needs.

It is thanks to Jack Mundey, the BLF and community groups that the beautiful, historical Rocks area of Sydney was saved for our benefit and that of future generations. Let’s keep this in mind when considering further major developments in valuable areas of our city.

Christina Ritchie
August 2006

> Christina Ritchie

Dear Sir/Madam,
I refer to your article "Bell tolls for Leichhardt ratepayers" in the June edition, Neighbourhood Diary section.
It was certainly a terrible error of judgement by Leichhardt council that has cost ratepayers approximately $10m, paid to Bezzina Developers, for two small blocks of land at Bells Foreshore. It is understandable that local residents did not want luxury apartments built on this prime land adjacent to the East Balmain wharf. Already there are too many expensive apartment blocks on Sydney Harbour foreshore land. However, Leichhardt council should have realised that the value to ratepayers of spending $10m on much-needed infrastructure and services is far superior to hanging on to Bells Foreshore and the staggering cost this has now incurred. The cost to ratepayers of $10m was never envisaged when the unit development proposal was first opposed. Mr Stamolis' comments on the decision are welcome and I agree with your sentiments re the "silliness" of council. Let's hope lessons have been learned and this expensive exercise will not be repeated.
Christina Ritchie

> John Stamolis

Dear Sir/Madam
Some of the comments you have made about me in your article on Bells are  incorrect. Here is my position over many years:

 1. Council, alone, should not have committed to the Bells purchase.  I feel  that Councils should not be in the business of buying prestige waterfront  land from high profile developers.  Instead, I believe that Councils MUST  provide their communities with vital infrastructure, amenity, safety and  services AND allocate these resources fairly across their communities.

 2. Bells was the most expensive purchase EVER made by Leichhardt Council and what did we get . two blocks of land (in an area already very well supplied  with open space and, some of the best harbourfront open space in Sydney).  The $10m could have purchased a new aged centre AND a new childcare centre  AND a new library, better local footpaths etc.

 3. At $5m per block, I expect that this is the MOST EXPENSIVE land purchase  EVER made by any Council anywhere in Australia (on a square metre basis).

 4. Council not only made the purchase but delivered a HUGE $5m PROFIT to a  developer, ALL out of ratepayers funds!!  Residents are not happy about

 5. I am still unable to convince Council that the money spent on Bells  should have been used to purchase other more important needs across our  broader community.

 6. The potential risks/gamble of public money by Council showed a poor level  of financial responsibility. If you look at articles over the past 3-4  years, Council played a poor financial gamble saying the purchase should be  $4m, then it became $6m, then $8m and finally its $10m . We hope.

 7. Only a very small number in our community are aware of this purchase. Of  those that knew, there was strong division as to whether the Council should  make the purchase.

 8. Last year our municipality was hit with the largest EVER rates increase  on our community (many were hit with 24%-28% rates increases!), justified on  the basis of infrastructure improvements, while, at the same time, $10m was  allocated to a small area to give developers huge profits.

 9. I stood amongst a rally of 200 people, held by the Reclaim Bells  Foreshore Committee questioning their focus.  This was not an easy thing to do.

I welcome any attempts by you to ensure that our ratepayers funds are used  wisely and fairly for the benefit of our whole community.  I fully agree with the focus of your story as it continues to put pressure on our Council  with regard to their financial decision-making and to ensure that Leichhardt  Council focuses on the very important infrastructure, safety and amenity  needs for our the whole municipality.

Given that you have misrepresented me and referred publicly to me as a  'ratbag', I feel that it would be courteous if you would call me  to discuss this further. I hope that your comments were unintentional and  the result of hearsay.  I am happy to speak with you and I will give you  clear and honest responses.

 Thank you

> Joel Kotkin

Hi...I am very interested in what you guys are doing. Attached is a recent LA Times piece that may be of interest. I am also starting a major set of research papers

on upward mobility in the US and also specifically about Houston.


> Senator Kim Carr

Letter to the Editor, The New City

Dear Sir/Madam,
The commentary in your March editorial on Labor’s discussion paper on urban development, housing and local government,
Australia’s Future Cities, has recently been drawn to my attention.  I would like to take this opportunity to respond to what I consider a serious misrepresentation of the paper and of Labor’s position.

The basic thrust of my paper is that the Commonwealth should once again take some responsibility for the health of Australia’s cities.  This includes considering the impact of its own decisions, such as the approval of retail developments in airport precincts and the level of support provided to refugees.  It also includes a commitment that a future Labor government will undertake a collaborative partnership with state, territory and local governments to plan and coordinate housing and urban development activities more effectively.

