Seeking State and Territory bids

Given the prior consultation process, most States and Territory governments and their agencies were by now well prepared with proposals for Commonwealth consideration.

New South Wales remained reluctant to conform to the program’s requirements, seeking the straightforward allocation of the Commonwealth’s capital to State-determined priorities.

Victoria was struggling to agree proposals within the Victorian Government, as the selective nature of the program caused evident political difficulties in that State.

Queensland and Western Australia were the most advanced with preparation of proposals and both had worthwhile Area Strategies ready for consideration.

The NCPA’s team of staff and consultants began travelling to all States and Territories and working with teams of officials in each to try to ensure proposals came forward that would satisfy the program criteria when tested by the Better Cities Task Force and, eventually, by Cabinet.

At the same time the negotiation of the Intergovernmental agreement was under way to ensure that there was commitment by all parties to collaboration and to an outcomes-based approach to delivery.

Slow but steady progress was made through late 1991 and into early 1992, with State and Territory officials visiting Canberra, and vice-versa, to carry on negotiations. There was little political intervention, but Brian Howe, impatient to see agreements signed and spending started, urged his State counterparts to get on with the tasks needed.

There was tangible excitement as worthwhile proposals emerged: the revitalisation run-down suburbs of inner Brisbane; the redevelopment of contaminated and disused industrial land in East Perth; the redevelopment of the Launceston rail yards in Tasmania; the redevelopment of the Honeysuckle area of industrial Newcastle; the transformation of institutional land at Janefield in Melbourne into a new suburb; the major transformation of old industrial land at Ultimo-Pyrmont in Sydney; relocation of fuel storage tanks away from valuable seaside real estate in Darwin; and others.

The program had been understood and accepted and visionary new things were about to happen.

Two other aspects of the program that came to the fore at this time warrant mention. Firstly, one of the significant impediments of markets for urban renewal emerging in Australian cities was the lack of surplus capacity in old, inner city infrastructure systems — especially sewerage systems. Another was the predominance of often highly contaminated old industrial sites in the inner city areas, land that was too costly to rehabilitate and sat idle, occupied by redundant gasometers and fuel and metal-impregnated rail yards.

A key strength and selling point of BBC was that it would provide the funding to remove these barriers to change — something players in the market place could not afford individually to do. This turned out to be a major factor in the success of BBC in sparking urban renewal.

The second was that the Program sought specific management arrangements for each Area Strategy that would bring strength and commitment to delivery of the spending and the outcomes. Our view was that normal departmental working arrangements would fail because the needed integration of activity and cooperation would not occur. We were encouraging experimentation in urban governance as well.

This too turned out to be a key factor — those Area Strategies where the arrangements for management were the most focused and where management teams were ‘on site’ (East Perth, Inner Brisbane, Ultimo-Pyrmont, Honeysuckle in Newcastle) all turned out to be the most quickly and most efficiently delivered.