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Gazing into a planner's crystal ball

By Sohail Inayatullah - posted Monday, 25 September 2006

If South East Queensland (SEQ) does not successfully adopt the SEQ 2026 plan, what will happen to the region?

In 1944, John Minnery wrote:

Planners proposed a one-mile wide “green belt” of rural land encircling Brisbane’s developed suburbs, together with future satellite towns linked by road. Supporters argued that cities were spreading “like spilled treacle, engulfing everything in its path”. Such treacle cities city covered good agricultural land. They led to the overloading of water and sewerage mains and to insurmountable traffic problems.


Imagine how different SEQ would look today if the idea had been applied. Clear breaks in the continuous suburban landscape now stretching from Noosa to the Tweed and beyond Ipswich, public effort put into towns beyond the green belt with better distribution of jobs, and the infrastructure to serve them. And there would be no public concern about the looming, sprawling “200 kilometre city”.

But the proposal was not implemented - hence we now have the SEQ 2026 plan.

The plan proposes communities be built and managed using the most up-to-date and effective measures to conserve water and energy and for the design and siting of buildings to take advantage of the subtropical climate.

Without it, will South East Queensland continue to be livable? It could become entrenched as a “two-class society” or a “hot and paved” region. Or, we could face a future where SEQ is “wired and miserable”.

But there is another option, and that is that SEQ will undergo a massive transformation where values of sustainability, spirituality, innovation and global governance become our official values. The plan intends to protect biodiversity, contain urban development, build and maintain community identity, make travel more efficient and support a prosperous economy.

So what might 2026 actually look like? While we cannot know the future, we can reduce uncertainty and gain a better sense of the possibilities through looking at different scenarios. There are four “futures” that could present themselves in the SEQ Region.


SEQ still livable

In the first, the SEQ 2026 plans were achieved, and our region is still livable.

Fast forward to 2026 where there is plenty of opportunity in SEQ. The population has dramatically increased but through good governance, community consultation and foresight, negative possibilities (crime, congestion, pollution) have been mitigated and positive possibilities (job growth, green belt protection, water and energy management) enhanced.

People still want to move to SEQ even with higher housing prices. A two-class society has not resulted as government has intervened to deal with inequity. A fair go is still possible.

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Dr Sohail Inayatullah, an eminent futurist and political scientist will be speaking at the Subtropical Cities 2006 conference on September 28, 2006.

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About the Author

Dr Sohail Inayatullah is a political scientist, a Professor at Tamkang University, Taipei (Graduate Institute of Futures Studies), and a Visiting Academic/Research Associate at Queensland University of Technology (Centre for Social Change Research). In the past few years, he has run Futures–Oriented Policy courses for Maroochy Shire Council, Brisbane City Council, Queensland Tourism, Racing and Fair Trade, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Farming (Division of Animal Welfare and Product Integrity) and Apec Technology Foresight Division.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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