I am pleased that, in introducing my paper, you describe it as comprehensive.  It is a shame that the comprehensive nature of the paper is not reflected in your assessment of it, which largely seems to consist of taking sentences and half-sentences out of context to support a pre-conceived conclusion which is based on the false premise that ‘sustainability’ is all about the environment.

To start with, you state that I emerge “as a raving fan” of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Heritage’s Sustainable Cities report, because I say that “Labor strongly supports the vision of the committee”.  What you fail to note is that the vision Labor is supporting is explicitly stated to be that: “sustainable cities of the future will be vibrant urban regions which are economically productive, environmentally responsible, and socially inclusive.”  I find it difficult to imagine that anyone would oppose such a vision and I note that supporting this vision does not imply support for every aspect of the Sustainable Cities report.  Indeed, less than two pages later, my paper questions the conclusions of the committee in regard to the role of the Commonwealth Government.

In relation to the ‘suburbanisation versus consolidation’ debate, you suggest that I state that the debate “must be managed “in an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable way””.  The full paragraph from the paper has a rather different tone and is, I would suggest, in many ways consistent with your own position:

The reality is that people have diverse housing preferences.  Demand will continue to grow in all Australian cities for inner-city living and also for stand-alone suburban houses.  The important issue, in a policy sense, is to manage both the expansion of fringe suburbs and the increasing density of inner suburbs in an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable way.

The message here is that we must do better than the poorly planned, energy and water intensive developments that have too often characterised both new outer suburbs and high-density projects in our cities.  The discussion paper goes on to discuss a range of practical measures to achieve this, including improving the provision of infrastructure (for example, public transport and storm water systems) to new fringe suburbs.

The strategy that you claim I have used Orwellian language to describe is actually a proposed National Settlement Strategy.  Again, the quote is taken out of context and ignores the fact that the purpose of the proposed strategy would be to understand settlement pressures and plan for expected trends, so as to avoid the ad hoc responses to rapid population growth which have, in the past, caused significant environmental, social and economic problems.  If you are opposed to researching expected population trends and planning to meet them in the most effective way, you are by all means entitled to express that view, but it would be more honest to do so in a direct manner.

Two other points are worth noting from your critique.

First, you state that Recsei is “on the mark” in saying that “At the very least it is necessary that sustainability and other objectives be defined and performance indicators set. … Full social cost accounting should be undertaken with external costs included.”  Such an approach of defining objectives and identifying performance indicators is exactly the approach being adopted by Labor in proposing the national settlement strategy and a national sustainability charter.  Evidence-based responses to the critical issues facing our cities and towns are exactly what Labor is advocating.

Second, you state that “if our leaders were foolish enough to swallow the sustainability spin, they would certainly jeopardise the jobs working people need to even contemplate home ownership.”  From an environmental perspective, one can only hope that this furphy has been put to rest by the Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change report released on 6 April.  Failing to meet the environmental challenges that we face is what will cost jobs and GDP.

Your statement also reflects an extremely narrow interpretation of the term ‘sustainability’, which is inconsistent with the way it is understood in the literature and the way it is being used by Labor.  Because sustainability actually encompasses economic and social aspects, it is fundamentally about securing our future prosperity, providing opportunity for all and supporting the vulnerable.  It is, in fact, all about creating jobs and making sure people are equipped to take advantage of them.

The jobs of working people are certainly under threat in Australia today, but that threat is from the Howard Government’s extreme industrial relations agenda, not from Labor’s efforts to ensure Australia’s cities remain liveable and prosperous into the future.

Yours sincerely,

Senator Kim Carr
Shadow Minister for Housing, Urban Development, Local Government and Territories

> Michael Gormly

I notice there is no mention of public transport in your growth-without-limits scenario. Do you envisage yet more petrol-guzzling commuters traversing an unlimited urban spread, destroying our environment? Are you happy to pay for the all-new infrastructure when NSW is already about 50 years behind in its basics? Whence 'affordability?

And yes, while 'sustainability' has fallen victim to meaningless spin, co-opted by conservatives to mean something else, try turning the term on its head. Who is going to support 'unsustainable' policies, either in an economic or environmental sense?

There is no easy answer to the development question. If you slow it down, prices go up. If you allow it to spread untrammelled, we live in a concrete wasteland. Your breezy manifesto is too close to an economic rationalist miracle scenario for comfort.

