Melbourne Conversations Part 2

Melbourne and Vancouver share the spotlight for liveable cities — but we also share some real challenges around transportation, affordable housing, growth strategies and so on.  It is easy to have downtown Vancouver or downtown Melbourne as your point of reference re: livability.  But the challenges are no doubt in our metro regions.

The first part of my contribution to the panel last week was to quickly review Vancouver’s history, how we got to be so relatively liveable and what we are doing to get better.  I ended my session with a few points to share in regard to both Vancouver and Melbourne.

1. RE-THINK REGIONAL GOVERNANCE. Much of what we achieve today depends on how our governance is working – do we have the systems in place for making good decisions?  Do they help us make effective, informed, long-term decisions? Often not. Making Vancouver a green jobs and sustainability mecca is a fine goal – but it only works if the region gets on board with that vision.  As usual, it is about everyone seeing the context of their actions – what we do always affects our neighbours.  Which means we need systems to help us work together.

2. RE-SIZE TARGETS. We achieve better solutions if we are both challenged and stretching.  So we need goals – and achievable but aspirational targets to strive for.   Thoughtful goals – no longer just bigger, faster, higher, but better, more sustainable, more liveable.  This applies to our regional and provincial aspirations.

3. RENEW HOW TO GET ALONG. We need GOVERNMENT, BUSINESS, NGOs and ACADEMIC leaders to get along, to work together.  The wicked problems that we have to tackle today need collaboration – many disciplines are needed to generate useful and implementable solutions. There are ways for business, academia and ngos to work together, learn together and help government shape evidenced-based policy.  Citizens deserve this kind of collaboration for our tax dollars.

4. RECONNECT TO THE PUBLIC REALM. 45% of Vancouver is in public ownership.  Almost three-quarters of that is roads.  (Love Melbourne lanes, by the way — more interesting and more of them than Vancouver) We still don’t have a public realm plan.  We have a public art plan but we don’t have a higher level strategy around making more living rooms in the city and in the region.  We still deal with the challenges of private culture appropriating public culture.  Working out the concept of the public interest.

5. RE-BALANCE NEIGHBOURHOODS. How do we celebrate the passage of life in each neighbourhood?  How do we ensure they have their own character?  How do we green them in every possible way?  Energy systems and beyond.  The power of real examples – seeing is believing – can be found in neighbourhood experiments – we can make small mistakes.  Neighbourhoods are our research labs.  They are also full of both early adopters and doubting citizens.

6. REVISUALIZE THE CITY AND REGION – THE CITY/REGION: The more informed people are about their place (especially visually), their neighbourhood and their city, in all aspects – the better able they are to make intelligent decisions as voters, volunteers, and people with imaginations to solve various problems that challenge the city.  CONVERSATIONS.  It is about Melbourne conversations.  Importance of building “public dialogue” and vocabulary.

7. REMAKE CITIES FOR CHILDREN. Let’s shape our cities for children: safe, exciting, a place for growth in intelligent terms where their real needs are met.  Daycare, affordable, safe, nuturing – 29% of children in BC are vulnerable as they enter kindergarten compromising the quality of their future. This vulnerability will cost BC 20% of GDP over the lives of these kindergarten students today – fewer innovative adults to grow the economy, support an aging population and address climate change.

8. CELEBRATE BEAUTY. We need to be continuously thinking about how to do things better.   What better way than to celebrate beauty.   Beauty of form and economics, beauty of values and place.   Think of our Ports, our working landscapes.  Think of the rough and the refined in our Cities. Think of a child’s smile and a seniors’ charm.  We don’t use the word enough. Which means we don’t think in terms of beauty.  But we need to.



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