Planning expert calls for SEQ commission to lead region’s future
It would also act differently to the planned City Deal, he said, which tended to rely heavily on governments to divide up funding responsibilities and excluded the private sector.
In contrast, a commission would focus more on big-picture thinking across all the sectors, and have less political weight behind it.
The final report, SEQ 2040 Growing Better, had the input of 18 industry leaders including state and local governments, private industry, universities and statutory authorities. It made 11 recommendations, including the commission.
Dr Gillen said releasing the report, 15 months in the making, during COVID-19 and the state election, was a decision to seize an opportunity.
“COVID has allowed us the opportunity to reflect on how we use our infrastructure, how we use our public realm, how we use our neighbourhood and our city centres,” he said.
Dr Gillen said he thought it timely to explore how the region could grow deliberately, rather than across the demands and tensions of differing governments and sectors.
The 11 recommendations include developing a smart region status, a strategy for jobs and housing to shorten commuting times and develop regional precincts, create community health assessments as part of infrastructure planning, a “rail renaissance”, and integrated investment.
“You look at Moreton Bay, it haemorrhages tens of thousands of people out of the region every day … to actually come to work in Brisbane,” Dr Gillen said.
“We’ve got to try and reverse that over the next 15-20 years and make sure while we’re doing it, we are creating the right opportunities for people to work closer to home – but at the same time maintaining a level of liveability for people to do that.”
One of the key recommendations was better involving communities in planning their region’s future.
Dr Gillen said feedback across all the sectors AECOM surveyed for the report was clear; that community input was not regularly taken into account.
“Our view is, maybe this is an opportunity to do that as well by actually saying, ‘here’s our recommendations – what do you think? It’s not gospel’.” he said.
Dr Gillen said communities were often left out of the planning process for major changes in their communities until a plan was already well under way, generating frustration and opposition.
Lucy is the urban affairs reporter for the Brisbane Times, with a special interest in Brisbane City Council.