The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

The new Northbridge Link plan: could be worse

Wednesday 16 December 2009 at 9:09 pm

Artist's impression of the Northbridge Link plaza; Creative Commons licence does not apply to this image. Artist's impression of the Barnett government waterfront plan; Creative Commons licence does not apply to this image.

Forgive me a way-overdue (and backdated) post, but I’m still one of the top Google results for this, so I figure I ought to post something.

Back in November, the Barnett government released a newly-tweaked plan for “the Link”, the development site next to Perth train station. From the scant detail available, the plan doesn’t suck, and is of course better than what’s there now. But it’s also meagre in foresight (what good’s more open space without stuff around it to draw pedestrians?), and it still has the unfortunate feature of the railway not being underground all the way (alas, the promised Federal funding doesn’t go that far).

Likewise, the new waterfront plan announced a fortnight later is quite reasonable, and probably more realistic than the Carpenter government proposal, but still so far-off in funding and timelines that I expect no end of change between now and the start of construction.

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Swan and the Ruddster versus the Global Financial Crisis

Tuesday 12 May 2009 at 4:29 pm

Hourann’s Federal Budget verdict: not perfect, but decent, and surprisingly well balanced.

Most of the criticism I’ve read is rubbish — what’s up with Joe Hockey and this “lost control” nonsense, or his constant dummy-spit about taking on some debt? There is a pretty strong global consensus that cutting spending is unwise (witness California, or indeed any American state), and while it’d be lovely and morally pure to remain debt-free, that’s nigh impossible in the current climate. We will at least still be one of the least-indebted OECD members, and unless the recession becomes long-lived and revenues drop sharply again, the proposed debt is quite manageable.

Rather than arguing about how much is spent, though, I think it’s quite fair to entertain criticism on where it’s spent. There is room for decent arguments that this budget does scant little for the environment, that the spending on education is good but not targeted correctly, or that the proposed infrastructure spending is neither big enough nor bold enough. But then again, see above; not going too far into deficit is a pretty important consideration, and on that front I think the general balance looks about right. (Imagine if the spending levels had been Keating-esque!)

Oh, and the budget includes $236 million for the Northbridge Link rail project in Perth (leaving the Sydney Morning Herald to whine on the front page). Again not perfect (it’s not enough to go past Lake Street!), but still, who says the Commonwealth never did anything for WA? ;-)


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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A few things I’ve missed

Saturday 21 April 2007 at 8:43 pm
  • Because of an ugly conflation of factors that conspired to keep me from blogging this week, I missed a bunch of cool things, like the article about PerthNorg in last Tuesday’s West Australian, complete with a lovely photo of Bronwen ;-)
  • How did I not discover Galacticast sooner? It makes little sense if you’re not a sci-fi nerd, but if you are, it’s a whole new level of awesome.
  • In Federal politics, this week saw the re-emergence of boat people! and dangerous immigrants! and topics like that. First there was Johnny’s off-the-cuff mention that he thinks HIV-positive people shouldn’t be allowed to immigrate. I agree that this’d be horribly discriminatory … but I find myself not that concerned, since it’s basically no change from current practice. I mean, my cousin recently spent $150 on X-rays to prove he doesn’t have tuberculosis, and that was for a bloomin’ tourist visa.
  • As for the more recent announcement, about swapping asylum seekers with the US, I’m seeing lots of comments calling it “illogical”. But although this policy is no less discriminatory, I have to give credit to Johnny for its brilliance. Given that the man’s stated goal is to keep boat people off Australian shores by any means possible, a plan to ship them across the world immediately is genius. It’s also a cheap attempt to switch the punters’ attention away from Ruddster-love and back to issues on which the little man seems trustworthy, but it’s failed miserably thanks to other matters dominating the news.
  • Perthlings! The public comment period for Northbridge Link has been extended to the end of the month, so if you haven’t already filled in the online comment form, you should!
  • And a final word about Perth: when Jeff Kennett came over a few weeks ago I heard several people say we could use a bloke like him in power here. But I think they picked the wrong Victorian: what we really need is a rock-star Lord Mayor like John So. Seriously, could you ever picture people doing stuff like this for Peter Nattrass? Problem is, none of the current candidates for this year’s election look good enough.

Someone reading my mind?

Saturday 24 March 2007 at 2:32 pm

Artist's drawing of proposed western foreshore development; Creative Commons licence doesn't apply to this image

The West has an (impressive, I’ll grant) exclusive today about a thus-far undisclosed DPI plan to redevelop the foreshore near the convention centre. There are sadly no details yet, but the picture that’s been leaked is awfully tantalising, to the point that I may yet have to eat my words on the “no action after Landry” front. Better still, it seems that the planners had the same idea that I had about rejigging the freeway interchange to allow the demolition of flyovers south of the Convention Centre, which is awesome.

Because this is still at a behind-closed-doors phase, there’s nothing to support or write letters about. However, the Northbridge Link plan (i.e. the other big development that Perth needs, and the subject of The West‘s other page 9 report) has a short online consultation form that I’d encourage my fellow Perthsons to fill in over the next week or two :-)

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Northbridge, transmogrified!

Wednesday 3 January 2007 at 1:23 pm

The Northbridge Link proposal; Creative Commons licence doesn't apply to this image.

As today’s West Australian front page reveals (but without pictures!), the Northbridge Link masterplan was released today. Basically, the plan involves office and apartment buildings over a partially-sunk railway line, the extension of King, Milligan, and Queen Streets up to the railway to create Euro-style boulevards, and the creation of several pedestrian lanes and miniature public squares.

I still think it’s a complete cop-out that the Fremantle line will be sunk only between the station and Lake Street — the trains will dip underground for a hundred metres, and then BAM! suddenly you’re back at ground level again (albeit, in this plan, still under buildings). This means that the region where the railway stays at ground level will remain impenetrable to north-south pedestrian flow, except for an (admittedly nice) bridge-plaza structure at Milligan Street.

(Then again, this will be right next to the new Clarkson to Mandurah line and its even more ridiculous hundred metres of above-ground between the Roe Street tunnel and the entrance to the bigger new tunnel.)

There’s also a big question mark over the Entertainment Centre site — the master plan talks about replacing it with apartments and others have mentioned moving TV studios there (à la Martin Place in Sydney), but that depends entirely on what Kerry Stokes wants to do.

But aside from these (relatively minor) qualms, this plan looks to be mostly a Good Thing. There was enough guts to go ahead with a reasonably-tall building (the 25-storey planned for the centre of the Horseshoe Bridge, which should be quite cool) and the figures for office and retail space are big enough to give the area some actual value. The plan includes some nice green roofs, there’s actual honest consideration of the need to encourage vibrancy through pedestrian flow, and the proposed new bus station is an excellent feature. To top it off, the plan to beautify Wellington Street and Roe Street is awesome (and long overdue — even Adelaide’s North Terrace has long been way nicer than our northern street).

Interestingly, the disgusting carpark from the Perth Arena proposal has been replaced with a much nicer block structure with apartment buildings on top of it … but I wonder if that’ll actually go ahead? and if it will assuage the City of Perth’s worries about a lack of parking for the arena? Even more importantly, will the development create more pressure to turn that carpark into a Convention Centre-style carpark for commuters, rather than users of the facility it belongs to? And speaking of Perth Arena, that site seems to be crying out for a train station of some form, even if it’s events-only …

King Street in the Northbridge Link proposal; Creative Commons licence doesn't apply to this image.

There’s a nice (but, naturally, somewhat sugar-coated) summary in the overview brochure, which mentions that public comment is open until early April ;-)