Zunz Lecture 2012

(7pm, Wednesday 21 November 2012, Lower Town Hall)

Thank you, Ross, [Milbourne]. I'd like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the people of 200 nations who live in our city.

Welcome to Town Hall, everyone. It's a pleasure to also welcome tonight's main speaker, the Hon Mike Rann, as well as John Tabart, CEO of the Barangaroo Development Authority, Peter Bailey, CEO of Arup Australasia, Richard Sharp, Principal of Arup Australasia, and of course, Ross Milbourne.

In the story of the Sydney Opera House, the name of Jack Zunz [zoonz] is not so widely heard, at least not outside the professional circles. But it is fitting that it's honoured through this lecture series as he was one of the great partners in the problem-solving that actually enabled the Opera House to be built.

Dreams are what inspire us. Great buildings, and great cities, are born in the mind and the heart. Then comes the hard work of finding ways to make the dream reality - the research and testing, the exploration of new techniques, and also - as I'm sure Mike Rann knows - the persuasion necessary to coax people and institutions along with you.

The Sydney Opera House, as it stands today, is a testament to the power of collaborative thinking and work. I believe that for Arup's, it set a pattern for creative collaboration that remains a hallmark of the company. It could also be a model for the way cities must learn to operate in this century.

Climate change demands a concerted and collaborative response: from householders to big business, from councils to the State and Federal governments.

We have to abandon bad old habits of building without infrastructure - whether it's the all-important transport connections or the new green infrastructure that will keep our city sustainable and competitive.

We have to make greater densities not only possible but positively desirable through the provision of generous parks and open space, libraries, sporting facilities and vibrant local neighbourhoods. At the same time, we need to keep affordable places in the city for young families and the aged, and for essential workers.

Given the fragmented nature of governance here, most of these issues require collaboration between City and State, between City and other local governments, between City and the private sector.

We are working hard at building those partnerships and looking beyond the narrow silos of old.

We have, for instance, set aside $180 million to invest in George Street - in wider footpaths, new furniture and lighting, and improving its local laneways once - if! - the State Government commits to light rail.

Gridlock is already costing Sydney billions of dollars a year and as Green Square and Barangaroo come on line, our congestion problems will only worsen unless we provide better public transport options.

Cities are now the drivers of national economies, and in an intensely competitive global environment, a city needs more than a beautiful harbour and a spectacular Opera House. It needs to be environmentally sustainable, economically sustainable and a stimulating place to live, work and do business.

While the challenges are huge, they nonetheless give us the opportunity to develop a more holistic approach to city-making - one which will produce better cities, and happier citizens.

As we think about the issues facing us, we can really benefit from the insights of Mike Rann.

Mike brings his very comprehensive experience to bear in dealing with these questions. He was, of course, Premier of South Australia for almost a decade, and next month, will become Australia's new High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

As Premier, he was Minister for Economic Development, Minister for Social Inclusion, Minister for Sustainability and Climate Change, and Minister for the Arts. And that list just about sums up everything that is important in city-making!

He is also a Professorial Fellow in Social and Policy Studies at Flinders University, Adjunct Professor in Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon, Visiting Senior Research Fellow in Political Studies at Auckland University, and Senior Fellow at the Centre for National Policy in Washington, DC.

We can look forward, I know, to a stimulating address. So please join me in warmly welcoming Mike Rann.