For one thing you ignore one of the principles of 'new urbanism' (as do most of the nimbys who co-opt the term) -- maintaining a stock of older built stock keeps prices down because its capital has been paid off. This principle could become a development guideline for councils, tending to even out pockets of over-development. In the inner city all our old built stock is being replaced willy-nilly by unaffordable refrigerator-like unit blocks, so I give you points for recognising that problem.

As an inner city dweller I feel that our culture is being mercilessly persecuted by a government pandering only to the 'lager' mentality of tabloid-dominated marginal suburban electorates. Look at the millions spent on stupid police search operations (with and without sniffer dogs) which have people every day up against the wall being stripped for no reason and with almost no result. Why doesn't 'good guy' Iemma release the Ombudsman's report on the subject?

Your belief that Greens are anti-capitalist is behind the times. Believe it or not, most Greens know where their morning pint of milk and their cell phones come from. Read some David McKnight on the subject -- 'Beyond left and right'. Yet they also know that the last time global temperatures rose by four or five degrees, 94 percent of life on earth was wiped out. They have the conscience to act on this. If you don't address that NOW, you are condemning future generations. Iemma's addiction to the coal industry is nothing short of criminal.

So your use of the term 'flaky' puts you right down there with the Orwellian spin-doctors, and your obvious Labor affiliation is the blind spot in an otherwise penetrating piece.

Premier Iemma to his credit has saved the Newcastle rail line -- but only to protect a marginal seat.

On the other hand he is ignoring the findings of the Cross-City Tunnel enquiry and sitting on his hands. His inaction, along with Clover Moore's, plays directly into the hands of a minority of inner city nimbys who want east Sydney enclosed to increase their property values. You can't convince me or my neighbours that he's a good guy -- not yet, anyway.

Better to vote Green and force both major parties towards more environmentally sustainable and socially just policies.

 > Andrew Clark 

It is interesting that you criticise the use of sustainability in language as you say it lacks the social context of infrastructure, and issues for social justice, education and health. Sustainability is not another abused word from post-modern economic rationalism at all. On the contrary, it underpins the need to uphold a social fabric, as we are, after all, are the people. The poor are neglected. Few poor people can afford to pay tollways. Maybe that is because so many are homeless and even afford to drive cars.   So cut the pretence, the crap, and actually do something outside of the anthropological armchairs in Sussex Street.
Your comments are full on middle class rhetoric, wafer thin on substance, and not once did you mention the poor or social justice issue, just a vague reference once or twice. All this article spoke of was in language of numbers. You are the number crunchers betraying the people, not the Greens.
This is not the language of results or responsibilities. Nor did it speak of solidarity, freedom, or the need to unite. Yet it is obviously a Labor website titled "independent". Every article written by an ALP person, and so many references to the ALP totally makes a mockery of this site's own title. You need to review this as people will see the pretence as an indication of propaganda that is misleading.
To say that the ALP should lean away from the Greens, that would be interesting in a hung Parliament after the next elections. What makes the ALP think that the Greens would have an alliance with the ALP, if it can't even back the Kyoto treaty? You don't have them hostage as your scapegoat, or a possible ally. The relations between the two party will divide as you move further to the right. This will push your party so aggressively to the right is not winning the ALP any friends,  it is isolating itself even more, making it impossible to keep its factions together, and vulnerable to inevitable defeat in the next state election in NSW, and almost definitely in Queensland. The Queensland election shows polls so far against the ALP, it might find itself with the highest landslide against it in Australian history! Too many mistakes! Too much arrogance! And no, you are not talking about people at all, you are talking about demographics. People are not numbers.

So cut the crap and look again at the meaning of sustainability.


 > Hugh Pavletich

Just a brief note to congratulate you guys on your excellent website – which I came across for the first time last evening whilst doing a google search. Its a great credit to all involved and hugely helpful with the current debates surrounding urban issues in Australia and elsewhere. I have sent copies of it around the key people on my email list.

Your editorial on the hazy term of “sustainability” is simply superb. I do hope Chris Steins pops it up on Planetizen.

I do hope you people communicate with Dr Tony Recsei of SOS Sydney. Like me, Tony hadn’t known of your website before and is most impressed with it too.

Keep up the great work guys.

With best regards,

Hugh Pavletich

Co author – Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey


New Zealand

 > Joel Kotkin

I saw your site and appreciate the mention.

You should pick up papers like the NY Times or Toronto Globe and Mail for contempt for middle class dreams.

Keep up the good work.

Hope to meet you when I am next in Australia, likely this November.

