City-shaping. It’s time to think bigger

City-shaping projects are happening around us all the time. But in 2021 it is important that we elevate the conversation and start talking about region-shaping for Queensland.

City-shaping has been a focus for industry and government for many years. While there is no single definition for the term, we use it to talk about the transformational projects designed to boost liveability, productivity, and connectivity for our cities.

City-shaping vs region-shaping

If city-shaping is all about transformative urban projects, region-shaping must be the philosophy we apply to urbanism itself. It is recognising that cities are a network of communities that are far from homogenous, and that metro areas will continue to overlap, intersect, and merge. It’s a commitment to ensure resilience, develop appropriate infrastructure, and create environments that reflect local values and opportunities.

Go regional, Queensland!

It is predicted that we will see an intensification of interstate migration over the next few years, with many people choosing to make Queensland their home. 

This is both a golden opportunity and one of our biggest challenges.

We have the chance to attract investment and diversify the economies of places like Townsville, Mackay, Cairns, as well as South East Queensland, benefitting current residents and newcomers alike. But without a region-shaping mentality, we could be looking at lagging infrastructure, sky-rocking dwelling costs, liveability lost. A missed opportunity.

How do we embrace a region-shaping attitude?

We need to make brave planning, infrastructure, and design choices. Decisions that don’t just represent a vision for our regions, but create the conditions, incentives and impetus to make those visions real.

An honest assessment of the current state-of-affairs across all levels of government is key. In South East Queensland for example, we need to ask what the last 16 years of regional plans has helped us achieve.

Have we followed through on the goals set for housing? Have we allowed infrastructure to lead or follow population growth around the map? Are our local planning schemes helping or hindering us?

It is only by knowing barriers, that we can remove them.

Define, design and manage the future

Region-shaping urbanism should be about helping communities to grow while making people’s experience of them better. Each area of Queensland has its own identity, and we need to build on the social, cultural, and economic opportunities unique to each.  

In some places, this might mean an immediate focus on priority housing, with planned infrastructure and services to follow. In others, it might be re-thinking legislation and engaging the public in conversations about consolidation, or better integrating active transport into the broader transport agenda. In some regions, it might be all the above and more.

Every decade external shocks spark a quantum shift in urbanism. In 2000 the dotcom crash reaffirmed the value of bricks and mortar and we saw the emergence of the masterplanned community. In 2008 we held our breath through the GFC and began to rethink housing size and cost.

While the impact of COVID-19 on urbanism’s trajectory remains to be seen, the shock represents a big opportunity for us evolve our practice and shape better regions, cities and communities in turn. So, let’s think big Queensland.

What do you think about city-shaping vs regional-shaping? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can elevate the conversation and start talking about region-shaping for Queensland.

Peter Egerton

Service Line Leader - Urban Design


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