Featured News Planning for COVID-driven regional growth

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Thu, 4 Feb 2021

Planning for COVID-driven regional growth

Image: David Goulding

An urban design expert says planning for pandemic-fuelled population growth in regional cities and towns needs to take into account the needs of newcomers and the wishes of people who already live in those locations.

Associate Professor Lisa Law is the founder of James Cook University’s Tropical Urbanism and Design Lab.

She said the unprecedented shift to remote work, mobile work, and home-based work has freed many from being tied to a set geographic co-location to conduct business.

“These trends have been further accelerated by COVID-19. This potentially opens up opportunities for Australia’s regional towns and cities to realise a regional turnaround,” said Dr Law.

But she said superimposing planning and development policies meant for metropolitan cities could simply result in transferring the ills of capital cities to the regions – exacerbating unsustainable development and heightened socioeconomic inequalities.

“We need to support knowledge industries and workers and their needs, and develop policy tailored to a digital economy in regional Australia. But it’s also important to work closely with local communities to deliver solutions engineered to maximise and protect the local identity and capitalise on local opportunities,” said Dr Law.

She said this will require a continuing focus on food and agriculture as well as revegetation, rewilding, and looking at urban design from a non-human perspective.

“We need to offer new arrivals the tools for them to continue to do business in the digital economy, but also we need to offer them an attractive place to live – not just another city like the one they just left. And we don’t want to end up simply replicating the problems of big cities for the people who already live in regional centres,” said Dr Law.

She said it was past-time that regional planning was given more attention by all levels of government and efforts now need to be made to respond properly to an opportunity for the regions that is unprecedented in modern times.


Associate Professor Lisa Law
E: lisa.law@jcu.edu.au