Australia and competitive cities


Australia and competitive cities


Australian demographer and commentator Bernard Salt wrote, in The Brisbane Mail, about A smart way for growth for Queensland. Salt mentions the MONA effect. That is the positive impact that the Museum of Old & New Art (MONA) has had on Hobart and the Tasmanian economy, since it opened 3 years ago.  Having just visited Hobart and MONA, I can attest to the impact this piece of infrastructure has had on the amount of visitors and tourist dollars coming into Tasmania and the amount of new businesses, cafes, restaurants and bars which have popped up since. A city once known as ‘Slowbart’ is now more like a hip enclave of Melbourne.

Salt also says that ‘the future of Australia, Queensland, the Gold Coast lies in our response to the shift into knowledge industries.’ The knowledge economy is certainly crucial to the Australia’s future. But how do cities attract knowledge economy jobs? Its all in the design.

Competitive cities around the world realise that to attract the industries of the 21st century and the people to work in those jobs, the cities need to be attractive. That means they are liveable, walkable access to many amenities, have tree canopies and greenery. They also have a component of affordable housing to allow all sorts of workers to be able to get accommodation. Critically they need high quality transport to allow people to get across town easily. This transport actually facilitates new industries, efficiency and competitiveness.

Cities like Copenhagen, London and Vancouver get this. They arent just about a particular sector, they are elevating their status to strong resilient and uber competitive because they understood the need to network.

Whilst Hobart now has an icon, what it is really missing is good quality public transport. Even though its a small city, peak congestion on the roads is immense and getting around without a car is a challenge. Pedestrians are low priority with just 3 seconds to cross roads before lights go red. If their tram system, which was abolished in 1968, was reinstated, the global data consistently shows that the city would be jettisoned into its next level of growth.

Doctoral researcher from Sydney University, Mike Harris, has consolidated the research to show the key factors which when realised position cities at the top table.


In Queensland, the Gold Coast’s light rail, which opened in 2014, is critical infrastructure and its already being well utilised. Where I am from, the population of Perth will actually outgrow that of Brisbane around 2028 and is already much greater than the Gold Coast. But no light rail is budgeted for for some years to come. As Peter Newman said in The Griffith Reivew: Perth, a much larger city needs to follow suit and become less car dependent.  Perth wont reach its potential or rather operate efficiently to be able to without it.

As Salt says, Queensland’s cities will need to evolve to find their niche, but also embed in their city design, all the other crucial elements and infrastructure that citizens expect of cities, that can compete on the global stage in the new economy and develop strong and resilient low-carbon economies.