With the global economic picture remaining uncertain and national government funding often no longer viable, smaller cities are under pressure to find new ways to grow and thrive.
As huge new cities emerge across the rapid-growth markets, how can smaller cities continue to compete? We speak to the mayors of Perth, Adelaide and Wellington to find out.
Recently re-elected as Lord Mayor of her home city of Perth, Lisa Scaffidi’s vision is one of pro-development and capacity building. “Our strength is coming out of the predominance of the resources sector. This is a broad term that encompasses iron ore, liquefied natural gas and oil. On the back of this industry, we now have so many companies established and creating a strong presence in Perth as they develop projects up to the north west of our state.”
Among her key priorities are:
- A housing development— building a unit for key sector workers — to encourage a stronger presence of people in the center of the city
- Developing the waterfront area
- A new project, The Link, which involves sinking the railway lines that had separated the city center from the entertainment district of Northbridge
- Riverside, a development containing new apartment and hotel developments
To fund these projects, the state government has committed A$440m for civil works. Private consortia will come together to make proposals for the different sites.
When asked what would make her job easier, Scaffidi said it would be better if the Government realized the need to be much more outwardly focused than inwardly focused. “I also think we need to work on Brand Australia. We’re a good gateway to China and we need to assist countries like the US and UK to come in to Asia through us.”
Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood is working to create a high-quality, technological and creative urban environment.
His top three challenges are:
- Transport – The city is progressively rolling out a number of cycling-friendly initiatives to make pedaling safer.
- Housing – particularly housing affordability and diversity. An overhaul of city planning rules has been announced, along with assistance for homeowners to get into the market and making it more appealing for property developers to invest in the city.
- Quality of the urban core – The city is focusing on city vibrancy and aims to have more pedestrianized spaces with more public art and live music.
For funding, partnerships are very important. The city of Adelaide and the state government have a focused and shared vision now, enabling prioritization of investment. PPPs are very important in the CBD.
Social media has made a difference, says Yarwood. “Having a positive social media following has helped broaden my message and generate community support. I personally think one of the biggest issues facing good governance is having an informed media and I will therefore continue to work on this notion of having qualified and educated media reporting on urban issues and affairs.”
Another challenge is to educate businesses on the future of cities. In the future, it’s not about creating spaces for cars; it’s about creating spaces for people. This is one of the biggest issues for cities as a whole — not just Adelaide. Resistance to this type of change is one of the biggest challenges we face.
Mayor Celia Wade-Brown tells us about the world's southernmost capital city; how visitors can experience the wild outdoors and be back in the center of the city in just 15 minutes.
According to Wade-Brown, she became mayor on the basis of three factors:
- Good transport links
- Clean technology
- Citizen involvement
The city’s vision is “Wellington towards 2040: Smart capital,” which focuses strongly on being a connected city, encouraging economic growth in areas like innovation, technology, film and the knowledge-based economy.
The main elements of the new vision are:
- Connected capital – Encouraging better cable connectivity over the Pacific and free WiFi throughout the CBD.
- People-centered – “We have 85 different ethnicities. Being people-centered means we are also connecting to our expats around the world. About one fifth of New Zealanders live abroad and they can act as our ambassadors,” says Wade-Brown.
- Dynamic CBD – The third pillar focuses on walkability, public art and waterfront access.
- Eco-city – A wind farm powers the equivalent of 75,000 homes. The city is also engaging with wave and tidal energy.
When asked about funding, Wade-Brown says, “Wellington’s debt level is prudent and much of it was accumulated in investing in upgrading our sewerage system. Investing in long-term, sustainable infrastructure projects that provide benefits for generations of Wellingtonians is worth going into manageable debt for.”