9th Annual Bill Warnock Dinner and Lecture – 2015

Julian BolleterGuest Speaker

Date: Thursday OCTOBER 22nd 2015
Time: Open Bar at 6.30pm for 7.00pm
Venue: Matilda Bay Restaruant 3 Hackett Drive, Crawley
Topic: ‘Take me to the River – the history of Perth’s foreshore’

Please join us to hear our guest speaker talk about issues affecting our rapidly growing City.

Booking information can be found on the attached PDF

The Swan River has been flowing the same course for possibly some sixty million years. This lecture traces the relationship of European Australian culture to this ancient river system. This historical narrative is viewed through the lens of schemes proposed for Perth’s foreshore, the city’s symbolic front garden. The foreshore has been contentious since the first plan for Perth was drawn up, and has subsequently acted as a sinkhole for hundreds of proposals. An investigation of this archaeological stratum of foreshore drawings allows us to understand changing ideas of what Perth was, what it could have been, and indeed what it can be.

CityVision’s longstanding interest in the Swan River Foreshore began with its 1987 Manifesto Objective 7: ‘Make the River a Dynamic Part of the City’. This was quickly followed in 1989 by our ‘Plan for the Foreshore’, leading in turn to the International Foreshore Design Competition of 1990. More recently CityVision led the way with plans and ideas for what is now Elizabeth Quay.

Dr Julian Bolleter

Dr Julian Bolleter is an Assistant Professor at the Australian Urban Design Research Centre (AUDRC) at the University of Western Australia. His role at the AUDRC includes teaching a master’s program in urban design and conducting urban design research projects. Julian has authored a number of books including ‘Made in Australia: The future of Australian cities’ (with Richard Weller), ‘Take me to the River: A history of Perth’s foreshore’ and ‘Scavenging the Suburbs’ – a book which sets out how Perth could be transformed into a dense yet liveable and biodiverse city.

This fascinating book, ‘Take me to the River: A history of Perth’s foreshore’, uncovers hundreds of ‘lost’ proposals for Perth’s foreshore – and sets out a compelling vision for how the city should relate to its river in the 21st century. It is essential reading for those who have a stake in the future of Perth and the Swan River… Janet Holmes a Court

This event celebrates the huge contribution to the life of Perth made by Bill Warnock, who founded CityVision 28 years ago and led it until his too-early death. CityVision maintains its original ethos and commitment to the highest quality of planning and design in the capital city. For further details of this year’s speakers and interviewers refer to www.cityvision.org.au

RSVP BY 15th OCT 2015 COST – $115 per head including G.S.T. Note: STRICTLY LIMITED TICKETS AVAILABLE

Cash bar downstairs open till seven; then a three course dinner in the Roe Room, wines included; vegetarian option on request.
After dinner will be the Bill Warnock lecture, with coffee to follow. At the end of the lecture questions will be welcome from the floor.

Booking information can be found on the attached PDF

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CityVisionDinnerInvite2014-1Guest Speakers

GEOFF WARN Government Architect
CRAIG SMITH City Architect

In Conversation with

Amy Barrett-Lennard Curator
Barry Strickland Writer/Researcher

Date:    Thursday OCTOBER 16th 2014

Time:   Open Bar at 6.30pm for 7.00pm
Venue:   Melbourne Hotel 942 Hay Street Perth


Geoff Warn (Government Architect for WA & principal of Donaldson Warn Architects)

Geoff Warn is the current government architect in Western Australia and began the role in November last year. Warn is also an academic as professor of architecture at Curtin University. He is a highly respected practitioner and director of Donaldson + Warn, an award-winning multidisciplinary design studio with a strong reputation for design expertise and with extensive experience in architecture, urban design and master planning. Geoff has been an enthusiastic promoter and spokesperson for the value of design excellence and creative practice.  He has been actively involved on a range of government and institutional advisory review boards & awards panels. He’s a member of the Editorial Advisory Committee for Architecture Australia, and a keen advocate for the value of the arts. Geoff was Professor of Architecture at Curtin University 2005 – 2010.


Craig Smith (Perth City Architect & principal of Craig Smith Architect)

Craig Smith was appointed City Architect of the City of Perth in 2007 and his city work includes the What If project, the Urban Design Framework, Plot Ratio and Built Form Study, Key Worker Housing Project and the new city library. He is a member of the Elizabeth Quay Design Advisory Panel. His private work, as principal of the practice Craig Smith Architect, ranges through commercial, transport, schools, factories and housing to mining, heritage and town centre studies. Craig taught at UWA till the 1990s and established the Housing Research Information Centre. He has represented the Australian Institute of Architects at state and national levels, in public affairs, membership and education as well as sitting on various Government committees.



Amy Barrett-Lennard

Amy has been Director/C.E.O. of Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts since 2006. PICA is an institution central to the contemporary art scene in Perth and W.A., exhibiting an inspiring range of contemporary visual, performing and cross-disciplinary arts practices.

A regular contributor to the broader national arts and cultural communities, Amy has sat on numerous boards and panels. Amy is currently a member of the Murdoch University Art Collection Board and Edith Cowan University’s CREATEC and has been President of the Contemporary Arts Organisations Australia (CAOS) network since 2009.


Barry Strickland

Barry is a freelance consultant, researcher and writer, working variously within the arts and cultural, heritage, tourism and broadcasting arenas. He has written a number of documentary films, the most recent being about the horses that served Australia in the Great War. In 2013 Barry Strickland received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Western Australia.

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            Date: Thursday OCTOBER 10th 2013     Moderator – Marcus Canning 

Speakers Dr Stefano Carboni (Director Art Gallery of WA)   Alec Coles OBE (CEO Western Australian Museum)

Topic: ‘The City as a Cultural Hub: Two of Perth’s Cultural Czars Interrogate the Issues’

Time: Open Bar at 6.30pm for 7.00pm Venue: Royal Perth Yacht Club, Australia II Drive, Crawley

Please join us to hear our guest speakers talk about issues affecting our rapidly growing City.

Dr Stefano Carboni (Director Art Gallery of WA)

In October 2008, Stefano Carboni was appointed the 11th Director of the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Since beginning his

directorship, he has been instrumental in the implementation and delivery of several major projects including the successful

completion of the $25m Tomorrowfund which is used for acquisitions of contemporary art, the rehang of the State Art Collection

permanent displays, the introduction of the Great Collections of the World Series and the Gallery façade recladding project. Most

recently, Stefano has evolved the Great Collections of the World Series into an Australian-exclusive six exhibition, three-year

partnership with The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Prior to coming to Western Australia, Stefano was Curator and Administrator in the Department of Islamic Art at The Metropolitan

Museum of Art, and Visiting Professor at the Bard Graduate Center in New York. He is currently also Adjunct Professor of Islamic

Art at the University of Western Australia and continues to lecture widely in Islamic art and curatorial studies.

Alec Coles OBE (CEO Western Australian Museum)

Alec Coles is the CEO of the Western Australian Museum, the State museum for all of Western Australia, with branches in Perth,

Fremantle, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie and Albany.

Alec has held this position since March 2010. He was previously the Director of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums in North East

England, a post that he held for eight years where he was also lead officer of the North East Regional Museums Hub. He was also

a member of the UK Heritage Lottery Fund’s National Expert Panel. Alec is driving the WA Museum’s initiative to build a new State

Museum at the Perth Cultural Centre. He is committed to developing the public value of museums.

Alec was recognized for his Services to Museums in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June 2010, being made an OBE.

This event celebrates the huge contribution to the life of Perth made by Bill Warnock, who founded CityVision 26 years ago and led

it until his too-early death. CityVision maintains its original ethos and commitment to the highest quality of planning and design in

the capital city.

Fine Wines, 2 Course Dinner included RSVP BY 3rd OCT 2012 COST – $95 per head including G.S.T.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Cut Here and Post with remittance to: CityVision, 40 Mount Street, West Perth 6005

Bill Warnock Dinner/Lecture – Dr Stefano Carboni & Alec Coles OBE – October 10th 2013, 6.30pm, Royal Perth Yacht Club

PAYMENT DETAILS: Please make all cheques payable to CITYVISION

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CityVision has long championed development of Perth’s waterfront, to create a more enjoyable and accessible foreshore. Our aim has always been to maximize civic value, taking advantage of our unique riverfront, while maintaining and adding to the future public domain. This can be done to the benefit of both the business and the general community,

The report by twelve invited experts and a summary is available

Fig 1: Elizabeth Quay: CityVision Refined Concept 2013

cityvision waterfront-2 cityvision-waterfront-3

Refined Plan

Existing Scheme


Riverside Drive

  • Riverside Drive and its traffic flows are retained; travel times and distances do not extend around the inlet.
  • No traffic diverts into the CBD; disruption and congestion are minimised.
  • The beautifully-designed bridge becomes a tourist attraction in its own right.
  • Riverside Drive remains Perth’s emblematic waterfront parkway route.

Foreshore Access

  • The bridge gives unhindered boardwalk access to the river for pedestrians, cyclists; and boats to the inlet.
  • Pedestrian and cycle routes continue uninterrupted on the bridge and along the foreshore.

Development and Scale

  • A large proportion of the scheme is devoted to office and residential development.
  • There is great scope for private and corporate involvement.
  • Smaller commercial and retail activities proliferate along the waterside boardwalks.
  • The graduated scale and location of buildings ensures greater sun penetration throughout the year, while still allowing taller, substantial buildings away from the foreshore.

The Esplanade

  • A significant part of The Esplanade is retained – in recognition of its heritage – for everyday recreation, social and special events such as the traditional Anzac Day celebration.
  • Water views from St Georges Terrace, eg down Howard Street and Sherwood Court across the Esplanade, remain more open as a result.

New Cultural Precinct

  • This scheme allows for the evolution of a dynamic riverside cultural precinct,” attracting tourists and visitors.
  • It incorporates sites for new institutions symbolic of the “New Perth; (Eg:  the Indigenous Culture Centre , a Museum of Indian Ocean  & Asian History, a Contemporary  Art Museum, and/or a new Opera House)
  • These will be of international standing, of cultural significance and of enduring visitor interest.


The refined plan will be more functional, exciting, attractive, accessible and dynamic. It will create greater opportunities for a wide range of tourists and visitors, locally, intrastate, interstate and international.

It represents a natural evolution of the current plan – to be expected in projects of this scale – and will not disrupt the ongoing development process at Elizabeth Quay.


