ROADS TO NOWHERE: The Monthly on why road freight is expensive, dirty and dangerous

This recent article in The Monthly is worth a read in light of the Perth Freight Link.
Key points include:

  • Australia’s shift to the roads has locked us into a freight system that is inherently more costly, more carbon intensive and more dangerous.
  • The cost of moving 1 tonne of freight by road over a distance of 1 kilometre is 7.5 cents for road, more than double the 3.5 cents for rail.
  • The greenhouse-gas emissions for road are more than triple those for rail: 52 grams per tonne kilometre versus 15 for rail
  • trucks cause around 20% of all road fatalities in Australia even though they make up only 2.5% of the vehicles on the road (thinking of that weird Roe 8 ad at this point)

It finishes by noting even Trucking magnate Lindsay Fox  has said Australia had to shift back to rail if it were to have a viable freight system. Food for thought.


Population changes in the West and Fremantle

The City of Fremantle is debating its submission on Perth and Peel@3.5 Million at our council meeting on Wednesday night. At the heart of this is how to deal with population growth while reducing sprawl.  The key problem is that that over the four years since Directions 2031 was launched the infill development rate across the metropolitan area has not increased – the rate was 28% in 2014 against the Directions 2031 target of 47%. This is no better than the rate of infill development historically achieved over a number of years which has remained around 30%.

Drilling down to the Freo level, the recent 2014 report card showed that Fremantle is ‘tracking towards’ its 2011-2015 infill target of 1,270. It noted that in 2011 and 2012 combined Fremantle delivered 460 infill dwellings, which represents 36% of the total target number of infill dwellings for the first 5 year period of Directions 2031 housing supply.

This was the second highest percentage achieved out of the 19 local governments in the Central sub-region (Claremont achieved 50% which equates to 125 dwellings, as Claremont’s total 5 year supply target is only 250 dwellings).

Other interesting facts in these report cards show that:

  • after Perth, Fremantle has the highest employment self-containment meaning a comparatively high number of those that work in the city also live in the city;
  • after Mandurah, Fremantle has the second highest activity centre density for a Strategic Metropolitan Centre;
  •  Fremantle’s net site density of dwellings per hectare is 23.19;
  • 26.1 % of Fremantle’s workforce travel to work using public transport and/or walking.

Perth and Peel@3.5 Million follows on from Directions 2031 and provides updated projections for population and employment growth, rolled forward to a 2050 time horizon. It then uses these to establish updated housing supply targets for each of the local governments in the sub-region, derived from the total housing supply considered necessary in a scenario where the whole metropolitan area reaches a population of 3.5 million by approximately 2050.

The supply target for the City of Fremantle is 7,100 new dwellings by 2050. This is an ambitious jump in population but entirely doable. Here is how we are tracking in recent years according to the ABS:


A better kind of Garden City

The study tour I recently did was based on Good Cities, Better Lives: How Europe Discovered the Lost Art of Urbanism  published by the late Prof Peter Hall with Nicholas Falk.

The book documents how major housing schemes in Northern Europe consistently produce better quality, more affordable housing, with higher environmental standards, and with far greater spending on infrastructure and public transport than we do in Australia or the UK. The response of many of us on the study tour was to despair that we could ever produce development of this standard.

Nicholas Falk recently sent me his most recent project on designing a garden city which demonstrates how to apply the best of Europe to a more Anglo context. While he writes about the UK his comments also apply to Australia and Perth:

“The ability of these [Northern European] countries to build to such high standards and to plan so effectively is not because they have better designers, planners and developers. It is rather because they operate with a different economic and regulatory framework. The quality of what we build is, at its heart, an economic rather than a design issue and is the focus for the first part of this essay. In the UK most of the money and talent in the housebuilding industry is focused on unlocking the land through a contested planning system; on the Continent it is focused on what is built on that land.

The Garden City extensions are based upon some simple geometry; tram stops that are within 20 minutes of the city centre, neighbourhoods that are within 10 minutes walk of these tram stops, each of which supports a secondary school and its feeder primary schools, and urban extensions made up of five neighbourhoods that have sufficient scale to support a district centre and employment uses. The overall plan is described in our Snowflake diagram which we have developed into a set of proposals to show how it would be applied ….”

Inspiring food for thought for the future of urban planning in Perth as we are putting in our submission on Perth and Peel @3.5 million.

garden city

Freo Town Hall Perth Freight Link videos

For those of you that couldn’t squeeze into the overflowing Freo Town Hall last Tuesday to here the discussion on the proposed Perth Freight Link the videos have been put up on the web by one of the great volunteers behind this community campaign. I was first up after Ben Elton’s very amusing introduction on this not very cunning plan.

