COAST CATCHING UP AFTER YEARS OF 'NOTHING'
Written on the 2 February 2016 by Nick Nichols
EIGHT years of inactivity has finally caught up with the Gold Coast, and Mayor Tom Tate says the latest flurry of development activity across the city is giving rise to perceptions of a construction overload.
However, Tate, who is hoping to win a second term in the city's top job at the council elections in March, sees it as a balancing act that has been addressed by the new city plan which came into effect today.
He describes the city plan 'as green as Kermit the Frog' because half of the city has been quarantined for open space.
Tate says the city plan provides the framework for the next phase of urban growth on the Gold Coast with high density development largely aligned with the transport framework, particularly light rail.
"It's a good balance between getting the priorities right; preserving our quality lifestyle and at the same time catering for foreseeable growth of our city," he says.
The current growth phase, which includes some of the biggest high rise developments ever seen on the Coast including the $1 billion Jewel and the $1.2 billion Forise tower in Surfers Paradise, has been driven by large-scale amalgamations stemming from the fallout of the GFC.
Tate says the post-2008 property collapse created a backlog of activity after 'eight years of doing nothing in the city'.
"In future I think you'll find it tough to amalgamate huge development sites like we are seeing now," he says.
While the city plan promotes high density living along the light rail route, Tate says in some areas this may be limited to four and five-storey projects.
The strategy has been backed by former Adelaide Lord Mayor and one-time town planner Stephen Yarwood who addressed a business breakfast this morning.
Yarwood, who makes it clear there is no quick fix but rather an evolutionary process, says it's imperative to encourage more people to live in inner city environments and to use public transport, to cycle and to walk to their destinations.
"It might not be a problem today, but as the Gold Coast grows from 500,000 people to 800,000 people, and then within the next 20-30 years over one million people, one day they'll have to look at it," he says.
"Great cities of the world actually create human-scale lifestyle cities where you don't need to own two cars and drive everywhere.
"It's not about anti-car, it's about choice. It's about making public transport an easy option, and about making cycling a safe option.
"I don't think we should get hung up on tall buildings. It's about hosing mix and housing diversity. Good high rise development comes with associated landscaping."
Tate agrees, arguing that significant buildings are not always about height, but also about community space or open space.
"It's got to be iconic and, architecturally, it has to be world class," he says.
Tate has dismissed critics of the new town plan, arguing that most of the criticism relates to the 2003 plan. He says the latest plan has been framed following 2500 public submissions for change.
Tate makes no apologies for the need to create a higher density urban environment to cater for a doubling of the city's population by 2050. He says the starting point has been transport infrastructure, although he concedes more attention is needed to address transport west of the M1.
"We want to get our transport infrastructure and strategy right," says Tate, vowing to undertake a public consultation process to review transport infrastructure in the city's west.
As for potential gridlock on the M1, Tate calls it a warning sign for the state government to work with the federal government to either improve the capacity of M1 or create a new route within the growth corridor. He says it's preferable to consider both options.
Author: Nick Nichols