The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Some matters around Perth, and Google in the fray

Thursday 21 June 2007 at 11:45 pm

Revised ING and Fremantle Ports proposal for Victoria Quay; Creative Commons licence doesn't apply to this image

  • This is the revised development proposal for Victoria Quay in Fremantle, and it’s a clear improvement on the original. But it’s still drawn the ire of Fremantle’s heritage lobby (including the deputy mayor) for being too big; it’ll apparently “drain energy” from the surrounding area. Comparing to ships and harbour cranes, this opposition makes so little sense that I can only guess these folks really don’t want anyone spoiling the view from the Port Authority building.
  • Speaking of resistance to change around Perth, Charles Landry is back in town and will be speaking with Carol Coletta (of the American group CEOs for Cities) at His Majesty’s next Thursday. The topic is “what Perth can offer the global community — in particular the dynamic, innovative and highly mobile 20 to 30-somethings”. Details here.
  • Ten points to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters for stating the obvious in their report: those same young Australians are disillusioned with politics, partly ’cos they’re ill-informed, but mainly because they don’t trust politicians. The report goes on about civics education, but nothing short of Orwellian brainwashing will do unless MPs start reaching out to young people and, you know, actually responding.
  • It’s interesting to watch as Google develops to be (in some ways) more like a traditional corporation, such as by engaging in political lobbying. But when you’re the darling of the Internet, you use a method that will reach out to the young and the busy — a blog littered with YouTube videos.

Fixing the city centre: not a State priority

Friday 11 May 2007 at 7:14 pm

An ugly Perth Rail Yard with lots of construction work

The coverage of the State budget in today’s West Australian looks to me like little more than a jumble of ill-considered low blows — for example, Mike Nahan (who sounds increasingly like a Liberal lackey with every column) criticises it for not being as reformist as the Federal budget, without stopping to note that Tuesday’s biggest reform was allowing the ATO to pre-fill our tax returns so we can file with one click (great though it is, it’s hardly earth-shattering).

But today’s paper did reveal something that I didn’t have time to confirm yesterday: no funding has been allocated for the new footy stadium, the still-under-wraps foreshore development, or most worryingly, the Northbridge Link project. Assuming the project goes ahead, the earliest anything could happen is July 2008. And that would require it to be funded in next year’s budget — which may well focus on vote-buying measures for the February 2009 election instead.

So the vista above is likely to continue looking like that for a while. Possibly a long while. Now I know what Charles Landry was on about when he said that Perth’s immense potential is “blocked in innumerable energy-draining ways”.

(Also in the “budget WTF” category: the $100 million over five years that the Premier promised to deal with climate change looks all the more feeble when you realise that $88 million is to be spent in the next 12 months on our coal-fired power stations. In fairness, some of this will go to efficiency-improving measures, but it still makes the “commitment” look awfully lame.)

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Lots of ideas, but not so much action

Friday 23 March 2007 at 8:20 pm

(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.

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