In 2003 the Government of Western Australia's Ministry for Planning and Infrastructure commissioned the Dialogue with the City to engage the citizens of Greater Perth in developing a strategy to make it the world's most livable city by 2030. When completed it was the largest deliberative forum in the southern hemisphere1.
What problem was it trying to solve?
The City of Perth is proud of its' natural environment and quality of living. However in 2003 it was estimated that the population was growing so fast that by 2030 it would have doubled2. Due to former planning being insufficient, the city was experiencing increased pollution and social exclusion which it aimed to address through the broader Sustainability Strategy. To do this the dialogue focussed on economy and employment, sustainable environment, integrating transport and land use, residential land balance, costs of urban form and infrastructure coordination.
Who were the participants? How were they selected?
There were 1,100 participants in the dialogue. One third were invited to participate having been selected from a random sample of residents, one third were stakeholders from local government, civil society and industry bodies, and one third were self-nominated having answered adverts in local media. To address under-representation of certain groups such as young people, indigenous people and those from non-English speaking backgrounds, grassroots enrolment took place through listening and learning sessions to better enable them to take part in the dialogue.
What was the process?
The Dialogue with the City was a key part of the broader Sustainability Strategy which was being developed over a number of years by the Western Australia Government which was designed to engage citizens in a number of different ways. For example there was a a live television show broadcast at primetime which included 100 citizens discussing potential futures for the city, extensive coverage in the local newspaper and an online forum for the public to access information and share ideas and opinions.
This led up to the Dialogue with the City which brought together 1,100 participants to deliberate in the form of a 21st century town meeting on how to manage the future development of the city in a sustainable way. The participants discussions were informed by nine papers covering the key issues which had been produced by experts who were commissioned by Western Australia Planning Commission. In order to ensure an inclusive and productive dialogue the participants were broken up into small diverse groups to deliberate as assisted by professional facilitators and scribes. The participants first identified their hopes and aspirations for the city in the future, discussed these in order to narrow them down. They then used interactive games and table discussions to explore potential trade-offs for their vision of the city's future and come to a collective agreement.
After this day of deliberation, 100 dialogue participants extended their roles to the implementation phrase as they worked in sub-teams to develop a detailed implemention plan for the conclusions reached by the Dialogue in the City.
What was the conclusion?
From this dialogue, the document 'Network City: Community Planning Strategy' was produced, the 10 themes of which were:
1. Deliver urban growth management (control urban sprawl).
2. Accommodate urban growth primarily within a Network City pattern, incorporating communities.
3. Align transport systems and land use to optimise accessibility and amenity.
4. Deliver a safe, reliable and energy efficient transport system that provides travel choice.
5. Protect and enhance the natural environment, open spaces and heritage.
6. Deliver for all a better quality of life, building on our existing strengths.
7. Plan with the communities
8. Ensure employment is created in centres.
9. Deliver a City with ‘urban’ energy, creativity and cultural vitality.
10. Provide a city plan that will be implemented, provide certainty and deliver results.
What was the impact? Did it solve the problem?
The Network City plan was accepted by the Western Australia Planning Committee and the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure. Following on from this a team of 58 people from government, industry and the dialogue were responsible for finding ways in which the city could work towards the aims produced from the dialogue. Prompted by the success of this dialogue, the Western Australia Planning Commission made $1.5 million in grants available to local councils for them to fund similar processes.