Fig 4:  Bridge allows bikeways, pedestrians, ferries beneath; Esplanade remains; Cultural Precinct develops. Less overshadowing and wind.
Fig 5; General layout of CityVision Plan

* The twelve-expert, CityVision-sponsored, Citizens’ Enquiry into Elizabeth Quay was headed by the Hon Robert Nicholson AO, Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Bolton AO and retired Assoc. Professor of Architecture David Standen AM,

CITYVISION 40 MOUNT ST PERTH 6000 Contact Ken Adam 0411 555 549 kenadam@iinet.net.au


ELIZABETH QUAY: Cityvision plan shows it’s not too late to avoid traffic chaos.

The CityVision-sponsored Citizens’ Enquiry into Elizabeth Quay headed by the Hon Robert Nicholson AO, Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Bolton AO and retired Associate Professor of Architecture David Standen AM, found that the current scheme was flawed.

The report by twelve invited experts and a summary is available

THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN UPDATED – You can read the updated version here

cityvision-waterfront 1
Fig 1: Elizabeth Quay: CityVision Alternative Concept Feb 2013

The report shows – and the government’s traffic study confirms –  the vital importance to the City of Riverside Drive and the necessity of its retention as a continuous route, to avoid  unimaginable traffic congestion and other problems that would result from its closure.

CityVision has long championed development of Perth’s waterfront, to create a more enjoyable and accessible foreshore, but without disrupting traffic flow, while maintaining and adding to the future public domain. To show that this can be done, CityVision has prepared an alternative plan.

The CityVision plan (attached) delivers the government’s objectives, but with a fine bridge carrying Riverside Drive across the inlet, allowing free movement for pedestrians beneath. The bridge would be an attraction in itself, like the many superb bridges around the world.

“Our plan allows better views to the river from the city, and  a large area of The Esplanade is retained, as a public recreation and gathering space, for example for  Anzac Day.

There is less overshadowing, far better access to the foreshore, greater public enjoyment and sites for future cultural buildings such as a Perth Opera, a Museum of Indian Ocean History, a Modern Art museum or an  Indigenous Culture centre. This would bring Perth to a new level, reflecting its new-found success and ‘self image’ much more desirably than the current – basically commercial – project.

A plan like this is more exciting, more attractive, and more accessible and at the same time is more functional than the current plan. We urge the government to undertake a reshaping of the existing scheme; capitalising on the work already completed it can provide Perth with something great to aspire to.
CityVision chairman Ken Adam.

cityvision waterfront-2 cityvision-waterfront-3

CityVision Scheme

  • Riverside Drive traffic flows are retained; disruption is minimised
  • Unhindered pedestrian access occurs below the bridge to the river
  • Uninterrupted pedestrian/cycle routes continue along the river foreshore
  • Riverside Drive remains as Perth’s emblematic waterfront parkway route
  • A substantial part of The Esplanade is retained
  • This scheme allows great scope for a future dynamic riverside cultural precinct
  • River views from the city, across the Esplanade remain more open
  • Public spaces remain generally sunny;

Government Scheme

  • Riverside Drive is cut – general traffic congestion follows throughout inner Perth
  • Pedestrians cross six traffic lanes to reach the waterfront
  • Pedestrian and cycle routes are re-routed and discontinuous
  • Diversion of Riverside Drive into the CBD alters the road’s character and function
  • The Esplanade and its heritage disappear
  • Little space is evident for cultural institutions; no civic advantage of the riverfront is taken
  • Views from the city are blocked by bulky buildings
  • Public spaces are in shadow most of the year


Fig 4:  Bridge allows bikeways, pedestrians, ferries beneath; Esplanade remains; Cultural Precinct develops. Less overshadowing and wind.
Fig 5; General layout of CityVision Plan

Further notes: Major points emerging from the government’s Vietch Lister traffic study.

Our plan is aimed at avoiding many of these problems by incorporating a bridge for Riverside Drive.

It is understandable that the government is loathe to alter the scheme, but CityVision’s plan shows how this can be done without great detriment to the government’s overall aims.

Underestimated Impacts: The study was commissioned well after the plan was adopted and was based on out-of-date information; it thus understates current and future congestion; despite this, it shows the impact of Elizabeth Quay will be much greater than the government admits to. For example:

  •  “There will be severe queue-back problems on Mounts Bay Road and the Esplanade … intersections will be adversely affected.” “Traffic is likely to crawl along all approaches”.
  • Traffic will spread widely – e.g. to Manning and Mill Point Roads, Walcott and Charles Streets to avoid CBD congestion; and along Burswood back streets and Thomas Street among others.
  •  “Travel time impacts for bypass routes are likely to be … 6-10 minutes in peaks.”
  • “Vehicle kms. travelled each weekday will increase by about 17,800 km. …and 1600hrs”.
  • “Increased capacity for the Graham Farmer tunnel is needed now,” irrespective of this project.

The citizens’ enquiry’s experts explain that:

  • The economic costs of increased congestion are delay, driver stress, vehicle costs, crash risk and pollution; the Elizabeth Quay project will result in annual congestion costs in the millions .
  • “Continuing growth in demand cannot realistically be diverted onto public transport or met by the limited increased capacity of the Graham Farmer Freeway.”  – which is necessary in any case now.

CITYVISION 40 MOUNT ST PERTH 6000 Contact Ken Adam 0411 555 549 kenadam@iinet.net.au

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Citizens’ Waterfront Enquiry – Conclusions & Recommendations

CityVision  – Elizabeth Quay Project:

Conclusions and Recommendations drawn from Submissions by Invited Experts
February 2013

A major enquiry into Elizabeth Quay was initiated by CityVision and prepared by three prominent citizens: the Hon Robert Nicholson AO, Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Bolton AO and retired Associate Professor of Architecture David Standen AM.

Click here to to view the Full Report
Click here to view  Summary Report 

The enquiry invited submissions from twelve experts; these have been published in full. A condensed version of the submissions is contained in a Summary Report.

The following Conclusions and Recommendations are taken directly from the Summary Report.

Overriding Conclusion: the Elizabeth Quay Project is fundamentally flawed and should not proceed in its present form

The clear consensus of the experts is that the project and the scheme contain many flaws, including several that are so significant that they cannot be remedied by adjusting the current scheme and design. Two of these have major significance for the planning and development of the Metropolitan Region as a whole and run directly counter to long-established and bipartisan planning policy. These are the closure of Riverside Drive and the decision to open the area up to massive commercial (office) development. Aside from several objections on other grounds, neither of these is sustainable in terms of serving the vehicular and public transport needs of the City Centre and Metropolitan Region.         It is also the clear consensus that the project can be much better and much less expensive, providing a much better social and financial return.

Recommendation 1: Halt the project immediately and carry out a full and proper review

This is neither such a bold step nor as costly as might be thought. Firstly, much – probably most – of the construction work carried out to date will still be required under any likely alternative scheme. It would, of course, be necessary to renegotiate contracts and either vary them or compensate the contractors. Any money thrown away will be very small compared with either the damage that will come with pushing ahead, or the savings to be made with a better project.

Secondly, there is no compelling reason, other than a desire to “get on with it”, for proceeding in haste. There is nothing to be lost, and everything to be gained, by putting the scheme on hold until there is confidence that it will be the best that it can be.

Conclusion 2:  The closure of Riverside Drive is highly detrimental to the scheme, the City Centre and the Metropolitan Region

The closure of Riverside Drive has emerged as the most immediately compelling public issue arising out of the Elizabeth Quay proposals. At the very time when traffic congestion has become a major issue of public concern, and we are planning for a rapid and large metropolitan population increase, this  project proposes to reduce the traffic capacity of this major east-west by-pass route and city access road, one of only two by-pass routes and for which there is no city access substitute. At the same time the foreshore development itself will generate significantly increased traffic, while the City of Perth is also actively reducing the capacity of streets within the city centre

The government’s own consultant’s report – commissioned long after the decision was made to close Riverside Drive – is clear about the detrimental effects of the scheme, even based on 2009 data and ignoring both future population growth and the traffic generated by the development itself. There will be immediate traffic congestion, alleviated in the short term by increasing the capacity of the Farmer Freeway tunnel, by utilising the safety lanes, itself not without traffic safety and congestion problems, and upgrading its connections. Remedying the longer term consequences of congestion on both the public transport and vehicular networks will be an extraordinarily expensive and difficult exercise, as other cities have discovered.

Closure of Riverside Drive also seriously disrupts pedestrian and cycle movement along the foreshore.

Closure of Riverside Drive is also detrimental to it valued function as a parkway, part of Perth’s heritage.

Recommendation 2: Ensure that Riverside Drive remains as a continuous by-pass, city access and parkway route

Under any feasible and viable plan for the foreshore area, Riverside Drive must remain as a continuous route. If there will be an inlet, then Riverside Drive should be carried across the inlet on a bridge of the highest design quality. As with most inner city bridges all round the world, this should be an attraction in its own right, not an obstruction to be tolerated reluctantly.

If there is to be a perched lake the road can continued more or less on its present alignment, or on a causeway. The elevation of the road can be such as, whether bridge or causeway, to allow free pedestrian and cycle access beneath, connecting the city centre to the foreshore. In any event the road can be controlled to reduce speed and allow safe access across it, especially on the critical stretch between Barrack and William Streets.

Conclusion 3: The scheme has significant negative impacts on the planning and development of the City Centre and the Metropolitan Region

The scheme appears to have been conceived in a planning vacuum, without serious regard to its external impacts, except to the extent that they require treatment to support the scheme. This is, to put it mildly, putting the cart before the horse. These have been dealt with earlier in this report. The two principal serious defects are, as noted:

  •  the proposed closure of Riverside Drive; and
  • the proposed concentration of commercial office development, that is, of city office workers, in the project area.

The negative impacts have also been spelled out elsewhere. Briefly:

  • serious congestion, and at times gridlock in the system, due to inadequate provision for traffic to by-pass the city centre, as a result of closure of Riverside Drive;
  • reduction in accessibility to the city centre as a result of the closure;
  • loss of the continuity of Riverside Drive as a parkway and for pedestrian and cycle traffic;
  • consequent increase in travel times and other costs of congestion; and
  • aside from the  Riverside Drive issue, the significant increase in city centre workforce, contrary to government policy, causing additional stress on a public transport system almost at capacity now, as well as increased congestion on the road network.

Recommendation  3: Retain a continuous Riverside Drive, and remove the commercial content of the scheme

A revised scheme must retain a continuous Riverside Drive and delete the commercial office content of the scheme.

