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Déjà vu as pollies move to counter ideas

Artist impression of the Perth waterfront development - the Island, view north. Click for more photos

The plans for Perth's waterfront redevelopment

Artist impression of the Perth waterfront development - the Island, view north. 

Well, the first sod has been turned on the Perth waterfront development.

We all know what a saga it's been, with countless committees putting forward endless ideas over the years – only to have them knocked back or re-worked.

So, it was with interest that I read about Labor leader Mark McGowan's plan, should he become Premier next year, to set up a committee ... which he calls a body ... this time to identify and commit to major infrastructure projects across the entire State.

The public's cynicism about committees could have something to do with their frequent re-branding as "think-tanks" - a ghastly euphemism - as well as the fact that committee recommendations are just that – recommendations, which can be so easily overridden.

However, it wasn't the proposed establishment of the committee, but rather the comments around its announcement, that had me feeling a sense of déjà vu.

A few weeks ago I was sorting through some of the newspaper articles I've written over the years. I found this front page headline, dated October 21st 1994.

"Perth To Get A Bright New Face": By Deborah Kennedy.

It details then Premier Richard Court's "capital city committee" vision for Perth.

Two new traffic tunnels through Perth and Northbridge, the sinking of Riverside Drive between Barrack Street and Victoria Avenue, the demolition of Council House, to allow for a massive garden precinct linking the Old Supreme Court building and the Concert Hall, and a 2000-seat lyric theatre to attract international music events.

There were also proposals for a new combined Supreme Court/District Court building in the car park behind the Concert Hall, for Northbridge to be linked to King and Lake streets by a town square bridging the railway lines and for the corner near His Majesty's Theatre, in Hay Street, to become a venue for street theatre.

The things that have come to fruition from the idea are the Northbridge tunnel, a new convention centre, built where they said it would go, a new theatre, (not as big as planned and opened just last year), and the landscaping of the Causeway to create a better entrance statement for the city.

Needless to say, many of the committee's recommendations didn't get up.

Mr Court conceded it was just a conceptual blueprint but said he expected Perth's new identity should have take shape by 2001.

"In a city that is growing it is critical that our capital works keep pace with the requirements of the community," he said in 1994.

Announcing his plan this week, Mr McGowan said his new body would focus on ensuring that infrastructure keeps up with population growth.

''The benefits of WA's once-in-a-generation economic boom will be squandered if our infrastructure does not keep up with population growth,'' he said.

Of Mr McGowan's plan, Premier Colin Barnett is quoted as saying:

"It's so Labor – set up new bodies, new organisations, new committees, lots of plans, lots of glossy documents but not much action."

In 1994, Labor's planning spokesman, John Kobelke, described Mr Court's plan as glossy and lacking detail.

"There are a lot of good ideas but one has to doubt the process and the commitment of the government to achieving this," he said.

The circle of life.

5 comments so far

  • i say go full steam ahead..i bagged the tunnel idea years ago but that proved me wrong...after all this build the pipeline from up north..with all the minning tax

    Date and time
    April 27, 2012, 7:26AM
    • Debra! Great column and I agree. Deja vu for you, and we hear this over and over again, the development of Perth. I wouldn't remember too far back, perhaps only the last 6-7 years as I was pretty young then, and secondly not in Australia in the 90's. What we do need is, as we've seem; action! What has started yesterday is a great sign for Perth's future, and the future that I will be living in. I'm looking forward to all the developments in Perth for my future in this city!!

      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 10:36AM
      • I can't wait for this, only one thing bothers me though. In the concept art there is no Esplanade station... I am assuming that they're going to build over it?

        Date and time
        April 27, 2012, 11:55AM
        • It is still there, on the left hand side in front of the convention centre. Where it is right now. You can see it in this photo:

          Date and time
          April 27, 2012, 6:42PM
      • I think most people against the foreshore development are not anti-development as such, they are just sick of major projects falling short of actually adding anything beneficial, or of them actually making things worse. In this particular case, the main problem is the closing of Riverside Drive. If they were to sink or divert the road properly (rather than just funnel it in to already overly congested roads) , and allow for both inevitable increasing traffic requirements AND the development of the waterfront for pedestrians then it would be a truly world class piece of work and something to be proud of. As it stands, this is just another embarrassing example of shortsighted WA planners just not getting it, and cutting the corners that would make all the difference...

        Do it properly
        Date and time
        April 27, 2012, 12:25PM

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