(Apologies for the delay in service: I think I’ve wrought control from the unruly plugin that was randomly breaking things.)
So in the two-ish weeks since Charles Landry left, there’s been a remarkably fiery debate about how best to handle the future of Perth, with plenty of ink spilled, but sadly little in the way of signs of change among the leaders who are holding us back. (At least this was a better reception than what he seems to have earned at his next stop, Mumbai.)
The West Australian published a two-page spread last Saturday which basically repeated things that have been said for ages, like “connect the city with Northbridge” (even though that’s already planned and is pretty much a done deal, since every major stakeholder has agreed). There was also a generic “more support for the arts” call, which is great, but the implied qualifier “from the public purse” isn’t a real solution; as Landry pointed out, we actually need a greater sense of private patronage.
They also published a bunch of letters on the matter, with some others online (note that what’s online aren’t comments in the normal sense, but in fact letters in the old-school sense). PerthNow did something similar. It’s interesting that many comments are saying things like “Perth is fine as-is, if you don’t like it, why not leave?” … maybe someone needs to tell these people that that’s exactly what is happening!
I’m also a bit suspicious of all of the comments calling for “better public transport” — while I agree with the sentiment, it seems like lots of these people don’t actually use the existing services. For instance, I read several calls for a circular service linking the train lines, which already exists! (That’s not to say it can’t be improved — higher frequencies would be great, and the CircleRoute passes close to the same airport that lacks bus services …)
Some vaguely promising signs came from the Liberals this week, with suggestions like free wifi in Joondalup (in Perth, the owners of the overpriced existing service would complain) or establishing a carbon trading market. This latter idea is, in fact, a brilliant concept that’d do wonders for Perth, and fits nicely with Landry’s suggestion of making Perth a centre both for mining and for repairing the damage it does. Sadly, I doubt there’s strong enough political will anywhere in WA to see this through to reality.
Meanwhile, when speaking to CEDA the Opposition Leader announced he’d be interested in using the convention centre as a catalyst for change, making it the centre of an entertainment district by the waterfront, to complement sports and culture districts at Burswood and East Perth respectively. This sounds like it might be the start of a useful idea (although I see things wrong with it already) … problem is, so far it’s just two paragraphs in a speech. Good luck finding any real policy on his official site, which is about as well-organised as his party!
So let me take a shot at gap-filling: a pollie with real guts might suggest sacrificing the outermost lanes of the freeway as it passes over Mounts Bay Road, turning them into ramps that go straight down to meet the road. Then, Barrack Street and The Esplanade could be changed back to two-way streets, thus turning the Mounts Bay Road intersection into a standard freeway diamond. This would allow all four flyovers south of the Convention Centre to be demolished, and for Riverside Drive to be ripped up from Barrack Square to the Narrows Bridge — which would free up hectares of prime land for riverfront development.
Similar ideas are emerging on this SkyscraperCity thread, which incidentally is one of the few online discussions of the topic I can find (another is in a local queer publication). This is a shame, because creative and out-of-the-box thinking was exactly what Charles Landry asked for, and it is exactly what we need to make the convention centre stop sucking.