Conclusion 4: The scheme is a bad investment of public money

The scheme has been costed at $440 million, and the return from land sales at $170 million. Serious doubts are expressed about both these figures. The former does not take into account the high cost of the roadworks necessary to support the scheme or alleviate the traffic problems it will cause elsewhere. The latter is susceptible to the likelihood of the land, in a softened market caused by the competing government projects of the City Link and Riverside projects, to being difficult to sell, even at the subsidised prices expected. The expected sales prices appear to be below market values for comparable land. The commercial viability of the scheme is in serious doubt.

At the same time the scheme, as noted elsewhere, fails to deliver the social return that it should, so a high price is being paid for a less than satisfactory scheme. The scheme should be viewed as a civic enterprise, not a commercial one.

Recommendation 4: Review the scheme and its costs and benefits

A revised scheme, with the exception of a bridge to carry Riverside Drive, which would be an attraction in its own right, can be carried out on a less elaborate basis, with a more modestly scaled inlet or perched lake, at significantly less public cost, and for greater public benefit.

Full benefit/cost studies should be a part of the scheme, and the evaiuation of alternatives.

 Conclusion 5: The process followed has been badly flawed, resulting in a flawed scheme and design

The consensus of the experts was that the planning process followed failed badly to be effective, open or accountable. It was flawed badly in terms of:

  • flawed information base: either missing, inaccurate or provided too late;
  • failure to properly consult the community or respond properly to submissions made, including by independent experts in relevant fields;
  • losing sight of the true objectives of the project;
  • failure to consider alternative possibilities and allow these to be debated publically;
  • doubts on the integrity of decision-making by government agencies;
  • premature adoption of the scheme and design, prior to receiving vital information and professional opinion;
  • focussing on ‘selling’ the adopted scheme rather than using resources to seek improvement to it

Recommendation 5: Carry out the review using a better process

The basic concept – that of a waterfront development that makes a better connection between the city centre and its foreshore, and provides for maximum enjoyment of the foreshore by the public – has been widely welcomed, and the considered views of both proponents of and objectors to the current scheme, especially the latter, are known, so the review does not need to start completely from scratch. The elements of a better, more effective, process should follow these guidelines:

  • invite public submissions and comment at the outset and at key points in the ongoing process of design;
  • obtain and provide public access to all relevant and up to date research, including making good to deficiencies identified in transport and heritage information and advice;
  • provide prompt, honest, full and accurate responses to public questions and comment; and
  • invite public comment on any alternatives being considered, at an early stage and as preliminary plans, not pre-empting public opinion

 Conclusion 6: The heritage of The Esplanade would be destroyed by the scheme

This is well understood fact. The very special Moreton Bay Fig trees have already been destroyed; the Florence Hummerston Kiosk has been dismantled, with no promise for its future; the scheme destroys The Esplanade; other elements, or their settings, would be destroyed; visual relationships with Kings Park and the city have been ignored; the heritage value of Riverside Drive has not been understood; the research into heritage has been flawed; and the proposals for interpretation are questionable, at best.

 Recommendation 6: Protect the heritage of The Esplanade

The revised scheme and design should ensure that:

  • the lost Moreton Bay Figs should be replaced by species that reflect the history of The Esplanade;
  • sufficient area of The Esplanade is retained to ensure that its traditional and recreational roles can continue;
  • the Florence Hummerston Kiosk should be replaced in its original setting;
  • the Talbot memorial should be appropriately relocated;
  • sightlines between the key parts of The Esplanade and the Kings Park War Memorial should be guaranteed; and
  • the continuity of Riverside Drive should be retained.

 Conclusion 7: The urban design of the scheme is badly misconceived

The proposed scheme and design are badly misconceived, in several ways:

  • failure  to recognise and respond positively to the landscape, landform and other elements of its setting that define Perth’s well-loved ‘sense of place’ and the iconic view of the city and river from King Park;
  • the proposed  mix and density of uses at the foreshore that would be inimical to its public amenity and enjoyment;
  • the concentration and volume of commercial use in the project area will generate an excessively large increment in the central city workforce, which will be highly detrimental to the future  provision of public and vehicular transport in the Metropolitan Region, and directly contrary to government planning policy;
  • the very large extent of commercial development in this location precludes the development of better located within the central city that is in need of regeneration;
  • the proposed building form and, in particular, height, of buildings at and near the foreshore are detrimental in the extreme to both the enjoyment of the public spaces (due to overshadowing, wind funnelling and loss of human scale) and the visual setting of the city centre;
  • the proposed inlet is too large, to the extreme detriment of The Esplanade area, and out of scale with its immediate surroundings, properly conceived and a perched lake should be considered in its place;
  • there is an almost total lack of civic and other uses and buildings to attract visitors;
  • pedestrian and cycle access to and along the foreshore is badly provided for; and
  • Riverside Drive is proposed to be closed, with and the substitution of an island and bridges that are out of keeping with the sense of place of the foreshore.

Recommendation 7: Redesign the scheme to correct basic shortcomings and optimise the outcome

The redesign should allow for these key aspects, among others referred to in this report.

  • retention of the continuity of Riverside Drive;
  • retention of sufficient area of The Esplanade to enable its continued civic and recreational roles;
  • only low (probably 2-3 storey) buildings at the foreshore itself, with the possibility of taller buildings closer to St Georges Terrace, to achieve the right scale and human comfort;
  • a range of civic and entertainment uses that will attract visitors,( like the proposed indigenous cultural centre, museums, galleries, play facilities, etc);
  • delete all uses at the foreshore that do not directly contribute to visitor amenity and enjoyment;
  • delete all commercial office development that would not serve the recreational function of the foreshore;
  • allow for residential apartments, but not above or too close to areas for public enjoyment of the foreshore;
  • allow for hotel development at or close to the foreshore, but not in excess of low building heights;
  • consider a perched lake in lieu of an inlet;
  • continuity of pedestrian and cycle access along the foreshore, close to the water’s edge; and
  • safe, grade-separated if possible, access between the city centre and the foreshore for pedestrians and cyclists.

 Conclusion 8: The scheme performs poorly environmentally

The scheme shows little understanding of the micro-climate of the city and the site, and performs badly on these environmental aspects:

  • the scheme layout leaves it excessively exposed to the prevailing winds, throughout most of the year;
  • the public spaces will be excessively overshadowed by the tall buildings throughout the year, except in high summer, when shade is desirable;
  • the public spaces are likely to be subject to wind funnelling as a consequence of the excessive height of buildings; and
  • there is no assurance that the inlet will flush properly.

Recommendation 8: Ensure that a revised scheme minimises negative environmental aspects

This recommendation hardly requires elaboration. It should be a given that the scheme provides for public spaces to be protected from wind, open to penetration of sun in winter and the in-between seasons, and  shaded in summer, to the maximum extent feasible.

These should be firm principles followed in a revised scheme.

 Conclusion 9: It is not in the public interest to sell off the land

As a matter of principle public land, and especially land that had been granted to the people of the city in perpetuity for recreational purposes, should not be sold. It should remain in public ownership.

Recommendation 9: Retain all public land in the scheme area in public ownership

Where it is desirable to develop it for privately owned commercial development, to serve the best interests of the public, it can be leased.

Click here to view Summary Report
Click here to to view the full report

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Citizens’ Waterfront Enquiry

City Vision Foreshore Plan February 2012A major enquiry into Elizabeth Quay prepared by three prominent citizens: the Hon Robert Nicholson AO, Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Bolton AO and retired Associate Professor of Architecture David Standen AM, has found that the planning process was deeply flawed, and requires an immediate, extensive review.

This is the full report of the Citizens’ Enquiry commissioned by CityVision into the Elizabeth Quay proposal.

click here to download the report-ENQUIRY INTO PERTH WATERFRONT DEVELOPMENT – FINAL 31 01 13

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Submission: MRA Perth Waterfront Design Guidelines

Introduction: Unfortunately there has been very little proper public debate on – despite much public reaction to – the present government’s Waterfront Scheme. Since previous public hearings were concerned specifically with MRS procedures, limited to rezoning issues, publication of these guidelines for comment is the first – and only – official opportunity for public commentary on the general content and thrust of the project.

Widespread public discussion on this far-reaching scheme should have been engaged in far earlier in the design process; in its absence, decisions on the overall purpose, content and form of the project remain divorced from general understanding, appear arbitrary and remain  in the realm of bureaucratic diktat.

We will make comments within the context of the guidelines, but necessarily will take in broader issues; for example, what is being attempted here, how it is being approached and how it is unlikely to fulfill its stated objectives.

Commercial orientation:What public benefit? As a broad comment, it is evident the project will fail to achieve the great public benefit it claims to aspire to – and which should have been a fundamental raison d’être. The scheme’s strongly commercial focus allows little compensation for the loss of public land. Its centrepiece “water feature” caters mainly to private pleasure craft; its public boardwalks are overshadowed by five-to-six storey “podia” surmounted by 25- or 36-storey sun-blocking towers.

Even allowing for the inclusion in the Project brief of 15% “affordable housing,” (and apart from an unlikely Indigenous museum) practically every structure will be in private ownership and/or for commercial rental. Nothing is wrong with private development, but having sold off ten hectares of “permanent” recreation reserve,  this project is devoid of sites to build, for example, a Perth Lyric Theatre, an Opera House, a City Museum, a Contemporary Art museum – or other public or civic enterprise to which more far-sighted communities would eagerly assign such prime waterfront  land.

A river/city fantasy: Selling off Perth’s “front yard”: Behind this scheme lies the idea that it is desirable and even necessary in Perth “to bring the city and the river together”and that the Esplanade Foreshore is no more than wasted grassland. But is this true? Its wonderful expanse provides Perth with a unique “front lawn” setting for the CBD. At the same time, of what real value is this scheme – in essence an inlet with a wall of buildings around it – other than to its commercial beneficiaries? Other cities would pay any price to achieve the beautiful  “front garden” Perth’s CBD displays – and which will be destroyed. Indeed, many governments spend millions to rehabilitate derelict waterfront land, albeit in commercial and residential development, but rarely at the expense of the great public benefit Perth already enjoys: a  foreshore which is far from derelict.

The TOD/ “big development” myth: The scheme’s “accepted logic” seems to be that, since it adjoins railway and bus stations, it is necessary – according to “TOD” (Transport-Orientated Development principles) – to maximise development densities. But there is already an excess of potential floorspace in this location to attract commuters, without the Waterfront scheme. Also, because the underlying foundation is very poor, consisting essentially of waterlogged or consolidated “fill,” large buildings (to satisfy TOD) will require deep, expensive footings – only commercially viable with maximum lettable floorspace above. (This is a circular argument – “we need tall buildings to justify the cost of tall buildings.”) More modest, less expensive buildings would adequately suffice, with the added benefit of less overshadowing on the inlet.