Joel Kotkin

 > Tony Recsei

Your March editorial "Is environmental sustainability socially unsustainable?" in which you point out some examples of language manipulation for ulterior motives is much appreciated. It is heartening to see the manipulative verbal spin of politicians and the bureaucracy clearly exposed.

On the other hand I must point out that you misleadingly cast Save Our Suburbs in the image of groups whose motive is restricted to their own benefit. Save Our Suburbs opposes "overdevelopment" – development beyond the capacity of existing infrastructure to service and opposes high-density development that is forced onto communities when it cannot be demonstrated that this development will be for the overall greater public good.

I have been trying unsuccessfully for over six years to ascertain what benefit the policy of urban densification will bring to the general public. Successive Ministers and Director-Generals of Planning have been quite unable to answer this. The question was persistently posed to ex-Sydney Sustainability Commissioner Professor Peter Newman and to ex-Metropolitan Strategy Convenor, Professor Ed Blakely who likewise proved unable to answer it. These individuals are not able to point to any high-density comparable city in the world that does not suffer from the problems they imply high-density policies will alleviate. The questions posed and points made in my People and Place articles of June and December 2005 have not been satisfactorily responded to.

It is unsurprising that localised resident action groups that support Save Our Suburbs usually have motives of personal advantage. NIMBYism has its place. Man is a semi-social animal with concerns both for the self and for others which frequently conflict. The concern of Save Our Suburbs however, focuses on the whole community. The evidence continues to point to urban densification being detrimental and we will oppose this policy unless it can be demonstrated otherwise.

It would be much appreciated if you would bring this to the attention of your readers.

Tony Recsei


Save Our Suburbs (SOS) NSW Inc

 > Owen McShane

A great website.

As someone who has been campaigning against such anti human planning for a decade or more I congratulate you. You may be interested in this paper I presented in the US on the real ideology behind Smart Growth and the New Urbanism. Socialism it is not.

Owen McShane
Director, Centre for Resource Management Studies
158 Rangiora Road, R.D. 2, Kaiwaka, Northland, 0582
New Zealand.

 > Michael Sheffield     

I was introduced to your site by a client (Exec Director of one of your linked orgs) during an interview for an article which I am writing. Great to see what you are doing and best of luck with the venture.

Your comments on sustainability revisit a point that I was pondering in an earlier article about our bad national predilection for taking a really fabulous groundbreaking thought (my example was Donald Horne's coining of the term The Luck Country), reducing it to a cliché and then arguing that it should be dismissed as meaningless.

The bit in the article went as follows - just to show what a fabulous point he really was making:

Extract reads <Prof. Horne¹s message in 'The Lucky Country' in 1964 left no room for misinterpretation: Australia, through second class leadership and a lack of ambition and imagination, had been more fortunate than it deserved.

"Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck.  It lives on other people¹s ideas, and, although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise.  A nation more concerned with styles of life than with achievements has managed to achieve what may be the most evenly prosperous society in the world.  It has done this in a social climate largely inimical to originality and the desire for excellence (except in sport) and in which there is less and less acclamation of hard work.  According to the rules, Australia has not deserved its good fortune," he said.> extract ends.

Sustainability is another example of the same thing.

It originated, of course, from Brian Lovelock and Lynn Margulis' <spelling may be sus> Gaia concept and it is a fabulous idea.  But I'm sure you will be familiar with it.  Sustainability, in that context, translates across to resource usage brilliantly and has a very simple and rich meaning - where it can be used as code for 'responsible resource usage' 'Careful husbanding of renewable resources' and or 'responsible usage of non-renewable resources'.

Guess the message to be drawn is that we, as writers, can benefit from understanding why telephone networks have repeater stations built into them at regular intervals - they pick up messages as they are being transmitted, refresh them so that their integrity is restored, then send them on their way again.

Now if that's not something that the ALP is very much in need of at this time I'll bare my bum in Bourke Street.

Best Regards and every good wish for success with your journal,

  > Geoff Ward

I read you contribution in OLO (Online Opinion) this week and so found The New City. Your aims interest me, in particular discussion of 
the disproportionate exercise of  political, economic and cultural power by inner-city interests on urban planning and national, state and local politics.
I have no barrow to push, am not professionally involved, but for effective governance of this country I think we need a strong opposition, preferably from a board based party/s.
I had an article published in OLO which I will attach. It may or may not be of interest to yourselves but I think it is on or around your recent OLO article.
Any comments appreciated.
Best wishes,
Geoff Ward

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