This week I addressed the Planning Institute of Australia's National Congress in Canberra. I talked with leaders of the planning and property industry and all levels of government about the challenge of building sustainable cities.
Local government is the level of government closest to the people. Effective councils understand their communities and the local area, and are best placed to plan and deliver projects at that level.
As Lord Mayor, I wanted to ensure that our City organisation connected with and responded to our communities, and that we encouraged participation in decision making.
If we want our cities to be secure, harmonious, and sustainable, we need to involve people in planning their local environment, and their future. We must understand their needs and what they value about their homes and neighbourhoods.
In our experience, it is a case of taking the community with you - not through slick public relations, but through proper process. People are NOT stupid, and they know when you're trying to persuade them.
Proper process means doing the necessary research, looking at all the options, talking to the community - and listening to them and responding by making changes to the plan; and it means lobbying to make sure transport issues are resolved and - vitally - it means making sure the necessary services and facilities are in place as the development proceeds.
During consultation on our new planning controls we held more than 100 meetings with local groups and industry stakeholders, and City planners responded to hundreds more phone enquiries.
The new City Plan, adopted last year, accommodates increased density in carefully-chosen areas.
A planning reform process now underway in NSW proposes that consultation will take place almost solely during the strategic planning phase, on the assumption that later development applications will be supported.