Cutting a major artery;:  The guidelines reinforce another fundamental flaw in the scheme:  the cutting of Riverside Drive.  This route is at the centre of an expanding metropolis and has no reasonable alternative. Removing it, no matter how argued or otherwise portrayed, will cause traffic chaos across wide ares of central Perth. What replaces it will be totally insufficient to cater to ever-growing demand for future cross-city traffic. This was obvious to the planners, since they investigated concepts for a bridge or tunnel, only rejecting them due to cost and difficulty. It is true that a tunnel would be hugely expensive and is unlikely to eventuate, leaving Perth with a disastrous legacy. A bridge, it was claimed, would block views from the development, and that retaining a road would impede pedestrian access to the river.

Neither claim is true since, ironically, illustrations in the guidelines show several concepts for pedestrian bridges which would be no more detrimental to the view if widened as a traffic bridge. Also it is clear that pedestrians could easily pass under any such bridge to the riverside, and in fact would be better-catered for than by the present plan.

False priorities: build a bridge: In other words a bridge remains a practical possibility. Its cost should be regarded in the same category of necessity as for example that of the Mandurah Railway ($1.5bn +) It must be concluded that the planners, in full knowledge that great traffic problems will ensue, are prepared, in cutting Riverside Drive, to place the needs of this development above those of the wider community – and above the entire inner metropolitan traffic system and its users.

To redress this, the scheme should retain Riverside Drive. If indeed an inlet is to be dug, the road should be replaced as a bridge, which should factor its cost as a public necessity, no different from the cost of a railway, light rail, indoor stadium or football arena.

Inadequate design The “Design Guidelines” confirm the scheme’s essentially private-enterprise-oriented (and limited public-value) approach. Not only that, they are, as a means of ensuring “highly innovative design” actually counter-productive.  Architects are unlikely to respond positively to such form-specific constraints. What scope here for truly innovative designs?

As well, the overall design of the scheme is, by any measure, less than first-rate. What purpose the 3-5-storey podia massively overpowering the waterway and public spaces? Why are the development sites not set back to retain the lovely trees (now unfortunately mostly destroyed) standing on three sides of the scheme? Why not retain the heritage buildings – now removed? As a small proportion of the scheme area, this would be at no real cost to the as-yet-to-be appointed developers. And again, why destroy a major inner-city transport route  when retaining it would be of inestimable value to the future of the city centre and inner suburbs?

As a general comment  sketches illustrating the guidelines are misleading, if not actually deceptive: the waterway is surrounded by “buildings” which are completely innocuous, having no substance, seeming to fade imperceptibly into thin air; the people below enjoying  shadowless bright sunshine; kayaks carelessly waft in between power-boats and ferries. This is not a realistic representation.

“Guidelinesdon’t really work. In any event, “guidelines “will not hold up if, under the commercial realities which underlie the scheme, they do not suit individual developers. Due to its size, and the lack of real development pressure to fill it, the scheme area will remain an underdeveloped building-site for many years. Over that period attitudes and conventions are bound to change as new architectural and design issues arise – so the guidelines must be regarded as “temporary” at best. If this is so, what is their purpose, other than to imply a level of development control (to gain public confidence) which may be illusory?

Reduce sites: And as a final comment, development sites 2, 3, 9 and 10 offered in the guidelines (especially site 3) conflict with the possibility of retaining Riverside Drive and should be reduced accordingly. (They and other sites should also be reduced to accommodate heritage buildings and existing trees – see above.)



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Myths about the Perth Foreshore Plan

There are many propositions supporting the current design for the development of the Perth waterfront at the Esplanade.  These include:

  • The traffic consequences resulting from the diversion of Riverside Drive are inconsequential and can be resolved
  • The waterfront plan will bring the river to the city
  • Bicycle amenity and safety will be improved
  • Heritage values are preserved
  • Substantial development is consistent with Transit-Oriented Design
  • Melbourne Southbank is a model for the Perth waterfront.
  • High-rise high density development is required to activate the foreshore.
  • Height is required to pay for the project

However, on closer inspection each one of these can be shown as being a myth.  Let’s look at these propositions in detail.




Myth:    The traffic consequences resulting from the diversion of Riverside Drive are inconsequential and can be resolved

The diversion and throttling-back of Riverside Drive has consequences in the short term and very serious long term strategic implications.

Scenic Route:  Riverside Drive– in addition to its vital traffic functions – has since the 1930’s been part of a continuous scenic vehicle route tracing beside Perth and Melville Water. (Prior to the 1959 advent of the Narrows  interchange this ran both ways via Mounts Bay Rd  – which the proposed plan will resolve by a new two-way road link between William Street and the Narrows.) This scenic route runs all the way between the Causeway and Crawley and offers marvellous changing views of the city from “below” so to speak, complementing, and in many ways the equal of traditional tourist “overview” vistas from Kings Park.

Its continuity is part of the road’s natural heritage, a significant factor allowing users to bypass the CBD on the way to Kings Park, West Perth or Crawley. The new plan will sever this flow, a critical element in the functioning of the city. Increased traffic congestion due to this severed artery will be damaging, not only at peak periods, but throughout the day, as otherwise bypassing traffic is forced either into CBD congestion or to the single alternative – Graham Farmer Freeway.

Traffic on inner city streets will increase, at a time when much effort is being made by the City of Perth to reduce it.  Officially, immediate further CBD congestion will be around 15,000 extra vehicles per day in the Terrace, Wellington St and the Esplanade.  However, long-term congestion is certain to increase substantially – no matter what new public transport is introduced – as Perth expands towards over 3.0 million people.

The traffic modelling undertaken so far does not account for the strategic nature of Riverside Drive and its importance to the overall planning and functioning of the metropolitan area – it is one of only two major east-west routes in the central part of the metro area – the other being Graham Farmer Freeway.

The anatomy of congestion: For main bypass traffic (i.e. that not wishing to enter the CBD) there are only two routes:  Riverside Drive and the tunnel. The latter gives no direct access to West Perth; morning peak traffic from Great Eastern Hwy, formerly using the Causeway, Riverside Dr and the Terrace, will now divert from a banked-up Riverside Drive to join Orrong Rd traffic in the tunnel; Shepparton Rd traffic will also be forced – by negotiating Burswood back streets – into the tunnel. West Perth will only be reached via Thomas St, adding more to congested Loftus St traffic (or possibly the now-congested PCEC off-ramp into Spring and Milligan Streets). Evening peak will see the reverse, further congesting Thomas St / Loftus Street intersections and “rat-running” through Victoria Park and South Perth.

As an “access/distributor” Riverside Drive performs a vital role giving access into the CBD – at William, Barrack, Victoria and Plain Streets.  Mitchell Freeway traffic – both bypass and access – will face new blockages at William St, Mounts Day Rd/ Esplanade/ Barrack St traffic-lights, or take Wellington Street off-ramp, adding to congestion there and in the Terrace.

Farmer Freeway is no solution: One solution advanced by the waterfront proponents is to increase the capacity of the Farmer Freeway tunnel by turning the breakdown lane into traffic lane, giving three lanes in either direction.  There are a number of problems with this:

  • While it will provide short term capacity, within a 10 – 20 year time frame the situation will be back to the current;
  • It ignores the real congestion points, which are the intersections at either end of the tunnel, particularly the Thomas St / Loftus Street on and off-ramps;
  • It puts all emphasis on one route and is thus vulnerable to a tunnel full or part closure, with significant gridlock across the whole of the inner city area in the event of a major closure at a peak time;
  • It will increase rat-running through less direct east-west routes particularly through South Perth.

Riverside Drive is one of two and only two east- west routes bypassing the CBD, with an alternate ‘rat-run’ through South Perth


The consequence will be the need for a strengthening of east-west traffic connections in the longer term, probably within a 20 – 30 year time frame.  This will be very expensive.  Options for this might include, for example, a long tunnel parallel with Riverside Drive under the River, much as has recently been built in Melbourne with the Burnley / Domain tunnels.  This was only afforded by the Government as a PPP toll road project.

The availability of multiple efficient high capacity east-west connections across the city will become increasingly important over time as the inner area intensifies.  There are many expansions in destination locations that will drive this – the growth of the QE11 health complex and expansion in Subiaco and Leederville to the west and substantial increases in population and activity to the east on the Burswood peninsula, the Causeway Precinct in the Town of Victoria Park and the Victoria Park Town Centre, the very substantial development at Curtin Town and the continuing growth of the Airport.

Maintaining Riverside Drive as one of the main east-west city connectors is essential.  The diversion of Riverside Drive and the reduction in its capacity thus leaves an expensive legacy to our descendants.

Perth City Traffic: Perth City Council’s stated objectives and current plans are aimed at creating a more “pedestrian-friendly” city. St George’s Terrace narrowed from six traffic lanes to four,   a “slow traffic mound” raised across Wellington Street at Perth Station, two-way traffic in re-introduced in Barrack and William Streets, Newcastle St restricted to single lanes;  all these limit  – often counter-productively – the CBD’s ability to deal with naturally-occurring, but increasing  traffic demands.

It is clear that cutting Riverside Drive at the new Perth Waterfront will have substantial further negative impact on the useability and functioning of the central city – and by increasing CBD traffic volumes and congestion, will operate in direct contradiction to the PCC’s aims.

For example, the effects at morning peak times, in our view will be severely detrimental – even in today’s traffic terms, as indicated by the following diagrams: Morning peak routes – and routes at all times of the day – using riverside Drive approach from all directions: north south east and west. As described above, disruption and congestion following its severance will be substantial – and with a bridge in place, completely avoidable.


Samuel Beckett bridge, Dublin;  a model for “Riverside Drive Bridge crossing the Inlet”

CityVision has shown, as illustrated in its plan for the waterfront, that by not cutting the road (and/or by building a beautiful bridge) these shortcomings can be avoided, without in any way reducing the efficacy, practicality, development potential or attractiveness of the new Perth Waterfront.

The regional function of the road is much more important to the functioning of the city as a whole than the specific issues of a small, albeit important, part of the central city and must take primacy in any design for the foreshore.

Myth:    The waterfront plan will bring the river to the city

The current plan relocates Riverside Drive towards the CBD.  It remains a busy road, carrying around 16,000 vehicles per.  Clearly, in morning and evening peak this means a continuous traffic flow. To the extent that Riverside Drive as it is currently configured represents a barrier between the City and the river, this is unchanged, merely moved a little closer.