Start Some Good – One Planet Freomatch funding program

The City of Fremantle has entered into an innovative partnership with social good crowdfunding organisation to encourage Fremantle sustainability champions and advocates to be active decision makers in key projects.

The One Planet FreoMatch funding program allows the Fremantle community to have a direct influence on the types of sustainability projects, programs and events the City supports, ensuring measurable and meaningful sustainability outcomes for Fremantle.

As part of this program, successful applicants will be invited to briefly pitch their project to the community and convince them of its sustainability value.

In a community-driven approach, the public will vote for projects they feel will most benefit the wider Fremantle community environmentally, socially and economically and align with the City’s One Planet Fremantle Strategy key principles. The most highly valued projects will be further considered by a panel of community and sustainability experts, who will select the final applicants to go through to the development and launch of their crowdfunding campaigns with the support of

The model, based on a ‘tipping point’ approach is designed to encourage participants to seek community support and involvement in their projects through crowdfunding. When the projects reach 50% of their total target, the City of Fremantle will invest the remaining 50% to reach the funding goal.

I love how the City’s new approach to funding creative sustainability projects reflects Council’s commitment to developing shared values and shared outcomes in this space.

We are part of this community and have observed first-hand how passionate our residents are around sustainability issues. We acknowledge that in order to truly achieve sustainability outcomes, we need to provide self-directed opportunities for the community to be involved and engaged at a local level.

This innovative funding model gives the people most affected by the outcome of these projects an opportunity to share in their success. To my mind, that’s exactly what sustainability should look like

The One Planet FreoMatch funding program will launch on the 24 July, with applicants notified of their eligibility on 14 August and an invitation to the One Planet Pitch event to be held on 20 August 2015.

Visit the FreoMatch webpage to pitch your project:


Local Government Reform: Lessons from the West

Today I was invited by the Local Government Association of Tasmania to Launceston to talk about the lessons learnt in WA on amalgamations and local government reform.

Tasmania is just starting on the reform process in Tasmania and is keen to see what the key lessons to be learnt from the extraordinarily long and ultimately unsuccessful amalgamations process in WA. To put it bluntly, so they don’t make the same mistakes.

It was a good opportunity for me to reflect also on what WA should do differently next time. Here’s the super abbreviated summary of what I said.

  1. The Local Government Reform process should be evidence based and not politicised. The WA process got off to a bad start when it was inextricably only the 30 metropolitan area councils up for amalgamation not the 110 often more marginal, regional ones. The Robson Report also lacked the detail and supporting evidence to show why reform was necessary.
  2. For local government reform to work the process needs strong State Government financial support where costs are shared fairly. In WA it was broadly acknowledged it would cost $60-100 million for local government boundary reform but the State Budget only included $15 million in grant assistance and $45 million in subsidised loans. This got a lot of local governments offside and further reduced the necessary support for the process.
  3. The State Government needed to proactively advocate for the benefits of reform. It needed to sell the positive case for change and not leave it to the “no brigade” as happened in WA where poll provisions enabled a fear based misinformation campaign to dominate and ultimately turn community opinion.
  4. Voluntary reform rarely works and if it is to be successful it will need major incentives. If not some big carrots then some big sticks. No point starting with the voluntary unless these are in place (along with #1).
  5. There is no magic population number. Capacity to deliver major projects and services are more important than a residential population and focusing on a magic minimum number like 100,000 misses the point. Unfortunately that is what happened in WA.
  6. Get it done. Don’t drag it out. I almost called my presentation “How to pull off a band aid really slowly and painfully”. Because the slow, stop-start and overall tedious approach of the WA approach is set the process up for failure. WA started LG reform in 2009 and it collapsed in 2015 after almost getting to the finish line. There are better ways.

Local Government Reform in WA will inevitably come back to the fore. I hope my small bits of WA experience at least mean the Tasmania’s have by then implemented their process and can then share their lessons and experience with us in the West.


All Welcome at Perth Freight Link Forum (plus Prof Newman Video)

It is expected to be a full house for the Rethink the Link forum on the Perth Freight Link at the Town Hall this evening at 6pm. To make sure everyone gets to see and hear what is debated there will be large screens and speakers outside for those who can’t squeeze inside. So please turn up.

This major  infrastructure investment project has the potential to have a huge impact on residents and Freo as a whole (and that is is without other impacts such as Hamilton Hill and Bibra Lake).

For those of you that missed Prof Newman’s explanation of this issue here is a video of his presentation. It is useful background for tonight.