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Building cities is Australia's next export industry

By Edward Blakely - posted Thursday, 4 November 2010

We are in the Post Copenhagen era. Copenhagen didn't result in any meaningful agreement and there is dwindling support for efforts to change energy use, reduce carbon production and make better more efficient cities. There is a public supported mood to make Australian cities better and more resilient.

One illustration of this public support is the broad acceptance of the Christie report on transportation an independent report sponsored by the Sydney Morning Herald. The Christie report is an illustration of the connection between smart cities and a clean environment.

For Australia to meet any form of self imposed climate change target post Copenhagen is important. But, the real agenda isn't those targets. It is the target to build a new sustainable industrial base and to grow more and better jobs. Good jobs are the goals of Australia for the next several decades.


Building the rail systems the Christie report suggests isn't for convenience it is setting the framework for a totally new Australian economy based for building smart cities.

Building a new rail infrastructure presents the opportunity that building the Harbor Bridge, the Snowy River Scheme and later the Opera House did in opening new frontiers for Australia as a modern nation with smart exports.

If the world is going to use less coal, own fewer cars and use less water someone has to create new industries to build the urban forms and systems or to or re-create systems to meet this challenge.

We Australians have profited from high energy use. It is our mineral wealth that is driving the rapid Chinese city growth. It is our raw materials exports that are allowing the expansion of manufacturing in India and much of the Asian Pacific.

But cuts to energy consumption don't benefit Australia so we see little reason to be part of a drive to conserve energy or lower consumption, cutting our standard of living.

To counter this attitude we have to see this new thrust in sustainable and resilient living as a challenge and opportunity not as a loss.


Australia can create new jobs with a new focus of exporting material and technologies that build climate change resilient and sustainable cities.

Some of our current minerals can be transformed with smart engineering into better building products for city building.

Cities are already the fulcrum of national economic growth and prosperity of the nation. Increasingly as knowledge based industry become a larger part of economic exports our cities must be competitive places for people to come and build their ideas into economically competitive products and services.

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The US Study Centre will host an international conference on November 14-15, 2010 at Parliament House in Brisbane on Future Cities: Comparing US-Australian Cities.

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About the Author

Edward J. Blakely is Honorary Professor of Urban Policy at the United States Studies Centre, Sydney University. Professor Blakely is an international expert on urban planning and development and most recently head of recovery in New Orleans. He also served as the Chair of the Sydney Metropolitan Plan Reference Panel 2003-2004. He can be heard on the radio Sunday nights at 8PM on internet radio Blakely City Talk broadcasts the same podcast anytime.

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