The water will not be visible from St Georges Terrace, with the long views down William Street and Barrack Street essentially unchanged from the current.

Alternative plans maintaining the through –traffic function of Riverside Drive would allow direct water access down Sherwood Court and Howard Street to The Esplanade so that it becomes an esplanade once more.

Myth:    Bicycle amenity and safety will be improved

This is a big myth.  The current plan substantially reduces pedestrian and cyclist amenity. The foreshore is heavily used by recreational and commuter cyclists, with a very high proportion commuting across the city (as with the east-west traffic vehicular movements). Answering a question in the Legislative Council (3/11/2011) the Hon. Helen Morton indicated that cyclists will be accommodated “on road routes utilising the ‘new Riverside Drive,’ Barrack and William Streets.” Cyclists will thus lose the dedicated bike-path and be forced onto a bike lane on the road.  This is a substantial reduction in amenity and will deter many of the recreational and commuter riders that currently enjoy a busy dedicated bike path network that is becoming, overall increasingly of high standard.  It is at odds with the rhetoric of “more sustainable transport.”

Myth:    Heritage values are preserved

The current plan involves the loss key heritage elements, including listed trees and the Florence Hummerston building.  The plan is yet to come before the Heritage Council.  It is unclear whether the heritage values can be satisfactorily preserved.

Myth:    Substantial development is consistent with Transit-Oriented Design

While placing development next to a railway station is one of the principles of transit-oriented-development, in this case it represent significant over-kill.  The Esplanade station already accounts for 54% of CBD workforce (over 50,000 workers) within its 800 m catchment. – More is not needed to make it TOD design.

The minor gain in public transport will be sightly better ferry connections to the Esplanade station, accounting for a very small number of travellers. There is no real gain for pedestrians either. The “diverted” Riverside Drive “ will still have to be crossed – even with less traffic, it would be a much greater barrier to pedestrian waterfront access than if grade-separated, such as below a bridge.

Myth:    Melbourne Southbank is a model for the Perth waterfront.

There is no question that Melbourne’s Southbank is a very successful example of pedestrian oriented waterfront development.  (It is noteworthy that the waterfront buildings at Southbank are generally of small scale – up to 5-6 storeys – on the front with very tall buildings either set well back or in the streets behind)

It has some crucial differences which make it not a good model for Perth;

  • It is north facing and sheltered from blustery winds, in contrast to Perth which is south facing and exposed to the elements;
  • It is anchored by significant destination elements, (principally the Crown Casino complex and to a lesser extent St Kilda Road and the Melbourne Arts Centre complex) which provide activity independent of the quality and configuration of the waterfront pace – all the waterfront has to do is to capture and build on this activity.

An unfortunate Melbourne precedent for the Perth waterfront is the Docklands development, which is exposed to blustery winds, has very tall buildings right on the waterfront and has very low activity at the pedestrian level.

Myth:    High-rise high density development is required to activate the foreshore.

There are many examples of highly active low-rise riverside precincts and many examples where high-rise development works against it (e.g. Melbourne Docklands).  The city does not need the additional development capability – there is already have enough development land and placing more tin the centre of the city works against the Governments Directions 2031 strategy to intensify across the metropolitan area and provide employment closer to residences.

Earlier analysis has shown that if both the Waterfront and Northbridge Link projects were successfully built by 2031, there would be demand for only 165,000 m2 additional office floorspace (equivalent to 3 – 4 major buildings) elsewhere in the entire City of Perth area over that period.  An alternative would be to increase the proportion of all metropolitan and Peel workers in the City, but this has unsustainable regional and transport consequences.

It also implies excess apartment supply for the projected population growth, with no demand for any development anywhere else in the City.  While it is possible – and welcome – that inner city population growth could be greater than this, it is not clear that inevitably expensive riverfront apartments will achieve this.

This means that over-development on the foreshore would take demand away from other areas of the city where land is available and with greater need for re-generation.  Areas east of Barrack St provide an example.

There is therefore no evidence that the residential or commercial accommodation implied in a very large waterfront project is appropriate:

  • It contributes in a substantial way to an over-concentration of metro employment in the inner city
  • It draws demand for residential and employment related development away from other areas of the city;
  • It is not required to support the operations of the rail station – 54,000 workers, or 54% of the total inner city workforce, are already located with 800 metres of the station; more are not required to increase rail patronage and alternative accommodation elsewhere in the city would be well serviced by public transport.
  • It is not required to activate the foreshore or the street.  In fact it could be counter-productive – active entertainment complexes and residential accommodation do not mix well.


Myth:    Height is required to pay for the project

It is unfortunate that the financial analysis underlying the project has not been released for detailed scrutiny.  However, it is a reasonable assumption that one objective is to maximise the return on land parcels by allowing maximum height and plot ratio on commercially available sites.  It is likely that there will be substantial piling required on development sites and the simple logic is that development above the ground (i.e. height and density) is required to offset below-ground site costs and to give the Government some return on its development expenditure (although if the outcome is going to be as dismal as the current plan it makes one wonder why they are throwing so much money away in the first place).  Development densities and land uses in the current plan also involve substantial on-site carparking, which will add to local congestion.

However, there are alternatives that give as great or more return.  In most inner city buildings with high pedestrian traffic flow and therefore very high values at the ground floor from retail uses, the majority (in the order of 75% – 80%) of the land value arises from that ground activity.  The value of the office or residential uses on upper floors is marginal, showing a small return on construction cost.  It is therefore no accident that a large number of older buildings in the city have busy retail at the ground floor but are empty on upper floors.  This has been analysed on many sites.

If the foreshore development is successful, with high pedestrian traffic flow, the majority of the land value will similarly be at the ground floor, not from increasing height.

An alternative approach is therefore to consider, in detail, a much less expensive development approach which involves much simpler structures and earthworks and allows for only lightweight buildings (up to, say 3- 4 storeys, or more if super-lightweight) that do not require deep piling but ‘float’ on the ground. This is technically entirely feasible, will involve the Government in much lower risk and expenditure and a can be built over a much shorter time frame.


A redesign of the current plan is required.  This will be painful – the current project team would much prefer to get something done, no matter what.

However, the shortcomings of the current plan are serious enough to warrant some retreat and re-consideration.

It is now the responsibility of the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority to produce a new plan. They have both the mandate and resources to undertake it.

However, new planning must have some constraints that are not obvious in the current design solution.  The constraints and objectives would include:

  • Ensure that the regional function of Riverside Drive as a main by-pass route for the CBD is preserved;
  • Maintain the objective of providing better connection and access between the city (at St Georges terrace) and he river, but measure and judge this very carefully;
  • Improve cyclist and pedestrian amenity, including allowing for both commuter and recreational cyclists in separate bike paths away from the road traffic;
  • Investigate, in detail, lower cost and simpler public realm design and low-rise alternatives for development sites
  • Incorporate heritage items into the plan.


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Response to WAPC “Capital City Planning Framework”

Making the City of Perth a Capital City for all West Australians

Comment on Capital City Planning Framework 2011

An all party submission to the Premier and Cabinet, and the Parliament of the State of Western Australia
23 September 2011


Outline of CityVision’s Position

Perth, the capital of Western Australia, is a city of growing wealth and sophistication. Not only is it at the centre of an expanding Metropolitan region, it is pivotal to a State of expanding national and regional importance, and in the aspirations of citizens across the State.

It must aim to be a true State Capital, its image resonant in the hearts and minds of all Western Australians.

Its planning and development demand creative self-awareness. Until now, there has been no understanding of what a “capital city” really means – in terms of vision, design, or governance. Neither this present report nor its predecessors show an understanding of the difference between the city  as the focus of a large metropolitan region, or as simply the locus of major State institutions, or of the notion of a true “Capital City“ and what this means in both planning and administrative terms.

Illustrative of this lack has been an ongoing pattern within Perth’s central area of major development projects (government and others) on an uncoordinated basis, under the auspices of different Government agencies, and with great opportunities lost.

While the WAPC report has value as a source document, it has a view seemingly limited to what might constitute “capital city places.” The recent PCC “Urban Design Framework” also deals with the central area, and while both contain ideas worth pursuing, neither addresses the broader notion of a “capital city” nor gives it a guiding role in these concepts.

What constitutes a “Capital City” and what would a vision for it comprise? How should it operate and how does the current situation fail to achieve this?

Perth’s success as a true State Capital should primarily be a matter for State Government itself, at a level above that of agencies such as the WAPC, directly responsible to Parliament through the Premier and Cabinet.

There should be new legislation to establish a State Capital Development Commission or similar body whose task is to establish a vision and policies for the Capital and to direct other agencies in their capital works as well as local government in its development control within a set boundary.

There are many examples of how this should and could be approached.



Part 1

The City of Perth: a Capital City in name only – p4

Knowing what a capital city needs to be a Capital City

The Council of Australian Government’s Capital City strategic planning systems

Part 2

Critique and commentary on the Capital City Planning Framework 2011- p8

Beginnings: Network city and Directions 2031

The failures of the Capital City Planning Framework report

Part 3

The problem stated – p10

Part 4

Making the City of Perth a Capital City is the responsibility
of the State Government – p11

The need for special Capital City legislation

Capital City financing

Part 5

Planning and Design Issues with the Present System – p12

Piecemeal development in the lack of a coherent Capital City Plan

Part 6

A Vision for the Capital City – p14

Perth, a City Beautiful -– essential characteristics as design elements

Applying these principles: Perth 2012-2031


Part 7 – p15

Specific Projects within a “Masterplan” approach

Relevant Precedents


Part 1

The City of Perth: a Capital City in name only

From its foundation in 1829 as a crown colony, Perth has always been the seat of the government of Western Australia. Nevertheless, although often referred to as a capital city, the municipality of the City of Perth (created in 1858) has neither been formally recognised by legislation as capital city, nor given special powers in recognition of its capital city role. Instead, as the seat of government, the City of Perth has housed a scattering of government buildings, each designed to accommodate one or other of the state government’s legislative and executive functions. Only Parliament House, standing proud looking down St George’s Terrace, might seem to betoken Perth’s role the state capital. But even this is deceptive as Parliament House was originally built to face Parliament Square; and not as it does now, look down on the city along St George’s Terrace.

Thought by some to have been inspired by the eighteenth century capital city layout of Edinburgh, the colonial government’s first offices were originally located in what was intended to a large central government precinct between William and Barrack Streets, south of Wellington Street. Vestiges of this proposal remain in the locations of the old Treasury and Land Department Buildings, the Law Courts, the old Perth Town Hall, the Anglican Cathedral, and Government House as a cluster of buildings at the southern end of the precinct. Stirling Street, still one of Perth’s widest streets, was intended provide a triumphal entry to the precinct from the north.

