Getting the planning right is crucial in enabling Perth to grow and flourish as a leading city in the Asian region, according to commentators at the In the Zone conference at The University of Western Australia.
In a session chaired by Dr Sue Boyd, former diplomat and President of the Australian Institute of International Affairs (WA), Perth leaders discussed a diverse range of needs for Perth's future.
The Lord Mayor of Perth, Lisa Scaffidi, said ideas such as the construction of a World Trade Centre and a Capital City Charter merited serious consideration as initiatives to confirm Perth "as a city of substance".
"We are conscious that we need to deal ourselves in, or face being dealt out of, the game," she said. "Resistance to change must not be an inhibitor."
She said that planning had to rise above the bipartisan nature of politics and planning cycles.
Speakers agreed that children were the key to planning for Perth's future, with the education, involvement and wellbeing of children critical to creating a sustainable city of the future.
Lord Mayor Scaffidi said schooling should educate children about the importance to Australia of the Asian region, while UWA Professor Fiona Stanley, Director of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, said that involving children and young people in planning had successful precedents around the world.
Professor Stanley said Perth should aim to be a civil society that placed a high level of importance on the wellbeing of children, families and communities.
She challenged the measures currently used to measure success and said an international movement to shift from Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as an index to wellbeing and sustainability measures was on the right track. "I would challenge whether growth is our most desirable aim," she said.
Professor Stanley pointed out that child wellbeing did not necessarily correlate with average incomes in rich countries.
The ground-breaking Australian Early Development Index (AEDI) - a census of Australian five-year-olds - provided evidence that would help to support policy, planning and actions for community development, she said.
Professor Richard Weller, Professor of Landscape Architecture at The University of Western Australia, said planning was not adequate to meet projections of major population growth in Perth.
"The future doesn't just happen; it has to be intelligently and creatively designed," he said. "Perth needs more diverse thinking."
Professor Weller described a city in which "we have confused our city with our suburbs". "The suburbs are great but the city needs a lot of attention," he said.
He said that various projections that Australia's population would grow to 35 or 42 million people by 2056 translated to the need to build the equivalent of "five Sydneys, or five Singapores, or 14 Perths" in coming decades.
IN THE ZONE is a major public policy conference initiated by The University of Western Australia positioning Western Australia as a thought leader within the time zone it shares with 60 per cent of the world's population and the nations which promise the greatest economic growth for the 21st century.
2009 marks the inaugural IN THE ZONE Conference. This will become a biennial event and a strategic meeting point for the Australian and wider regional community to engage in dialogue about the zone we inhabit and to deepen the policy, trade and investment relationships.
NB: MEDIA REPRESENTATIVES MUST REGISTER TO COVER THE CONFERENCE. GO TO: www.zone.uwa.edu.au/news/media_registration