Tuesday, 14 August 2012
City of Geraldton
I rise to add some comments about a similar part of the world but further south from where Senator Smith has just been speaking of. This is an issue I know that our Acting Deputy President has quite close to her heart, which is the city of Geraldton. We both attended an event at the CUSP centre in Fremantle a few weeks ago for the launch of a document produced by the community of Geraldton that caught me by surprise somewhat, I suppose—not really knowing what to expect. It is titled Geraldton—from local to global regional city. It is an extraordinarily visionary document, which came out of a series of deliberative workshops that were held by Janette Hartz Karp, who some senators in this place might be familiar with, whose speciality really is democratic decision making around what kind of communities we want to live in. Rather than top-down democracy, this is bottom-up deliberative democracy, and it works exceptionally well if it is given a chance.
They have given this a try in Geraldton, and one of the outcomes is this document, Geraldton—from local to global regional city, which is based around the concept of how they want this city to look in the year 2029—which would be 400 years since the Dutch were bumping into the coast. Interestingly, it will also be 200 years since the establishment of the Swan River colony further to the south. It has been put into gorgeous visual language by David Galloway and Sarah Andrews.
At the launch we heard from Mayor Ian Carpenter, who deserves congratulations for his leadership in this project, and their quite dynamic CEO, Tony Brun. They have come up with a quite ambitious vision for Geraldton's future. For the information of senators not from Western Australia, Geraldton is a city about 430 kilometres to the north of Perth, in the mid-west region. Historically, the economy up there has been based on agricultural and the pastoral industry. There is a lot of interest at the moment in iron ore deposits not too far from the city of Geraldton. The community does not want to just be a quarry, so they are interested in the expansion of their town and they are interested in its development but they do not want it to be left, as some other Western Australian communities have, as a fly in, fly out centre with services hollowed out, with housing completely unaffordable and with the economy dangerously imbalanced. So they have taken the initiative and produced this document. I was at the launch.
I congratulate Minister Simon Crean for being at the launch and for giving the community a boost—which I think takes this document to the next level. It has come from the community but it has been endorsed by the federal government and also, I think, by the state government. The Leader of the Nationals in Western Australia has also made a contribution to this document.
They are looking for an economically adaptive city—changing and diversifying the economic base with initial opportunities obviously still coming from agriculture, fisheries and mining—and to become a regional logistics and freight hub. They will be the first regional centre to have every household connected to the National Broadband Network. Even if there is a change of government next year and the opposition decide to simply flatten the proposal, Geraldton at least will get through the net. The coalition would then probably have some difficulties explaining to neighbouring communities why they do not get the system, but Geraldton will be through. They are also looking to the Square Kilometre Array project—which will offer completely different kinds of economic opportunities to the region—and being selected as one of 33 cities worldwide to receive an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, which really takes local aspirations and gives them something of a global boost.
They are proposing to be a carbon neutral city, and they are not just fiddling around at the edges. As was explained to us, this is a region that has all of the major renewable energy resources—with the exception of hydro—including wind, solar, geothermal power, biomass power and an amazing wave resource. They are not sitting on their hands; they are proposing to make this the world's first carbon neutral heavy industry city. As the mining industry expands—as most people believe it will—they are proposing to take not just the increased demand on the grid but also the existing demand and put large-scale solar plants in there. There is already a 10-megawatt solar farm going in, which will be the largest in the state if not in the country. They are also looking to roll out with local developers and other commercial interests renewable energy technology across all the portfolios to make this a renewable city.
It is an extraordinary effort that they are making. As a Greens MP, it was quite something to come to the launch and realise that this is a community initiative. This is not something that we have been banging on about; it is rising from the community itself. I hope that the local member, Barry Haase, who was also present at an event that I spoke at that night, will convince his leader not to pull the plug out from under this community if he gets the chance. If there is a change of government next year not only will they be ripping the NBN out of regional communities that thought they would be getting it; but all the work that has been done on the clean energy legislation and on creating the resources to enable the kind of vision that is coming forward from the City of Greater Geraldton to become a reality will evaporate, it will disappear—and we will not let that happen. We want to help Geraldton realise this vision that has been put forward and endorsed by the town's leaders and brought to state and national prominence.
Another reason for my trip to Geraldton and to hear firsthand from some of the people who have put these proposals together was an invitation by Andrew Outhwaite and Kate Najar from Pollinators Incorporated, which is an extremely innovative and quite rapidly growing group of social entrepreneurs based in Geraldton. They are helping catalyse some of the really interesting things that are going on up there. It is Australia's only member based organisation dedicated to supporting social entrepreneurs. It provides a structure for its members to cooperate and access the support needed to realise their dreams, their projects and their aspirations for their community.
It operates Australia's first regional social enterprise co-working and innovation space called City Hive on the new marina waterfront at Geraldton. They had organised quite an engaging public event, which I was fortunate enough to attend, titled Mythbusting Politics and People Power, which is where I was also able to hear the member for Durack speak. It attracted a full house on a Friday night. We had an extremely lively and interesting discussion about how, in their view, our political system is broken, how it is not providing for what people want. It was not a whinging session—quite the reverse. There were a lot of propositions put forward about how people in the local community and in regional cities like Geraldton could use their representation in this place, in some senses, to simply get out of the way and let them do what it is that they are trying to do.
I mentioned our fellow panellist Professor Janette Hartz Karp, who works globally but probably is best known locally in Western Australia for the Dialogue with the City process that she ran with the former planning and infrastructure minister Alana McTiernan. It took on a larger scale, with the City of Perth, people's feedback across a range of viewpoints and ran a deliberative process that came out with a planning policy that was quite visionary for the time it was put forward. We are still getting some of the benefits of that. She gives some teeth to one of the Greens' four pillars, that of participatory democracy, around the concept that democracy is not just a piece of paper that you put in a box once every three or four years; it is about taking these issues into your own hands. In some cases, we in this place and in state assemblies around the country are seen as the block and not the enabler, and that needs to change. I congratulate the Pollinators group for their vision, their reach into the community and the projects that they are running, including an event that I was able to speak at the following morning—the Catalyst project—at which I was very fortunate to meet a number of local leaders.
My first stop in Geraldton was to launch the Bike Blackspot iPhone application, which I might have spoken of before in this chamber but I would encourage all senators with an iPhone, wherever you live, because this application is national now, to go to www.bikeblackspot.org and help our planning minister Albanese, because I know that cycling is a passion of his. We have not yet been able to get a national cycling fund off the ground. Senators will be able, either from the web or from a smartphone, to photograph your bike black spot, which is taken to a Google map and then sends an email and your photograph, and your note about the lack of cycling infrastructure—or something that you think is good—to a website. Geraldton is the first regional city where we launched that application. I was pleased to make that contribution because this is a community that cares a great deal about public transport, regional rail infrastructure and, of course, cycling. It is a perfect place for it. It is a city that is flat and has great weather. So I look forward to working more with some of the community leaders in Geraldton in helping them to support the amazing example that they are setting for the rest of the country.