Economic activity and property prices in these districts are consistently strong, and some high-profile redevelopment programs of former industrial land in their vicinity (such as the Ultimo-Pyrmont scheme in Sydney, Southbank and Docklands in Melbourne, East Perth and Subiaco in Perth) have succeeded in translating the qualities of older inner suburbs into a contemporary urban form. Simultaneously, most Australian cities still grow at a rapid rate – for example, metropolitan Melbourne’s housing stock increased by 18% during the 10 years to 2001. This continues to lead to a substantial proportion of new residential areas to be developed on Greenfield sites at the urban fringe. For nearly half a century, such urban extensions have been built at very low densities, a near-complete segregation of land uses and a street layout/infrastructure provision that was all but designed to marginalize walking, cycling and public transport. Life in a detached house on a suburban block with a spacious backyard was heralded as the ‘Australian Dream’ (Davison and Yelland 2004), but it entrenched a level of automobile dependence in the middle and outer belts of Australian cities that is clearly at odds with sustainability objectives (Engwicht 1992, Newman and Kenworthy 1999) and has led, in Sydney and Melbourne at least, to a chronic condition of traffic congestion and inefficiency of access in both inner and outer suburbs.
Some issues insufficiently addressed
New Urbanism-inspired design principles have informed recent planning reforms in a number of Australian cities, resulting in subdivision layouts for both Greenfield and Brownfield development that offer greater connectivity of the movement network, better integration of retail, service and community facilities, a broader diversity of housing types and a more sensitive approach to the integration of environmental features with built spaces. These reforms have begun to improve sustainability performance in new and redeveloped urban areas, but they continue to insufficiently address some important city building and urban sustainability issues.
Among these are viable solutions for mixed-use design in new outer suburbs, tangible impacts on trip generation and mode choice away from car dependence, the integration of employment with new residential areas, and the participation of all relevant groups in local governance processes relevant to urban development.