The nearest Perth ever got to the fundamentally civic character of capital city planning and design was Assistant Government Architect William Hardwick’s, 1911 proposal to remove the railways yards, underground the Fremantle-Midland line as far west as Subiaco, and convert the land above to the west of the Perth Station into a grassy Mall, graced by public buildings, terminating at its western end in a circus or a “Parisian etoile” on which nine streets were to converge.

Inspired by the American City Beautiful Movement and the 1901 McMillan Commission’s proposals for a great mall in Washington DC, this brief and only formal effort at capital city making was associated with an attempt by Perth City Council, under the influence of the British Greater City Movement, to create a Greater Perth. This would have required not only taking over all Perth’s existing suburban local governments, but also all the land into which future urban growth would occur. Had it succeeded, the current metropolitan region would have been governed by a single Greater City of Perth Council closely resembling the Greater City of Brisbane established in 1923.

Having failed in the attempt, Perth City Council found itself in an enlarged council of 27 members dominated by the priorities and interests of 18 suburban councillors who were in virtual control of a rate-based income, almost 70 per cent of which, to their detriment, came from the city proper’s commercial rate payers. Consequently, little was done post World War II to enhance the interests of the city proper.

The 1955 Hepburn-Stephenson Plan did little to help as, in recommending zoning  most of the city’s inner residential areas into commercial, business and industrial uses, it paid little regard either to the city’s role as a capital city, or to its importance as essentially a civic place. By failing to make a clear distinction between Perth as a city and Perth as a region, the Stephenson plan used (capitalised) Central Area of Perth and alternatively Perth Central Area to describe what is properly speaking the territory under the jurisdiction of the City of Perth: Stephenson’s terms are still in use by the Western Australian Planning Authority.[1]

Apart from introducing land use and development controls, the Stephenson Plan did almost nothing by way of civic development and city making in the public realm: the lack of which, especially when compared with the wholesale private redevelopment of the core along St George’s Terrace, was much to the detriment of the city’s appearance. The passage of the East Perth Redevelopment Act in 1991 with the immediate aim of redeveloping a rundown area along the then sewer-like Claise Brook marked a new beginning.

Elsewhere, opportunities for a truly civic response worthy of a capital city along the lines laid down by William Hardwick 100 years ago were lost in a number of places. As examples, we may cite the current proposals for the redevelopment of the 12 hectares of centrally located derelict railway land and the failure to appreciate the civic importance of the land between Newcastle and Aberdeen all of which was in public ownership almost as a single lot. These are two of examples of a failure to grasp the fact that capital city making is, above all, a civic enterprise with design imperatives and aspirations reflecting the affairs of state, and not of municipalities. And, in democracies, this means that capital cities are created out of a desire to express in civic form the high ideals of the people to whom their capital city belongs. For example, in describing Ottawa as the nation’s capital, the Canadian National Capital Commission says:

A capital is more than a city; it is an expression of the country in general and a gathering place for its citizens. Canada’s Capital Region belongs to all Canadians. Even more importantly, as the seat of government; it represents a place of national symbols; Canada’s face to the world; a cultural showcase ….. [and] a source of pride for Canadians.

The Canadian National Capital Commission also works in alliance with Canada’s provincial capitals extending its own ideals such that “Canadian capital cities represent all residents within the province or territory, and reflect the culture, pride and symbolism of their distinct regions.” Similarly, the Australian National Capital Development Commission (1957-89) described it work as “shaping the environment in which people live, work and experience Australia’s national capital. It thus had the effect of shaping civil society through its setting, rather than through its laws.”

In its May 2003 Submission to the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, now named as the National Capital Authority, it had this to say:

The Australian experience of Canberra as the National Capital is similar to that of the capital cities of other democratic nations, notably Washington DC in the United States of America and Ottawa in Canada. All three nations have sought to establish their capitals as special places for their citizens and have taken a consistent and profound interest in their planning, development and cultural significance.

All have a history of statutory federal agencies responsible for the capital on behalf of their federal government. Each also has a defined relationship with ‘city’ government jurisdictions. In Washington DC the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), established in 1952, continues to be responsible for planning, federal capital improvements and reviewing significant development projects. The predecessor of the NCPC, the National Capital Park and Planning Commission, was created in 1926. In Ottawa, the National Capital Commission (NCC) established in 1959, continues to be responsible for planning, development approval and enhancement works, and for fostering Canadian awareness of the capital. The predecessor of the NCC, the Ottawa Improvement Commission, was created in 1899. (Emphasis added)

It is interesting to note that in both Ottawa and Canberra, what were formerly planning and constructional authorities are the stewards of the cities they created: leaving much of the day to running to their respective popularly elected municipal governments.

Although originally created to redevelop derelict lands in East Perth, the East Perth Development Authority (EPRA) has increasingly become the state government’s de facto City of Perth development authority exercising the super planning powers expected of a capital development authority as it spreads its control beyond its original boundary into central Perth. But without the requisite drives of a capital city making authority.

Knowing what a capital city needs to be a Capital City

In 1993, after a considerable amount of lobbying by then Perth Chamber of Commerce together with the Property Council of Western Australia parliament passed the City of Perth Restructuring Act replacing the old Perth City Council with a new City of Perth Council and, by separating the city from its suburban wards, returned Perth to approximately its original 1858 boundaries. By removing approximately 60,000 residential inhabitants and placing them in three newly created local governments, the new city council was given a clearer idea as to what its priorities were. Unfortunately, the government of the day lacked the courage to adopt an additional recommendation, made to its predecessor by a consortium of bodies, that it also create a joint city-state capital city planning authority to:

Undertake the planning and development control roles presently divided between the City of Perth, the State Planning commission, the Metropolitan Planning Council, the Department of Planning and Urban Development, the Swan River Trust, the Minister’s Liaison Committee and the Central Areas Technical Advisory Committee. [2]

The AIUS submission proposed that the authority should have its own staff operating under the authority of a joint equi-member city and state authority binding on both parties. The authority was to work with a Capital City Municipality “with a sufficient capital base to create a capital city for all Western Australia.”

The government’s failure to include in the 1993 Restructuring Act the recommendation that it also create statutory capital city authority, was compounded two years later when a Local Government Act failed differentiate between the powers and responsibilities of the City of Perth as the presumed Capital City, and the smallest of Western Australia’s bush local authority, did much to frustrate the work of the new council: at least from the point of view it working jointly with the state government as a single planning authority.

The 1992 AIUS report also drew attention to the fact that in a long history of inquiries into how the City of Perth should be planned and governed, none took up the capital city role as a first priority. In its defence, the state government may argue that the City of Perth was the state’s most-favoured city among many: but to accept this argument is to make the City of Perth little more than a “Bigger Bunbury.”[3]

This is not to deny the importance of such state government contributions to the city in what are essentially capital city functions such as the State’ Library, Museum, Art Gallery and, most recently, the State Theatre Centre opened in 2011. But, one has only to compare Adelaide’s Festival Theatre complex, opened in 1973, with the former Perth City Council’s Concert Hall opened in the same year and the long delayed state government backed Theatre Centre to see the difference between the two cities and their state governments.

The City of Perth is both a capital and a primate city. The distinction lies in the fact that whereas state and national capitals relate to expressions of the intangibles of identity and pride of a nation or state strong enough to guide its planning and development, in public architecture and in major works and public improvements; a primate city as the state’s most important social, economic, cultural, and administrative centre is a place of business and private interests and concern and best managed and developed by a municipal system of government. This means that the two functions may not, and indeed, should not have exactly the same aspiration because of their different priorities. However, when put together and done well, capital and primate cities can create unexpected synergies and benefits for both parties. It is in this that Perth has failed.

The problem arises largely because there seems to be no awareness or understanding of what a “Capital City” could and should be like: or how it should function and what are its critical elements. There is no vision of large-scale urban design structures, movement patterns, focal-points, splendid streets or civic spaces, squares or urban parks; all elements vital to the identification of a city as a capital place.

Perth as the capital of and for all Western Australia should aspire now to acquire an urbane civic character: a civic presence in its major streets and spaces; beauty in its public works and civic construction. There should be the “feel” of a capital city reflected in a free flow of people, traffic, and activity; a generosity in its places and thoroughfares; there should be spaces to accommodate civic activities, parades and gatherings, monuments and vistas.

This is not a reflection upon anyone; the lack exists because no one appears to have fully grasped the idea of what a capital city is and should be.

The Council of Australian Government’s Capital city strategic planning systems

The genesis of the Western Australian Planning Commission’s Capital City Planning Framework Council (2011) lies in the Council of Australian Governments’ 7 December 2009 meeting at which it was agreed that the states would present at the Council’s February 2012 meeting their responses to a “tick a box” list of nine-criteria for future strategic planning of capital cities. As none of the nine points actually refers to the very special character of a capital city: or even refers to them as seats of government, the list does nothing to advance the idea of a capital city as such. Nor are there really any references to cities as urban design challenges. In short, COAG task force is about Australia’s metropolitan regions and their relations to each other and their respective state urban networks. By doing so, it directs attention away from the capital city role of capital cities.

Part 2

Critique and commentary on the Capital City Planning Framework 2011

The main thrust of the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) report Capital City Planning Framework: a vision for Central Perth is directed toward an arbitrarily defined rectilinear 144 hectare area comprising; at its approximate centre, what it calls the “central area,” plus what it calls a “frame” of local authority suburban areas. Apart from being roughly co-terminus with the old 1950s public transport tramway and trolley-bus system, it includes what the report calls a “knowledge triangle” based on Edith Cowan University to the North, the University of Western Australia and its accompanying QE II Hospital complex to the Southwest, and, to complete the triangle, with Curtin University and Bentley Technology Park in the Southwest corner.

Beginnings: Network city and Directions 2031

Sub-titled a “vision for Central Perth” the Capital City Planning Framework (CCPF) report, is the latest in a series of reports expanding on the policy directions laid down in WAPC’s earlier report, Directions 2031: Draft Spatial Framework for Perth and Peel (2009). This report articulates the earlier “network city” concept introduced during the course of a carefully orchestrated one-day community mass meeting involving more than 1,000 participants held on 13 September 2003. In the following year, after further meetings with selected groups, the WAPC published an elaborated version entitled Network city: a community planning strategy for Perth and Peel as a policy document.

