I once contacted the host of a podcast to see if I could do a story about Cairns. The response was "No - we only talk about cities". I was stunned.

The city-region divide is increasingly real, as we saw in the 2019 Federal Election. Cities - for policy makers and politicians - are where millions of people live, rather than 200,000 people live. This is a concern and a challenge for places like Townsville, Cairns, Darwin and Hobart all with 170,000 to 200,000 people, and also places like Bundaberg, Gladstone, Mackay, Rockhampton with populations of 40,000 to 80,000.

Cairns will have another 300,000 people within 30 years. This will require additional housing, stadiums and performing arts centres, new dams, and new sewerage treatment plants. Significantly, if you think parking is bad now, we are not going to be able to fit the cars for 300,000 more people into our existing road network. Public transport will need to be retrofitted into the urban footprint.  

All great cities have public transport, going back to before the car. In contrast, regional towns and cities have little to no public transport and getting this right is going to hurt, and we are going to need to be open-minded. 

The questions for us, the citizens, the commuters, the business owners, families - are we ready and informed enough to participate in the discussion that shapes the city our kids will live and work in?  Do we know what we need to ensure that the lifestyle we value today is better - or at least no worse - for the people of Cairns in 30 years’ time? How do we ensure that we move beyond just another ‘study or report’ and get development on the ground that reflects and builds upon our local preferences and capabilities?

The current situation has galvanised my drive to ensure that we understand planning and that we can participate in the planning process. Inspired to rally against mediocracy, let’s have the conversation #mediocrecity.

As Dr Seuss wrote: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Published in Issue 20 / Tropic Magazine