Jul 6, 2017

Suburban sprawl isn’t quite the nightmarish dystopia The Age makes out

There are more than a few arguable claims in a recent Age article that should be challenged because they seriously bias understanding of the issues.

Alan Davies — Editor of The Urbanist

Alan Davies

Editor of The Urbanist

The Age published another instalment in its series on Melbourne and immigration-fuelled population growth on Sunday, this time focused on suburban sprawl. Like the earlier article I discussed on Monday, this one is authored by Royce Millar and Ben Schneiders.

The writers compile a list of the familiar problems of sprawl: it sterilises agricultural land, devastates bushland, imposes long travel times on residents, has poor public transport, and requires high levels of car ownership. They miss the one about suburban anomie, but introduce one about losing the bucolic charm of country hamlets bulldozed by sprawl.

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4 thoughts on “Suburban sprawl isn’t quite the nightmarish dystopia The Age makes out

  1. Lasso

    Alan. You aren’t trying to be Pollyanna? Really?? What is Crikey’s love with population growth?! You hate on the mining sector as lacking innovation in terms of economic development for Australia and yet you love population growth, which is simply creating unnecessary problems in order to stimulate the economy (and developer and other large construction industry pockets) by solving them. At the same time DEGRADING the standard of living of existing residents. Population growth causes more than transport congestion challenges, do you understand? Do you see hospitals, schools and other critical social infrastructure increasing in proportion with population growth? Do you see more manageable environmental and social challenges? Do you see greater civic connection and engagement? More affordable housing? Of course not! Population growth has always been the biggest global challenge since the industrial revolution, but business is addicted to it as the consumer base grows. It’s a simple fact that you could turn off the population growth tap in Australia tomorrow if you wanted to – all growth is down to immigration. Replacement fertility rates in Australia have been flat lining (as with in other developed countries) for decades now as couples have smaller families (remember 2 kids per woman just to sustain existing populations). Do we really want to live in the crowded and polluted cities of abroad? Or do we want to enjoy the beautiful country that we are so fortunate to still… just… have? Steady state economies are possible – but will require true innovation – which is what Crikey always harps on about, no?

  2. Tony Syad

    What is the migration equivalent of “let them eat cake”?

  3. drsmithy

    Outer-suburban living requires compromises compared to living closer to the centre, but the downsides are routinely exaggerated

    Heh. As if living in apartments and townhouses doesn’t have “compromises”.

    As for new developments being better planned, what timeframes are we talking about here ? Old developments had wide streets with generous nature strips (and trees !) around them – maybe even a median as well. Homes had decent-sized backyards and enough space to walk – sometimes even get a boat or trailer ! – down the side between the house and the fence. Houses were properly oriented and designed to take advantage of natural breezes and light.

    New developments are narrow streets with barely enough parking for the permanent residents – heaven forbid someone have a party – narrow verges with maybe some poorly maintained grass and the occasional shrub. Tiny blocks almost completely filled by poorly designed and build houses you can just about pass the obligatory sugar bowl between. Not that anyone opens a window much since they all but require air conditioning to be liveable in summer.

    While these are certainly not the most liveable dwellings in country, they are miles ahead of the real slums of the near future: the dozens of dogbox highrises that have gone up in the last decade or two, owned in huge proportion by speculating investors domestic and foreign, who will abandon them in droves as the maintenance and remediation bills for their woeful – and likely illegal – build quality start to pile up.

  4. AR

    Other Crikey have monomaniacal obsessions, such as its resident neolib but Alan certainly has chosen the right name for his.
    The sooner the Great Wens in this country are pierced the better.

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