Directions 2031 structured the Perth and Peel Region (better called Greater Perth) into six-subregions and, further developing the network city concept, identified a seven-level hierarchy of “activity spaces”:

Perth central area
(The City of Perth)
Primary centres
(e.g. Rockingham)
Strategic centres
(divided into cities, special centres and industrial centres)
Regional centres
District centres
(divided into town and industrial centres)
Neighbourhood centres
Local centres

Of these seven levels, the overwhelming majority are to be found in the Central sub-region, clustered around what it calls the “Perth central area” which presumably means the City of Perth.

In this light, the notable absence of any direct reference to the City of Perth in either the CCPF or the Directions 2031 reports seems, to say the least, decidedly odd when the entire Perth – Peel metropolitan region (Greater Perth) revolves and is structured around the City of Perth. Why this should be so is not explained, but neither of the above two reports, despite a diligent search, contain or use the words “City of Perth.”

The failures of the Capital City Planning Framework report

Although the Capital City Framework report contains much useful information and many good ideas, it fails to advance its central proposition, implicit in its title, that what it consistently refers to as “Central Perth” is the capital city. Indeed, in reading this report one begins to wonder whether the report has in mind the amalgamation of all the local authorities within the boundaries of the 144 hectare “frame.” A similar “frame” is also depicted in the City of Perth’s planning report a vision for Perth: an urban design framework. Published in 2010, the year before the WAPC capital city report, the city’s vision makes 25 references Perth as the capital city most importantly in the following words:

As the capital city of Western Australia and its centre of commerce and government, the City of Perth Council will have: • Effective working relationships with neighbouring local governments, State and Federal governments • Expanded to include neighbouring precincts to make the City of Perth more effective (p. 21 Emphasis added)

The emphasised words in this quotation seem to confirm the impression that amalgamation with a view to recreating a thoroughly discredited system of city government is a possibility.

Since it is central to our commentary that the City of Perth’s boundaries as established in 1993 are co-terminus what CityVision believes should regarded as the State Capital City of Western Australia, and defined by a prospective special act of parliament, then both reports fail to understand that capital cities are in fact creatures unto themselves. As this fundamental point will be taken up later in this commentary, it suffices to say here that the Directions 2031 seven rank central space hierarchy needs to be capped by an eighth level: the Capital City.[4] In this regard, one need only compare and contrast Canada with the United States of America. In Canada, with the exception of Quebec, provincial (state) capitals are all in the largest cities; whereas in the United States, only 17 of 50 states have their capital cities in the most populous city. The data also reveals, especially for those capitals which are not the state’s largest populated areas, how important government is as a driving force in population growth: only seven state capitals still without a surrounding metropolitan region.

This leads one to question the validity of both the CCPF and the City of Perth’s idea of   a capital city operating within a wider “frame.” If it does, then the only meaningful frame is that provided by Directions 2031 more natural Central sub-region where the roles played by the City of Perth in its functions as capital and primate city and head of a seven level central place hierarchy, have their greatest impact.

Part 3

The problem stated

CityVision has always argued in support of a single joint state and city government planning and development agency. However, the idea first saw the light of day in the deliberations of the old Perth Chamber of Commerce’s Civic Affairs Committee and was subsequently debated at various seminars and conferences: most of which were organised under the auspices of the Australian Institute of Urban Studies (AIUS).

After years of fruitless debate, in June 1992 the AIUS made a submission to the then Premier, the Hon. Carmen Lawrence MLA on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and CityVision, “inviting the government of Western Australia to establish a new administrative structure for Perth to meet the objectives of the Capital City of Western Australia.” The submission was titled Capital City Planning for the Capital of Western Australia. It was edited by the then National Chairman of the AIUS, Max Hipkins.

The report, a compilation of seven documents covering the period 1897-1991,  drew attention to the fact that the idea of joint city-state planning of what was then first referred to as the Perth CBD to distinguish it from the remaining suburban localities, (since separated) had been around for a long time: informally since the early 1970s. It had been first put forward formally to the state government in an AIUS submission in connection with the Draft Planning bill in 1987. This was in part inspired by the City of Adelaide Development Control Act (1976). The 1992 AIUS submission to the Premier and government was based substantially on the two reports. First, as was previously mentioned, the Chamber of Commerce Report plus another from CityVision.

In addition to providing a summary of its main points in its text, the AIUS submission also included complete versions of most of the supporting papers, including a full version of the report prepared by Emeritus Professor Martyn Webb for the Chamber of Chamber and Industry and adopted by the Chamber as policy.

In the following year, the Property Council commissioned the later Dr David Carr and former Planning Commissioner to follow up AIUS submission’s request for the separation of the ring of suburbs from the then Perth City Council’s jurisdiction. Working closely with the then Premier, the Hon Richard Court, Dr Carr’s lobbying led to the passage of the previously mentioned City of Perth Restructuring Act (1993). Unfortunate the Premier, the first Western Australian premier ever to show a real interest in the planning of the city of Perth, refused to consider setting up a joint city-state planning authority on the grounds that “it was undemocratic.”


Part 4

Making the City of Perth a Capital City is the responsibility
of the State Government

Modern capital city making is largely the product of the emergence of European nation states during late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries. Some capitals cities were built from scratch, as with St Petersburg. Others, by adapting existing cities, Paris is a very good example, took capital city making as an opportunity to modernise an existing city. In either case, they were designed to be the very epitome of a nation or a state, uniting peoples and their governments as organic wholes. In the United States of America, capital cities were created to house the legislative and executive branches of governments as symbols of democracy; whereas European capital cities were more expressions of nationhood and state as personified by their autocratic rulers. Nevertheless, both types were intended to make statements about their national origins: often through great processional avenues, prominent public buildings, street layouts and street alignments, as well as public spaces, including squares, parks gardens and parklands. In brief, capital cities were and remain essentially messages to be read and understood by its citizens and admired by visitors. However, no matter how large the city, the capital city function always confined to a precinct covering a small area relatively small area. This applies just as much to London as a capital city as it does to Washington DC, or even more modern Brasilia. For Western Australia, the City of Perth provides such a precinct.

The need for special Capital City legislation

Had the 1993 Restructuring Act gone through as its advocates had intended the reconstituted close-in City of Perth would have been declared the State Capital. But it was not. The first task, therefore, would be to introduce a parliamentary bill formally declaring the City of Perth to be the State Capital of Western Australia. The State Capital bill should be a charter or constitution setting out the means by which the city capital council would operate jointly with the state government as a municipality.

The second task would be, as a companion to the Capital City Act, to draft a State Capital Development Commission Bill having the following characteristics:

·         Directly responsible to Parliament;

·         Be directed a commissioned comprising persons representing;

The City of Perth Council,

The Parliament of the State of Western Australia,

The Government of the State of Western Australia,

·         Persons appointed by the Governor of Western Australia to represent;

The people of country and remote Western Australia

The Aboriginal people;

·         Chaired by a Commissioner with a proven record in comprehensive urban planning and design.

The Commissioner should:

·         Be appointed by and report at least once a year to Parliament;

·         Have an independent budget and deal directly with the Treasury;

·         Have control over an independent staff;

The Commission should:

·         As its first priority, select a consultant group or persons competitively selected by an international competition or tender to draw up a draft master plan capable of being developed within 25 years for submission to the parliament:

·         Have transferred to it all the powers of the East Perth Redevelopment Authority which will then cease to exist, together such other powers as may be required together as such additional staff as also may be required;

·         Have seconded to it for as long as is required the staff of the City of Perth Planning department to work collaboratively with the commission with special regard to the granting of approvals and making recommendations to the City of Perth council on municipal planning matters having regard to the Commission’s Capital City Plans, policies and development controls.

Capital City financing

The financing of such a hall mark project as making the City of Perth a true capital city requires rethinking how civic projects are financed. Overseas experience has shown various methods including the raising of money through the issue of bonds.

Funding for these major works may come from a variety of sources, including the present Metropolitan Improvement Fund (and perhaps a specific central-area extension of it,) returns from the sale and development of government land, the issue of municipal bonds and not excluding Perth City Council’s own substantial resources. All participants need to have a real sense of ownership, of commitment and of inclusion in what should be an evolving, long-term development programme.

The matter is raised here to indicate that the financing of such an important project has to be considered if a sustained development is to occur independently of the day to day vicissitudes and vagaries of state financial planning.

Part 5

Planning and Design Issues with the Present System –

Perth is a potentially great Regional Capital – Australia’s gateway to the Indian Ocean and to ever-growing South-east Asian economies. At the same time, it is a pivot-point for the vast mining activities allied to this, and for consequent commercial prosperity. As a result of accompanying natural and immigrant population growth, the Perth central area is itself at the hub of a continually-expanding metropolitan region, and of mounting inner-city residential, office employment and prime retailing activity.

Since WWII, it has become the headquarters of a great northern mining boom. The opportunities offered by this new wealth are enormous, and now Perth is beginning to see itself anew – as the capital city of a vast Western State, encompassing all these activities and much more – in terms of cultural, civic, educational, tourism and a wide range of other activities concomitant with a major centre in this context. Importantly, it is – and should aspire to grow as – the centre of focus in the minds and hearts of all Western Australians.

However, it has yet to find an appropriate image for itself, a grander vision by which to guide its planning and development decisions, new major works or public improvements. It has a beautiful waterside setting and peripheral parklands, but has relatively narrow streets and no internal structure of spaces and places worthy of a great “capital city”. There is no awareness of what a “Capital City” could be like – how it may function and what elements are crucial to establish. There is no vision of larger-scale movement patterns or focal-points to cope with inner-city growth – few central places, splendid streets or civic spaces, squares or urban parks vital to Capital City liveability, image, and function.

Perth should aspire now to acquire an urbane civic character: a civic presence in its major streets and spaces; beauty in its public works and civic construction. There should be the “feel” of a capital city reflected in a free flow of people, traffic, and activity; a generosity in its places and thoroughfares; there should be spaces to accommodate civic activities, parades and gatherings, monuments and vistas.

Piecemeal development in the lack of a coherent Capital City Plan


There have been major planning decisions in the past and currently which, given an overall plan for the structure and vision of a capital city would surely have been made differently. These have generally been in terms of the location of major public development and infrastructure on what may have seemed logical case-by- case, but were really ad- hoc.


For example, the location of a (second) major bus station on prime land at the foot of the central business area; the placement of the PCEC in a visually unattractive location nearby; the new indoor stadium with its constricted access; the Northbridge Police Station supplanting a planned (and necessary) Fitzgerald Street bridge; the new State Theatre on a cramped and unremarkable site; all these would well have been better located in a co-ordinated scheme.

