Arguments behind calls for the re-opening of Shepparton’s Maude Street Mall to cars are understandable – but are well past their use-by date. The city we enjoy today will be vastly different from the Shepparton of tomorrow and so everything we do should be aimed at creating an infrastructure that is more, rather than less, walkable.
Armed with the misleading belief that the world’s finite supply of oil is inexhaustible, towns and cities are being created and structured to answer the wants and needs of car-bound communities.
Reliable research illustrates that the world’s oil reservoirs will be empty in about 30 years and as oil is the foundation on which everything else stands – from beer to beans and clothes pegs to communication – we need to be creating a built-environment, and that includes our mall that will serve the city in a low-energy future.
Considering that the debate is not, in essence about the commercial realities of doing business in the mall today, rather it’s about doing business in the mall as we head down that bumpy road to the end of oil.
This, however, poses a rather pressing, and understandable, dilemma as those businesses already in our mall want to be profitable, and successful, right now. Business plans do not allow for an income hiatus as Shepparton abandons what once worked and then moves to embrace what will work in the evolving 21st century.
It seems that any workable financial panacea will only emerge from a city-wide social change orchestrated by a City of Greater Shepparton Council that rigidly controls the placement and development of infrastructure within the city to ensure walkability and, more extensively, our public bus services.
Curitiba, with its 1.6 million residents, provides the world with a model in how to integrate sustainable transport considerations into business development, road infrastructure development, and local community development. Shepparton could learn from the success of this burgeoning Brazilian city.
Our mall needs people who live there; above and behind the businesses, and in going about their daily lives they inadvertently become the passive eyes that deter anti-social behaviour. We need people to build a civil society, not cars.