In terms of traffic flow through and around the city, similar decisions have been made: for example the deletion of the Fitzgerald-Milligan Street bridge removes a much-needed northern access route; the narrowing of major east-west routes at Newcastle and Wellington Streets and St Georges Terrace; the proposed cutting of a major east-west by-pass/access route in Riverside Drive by the Perth Waterfront scheme; all these will substantially restrict movement and access (in a city which aspires  to greater user-friendliness).

These decisions have no doubt been made in the best interests of a particular development, but the existence of an overall scheme, vision and plan would surely have found better, more co-ordinated solutions. Taken individually as they have been, they lack the visual linkages, vistas and end-views, for example, in the placement and interaction of major civic elements.

They also lack the understanding that the introduction of increased development densities together with new street-based public transport systems will both demand and create the opportunity for wider “boulevards” and “avenues” which will allow space for different transport modes and will greatly enhance street “useability” as well as beauty.

More specifically, the present WAPC report treats the “capital city” as the focus point of a range of major state functions, noting as a “key concept” (5.1.2) Perth as “a city of capital city places.” Its three main “precincts” are in reality cobbled-together groupings of existing features. While valid as far as it goes, it is a limited “town planning” approach; in the end, it remains piecemeal and is blind to the image and potential of a true capital city.

The document is also too detailed, covering issues best dealt with at a different scale, and it is far too wide in area – 144 square kilometres –taking in three tertiary institutions etcetera, which have no real connection with the capital, functionally or otherwise.

For administrative clarity and practicality, the area of the capital city should be limited to the municipal boundaries of the City of Perth.

Part 6

A Vision for the Capital City – Perth, a City Beautiful

Essential characteristics as design elements

Increasing inner-city residential population has begun to express a new urban lifestyle, while it is clear that movement across the city – as the central hub in a fast-expanding metropolitan region – is no longer measured exclusively in “journey-to-work “ terms, but has become an issue to be dealt with throughout the day.

In terms of planning design, capital city concepts to be pursued would include ideas of public spaces “imageable” in the minds of citizens; major streets, for example, expanded for their own sake as places to live and recreate as a kind of stage for the expanding populace, as connecting corridors between key points of the city, and as thoroughfares for both old and new modes of transport.

In preparing any plan for the capital, it is essential to take a holistic approach. Public (and significant private) development projects should be assessed not only on their own merits, but in relation to overall parameters. These could include, for example,

  • In terms of the translation of city-centre-specific needs for projects and infrastructure, there is an important differentiation to be made between a “Capital City” approach and any other location – either in the State or the Metropolitan area.
  • This should reflect the role that Perth City holds in the imagination of all Western Australians (and of visitors) as the main centre for all community functions; and more than that, as an excellent and beautiful city in which to live and work.
  • There need be less emphasis on individual developments – as community projects – having to pay for themselves. Net loss projects can be developed in conjunction with projects that offer an economic return by ‘shifting value’.
  • This would also apply to heritage sites in relation to bonuses etc. (including setting up a bank for transferable development bonuses/credits).
  • Recognition that there may be cases where substantial public expenditure is required to achieve a greater ‘capital city’ outcome, such as in the creation of new public spaces, and roads wide enough to accommodate new public transport.
  • The city itself has a beautiful setting but few internal parks; we have large open spaces on the fringes but not in the centre. There should be greater focus inward on public spaces and places.
  • Movement into, out of and around the city – by public as well as private transport – should be as smooth, as open  and as flowing as possible, without un-necessary constrictions;
  • In response to this thrust, streets and other public spaces should be arranged and designed with broad vistas flowing into beautiful places, celebrating the Capital City idea. We should consider wider “boulevards” and “avenues” as routes not just for motor vehicles and public transport, but as settings for major public and private buildings.
  • The emphasis should be on visual amenity; in streets, parks, public monuments, and buildings. Perth’s streetscapes and public places should have a degree of dignity and beauty befitting a capital city.
  • As a general Capital City theme for the future layout of Perth city centre, we should be thinking in terms of bringing traffic and public (road) transport in and along major “streams” – both in a visual and functional sense – such as from the west and east along Wellington Street and St Georges Terrace, and around the city along Riverside Drive, from the north (apart from the Mitchell Freeway) along Fitzgerald, William, Beaufort and Lord Streets etc, and from the south (apart from the Kwinana Freeway) along Mounts Bay Road into The Esplanade. These are the routes that require “design attention” as integral components of the Capital City structure.
  • Certainly there should be better connectivity at all scales – pedestrian, cycle and public transport connectivity as well as vehicular traffic. This points, for example, to an urgent re-assessment of plans to cut Riverside Drive at the proposed Perth Waterfront project.


Funding for these major works may come from a variety of sources, including the present Metropolitan Improvement Fund (and perhaps a specific central-area extension of it,) returns from the sale and development of government land, the issue of municipal bonds and not excluding Perth City Council’s own substantial resources. All participants need to have a real sense of ownership, of commitment and of inclusion in what should be an evolving, long-term

Part 7

Applying these principles: Perth 2012-2031

Specific Projects within a “Masterplan” approach

While many of the ideas canvassed in the WAPC and PCC reports may be worthwhile in themselves, their relevance to enhancing the “capital city” vision would be re-examined within this context. A Masterplan or structure plan for the Capital City area would be developed as a continuing community exercise to examine and determine “capital city elements.”

This may (and should) entail planning for new or widened roads capable of accommodating public transport as well as greater volumes of traffic; major public works and even a new underground railway; implementation of new major public spaces; the Perth Foreshore development – all such projects should be undertaken in a co-ordinated fashion within the context of an overall plan and programme – with an overarching aim of endowing Perth with a memorable image  and fabric commensurate with its newly understood Capital City status..

As an indication, there may be an examination of the following elements, for example:

  • Establish a broader vision of the centre in which streets, for example offer themselves as having true “capital city” character – for instance Wellington Street, a potential east-west boulevard running across the north of the city from West Perth and extending east across the Swan to Burswood – not with a two-lane restricted flow, but as a wider street with breadth reflecting its potential as a determinant of the Capital City character, and allowing a range of transport modes as well as the setting for grander buildings, offering a new entrance point for the city.
  • Establish a Building Procurement and Approval Process that delivers truly great buildings. Initiatives such as ‘SEP 65’ and ‘Design for Excellence’ initiatives, as applied in Sydney, might go some way to  achieving this but it will require a tri-partied approach involving  government, developers and the design professions.
  • Central Railway / Northbridge City Link project – this should include  a major public open space focus, rather than its present prime real-estate development character, and to increase the presently-restricted  northern entrance to the city, find means to . Introduce a new “Horseshoe Bridge” connecting Fitzgerald with Milligan Street (to replace the bridge allowed for in the Metropolitan Region Scheme.)
  • Perth Foreshore – achieve a more balanced approach to development on the foreshore, with lower buildings and, again to ensure proper flow, to reverse the decision to cut Riverside Drive and introduce an elegant road bridge (replacing the presently-planned and inappropriate island).
  • Bridging the Mitchell Freeway – to better connect and integrate Perth and West Perth, and importantly, to provide a focus for the St Georges Terrace western vista, and a public-space setting or forecourt for Parliament House and a symbolic major undertaking for the city – a role which should take precedence over its undoubted cost.
  • Gateway / Riverside Project – a potential example of ‘shifting value’ development – the need to examine further what is offered back to the City in return for granting development rights on the foreshore.
  • Inner City Transport – light rail (or new hybrid trolley-buses) connected to adjacent suburbs, with CAT buses as a first stage – different CAT or other systems need better integration, and acceptance of the reality that with new public transport links as well as increased inner-city densities there may well be need for wider roads to accommodate new demand.
  • Review and rationalise CBD traffic pattern / flow – not with the aim necessarily of increasing numbers but to allow more efficient movement, reducing trip lengths and improving the pedestrian experience while enhancing the “capital city” vision.

  • Cathedral Square development, as part of an expanded inner-city public-space system.
  • Cultural Centre redevelopment.
  • Stirling Street Precinct – ripe for development.
  • Murray Street/Milligan Street / Wellington Street Precinct needs further detailed consideration in context of new Wellington Street underground railway station.

Relevant Precedents

Perth is often hailed for its local self-sufficiency, individuality, creativity, and resilience – the negative aspects of which can result in narrow parochial outcomes. In addition, there are myriad government agencies with diverse – frequently competing – responsibilities impinging on planning and development control; even if a coherent vision were to emerge, no over-riding mechanism exists for co-ordination and implementation.

There are issues for all relevant agencies and local government to aspire to. But these administrations may have different briefs, aims and goals, leaving the present system uncoordinated, incapable of achieving the capital city envisaged. We need not simply an over-riding bureaucracy or super-department, but a functioning body, responsible to Parliament, whose  purpose is to plan, design and build the capital city’s elements; for example  to acquire and dispose of land; to  widen roads; to create civic spaces.

There are many instances in recent history of Capital Cities either begun anew or substantially redeveloped. Of the former there are for example Washington, New Delhi, Chandigarh, Brasilia and of course Canberra.  Most famous of the latter is Paris, notable not only for its resultant beauty, but for its modus operandi in the financing and funding of comprehensive redevelopment over a period of 18 years.

This is the scope of vision that Perth needs and should aspire to. It should be grand in the scale of its aspiration and not be constrained by seeming obstacles. Perth does not require comprehensive reconstruction on the scale of Paris for example, but should examine the need for funding mechanisms suitable to its aims. Again, it should not resile from the type of comprehensive redevelopment of a “city beautiful” nature (say on the scale of its recent Southern Railway, Northbridge City Link or Waterfront projects) as and if they entail road widening, the creation of real boulevards and/or the introduction of major public squares and open space.

Ralph Stanton
Martyn Webb

[1] Since CityVision has always regarded the City of Perth to be synonymous with the Capital City of Western Australia, it will follow this more accurate description of it as the capital city. Likewise, this commentary will refer to the entire Perth urban agglomeration either as Metropolitan Perth, or the Perth Metropolitan Region: and the Perth-Peel Region, as Greater Perth.


[2] Australian Institute of Urban Studies, Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Western Australia and CityVision Capital City Planning for Perth: The Capital City of Western Australia AIUS, Perth, 1992, pp. 115.

[3] As of course it is under the Local Government (1995) – just another local authority enjoying the same powers.

[4] It is not generally appreciated that the topmost level of any hierarchy must include within its boundaries all the other elements: i.e. all but the lowest level of inherently multilevel systems.

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