‘Something for everybody … created by everybody’
Last month the NSW government presented three different options to the Waterloo community, including detailed supporting materials and models that help to visualise what the future of the neighbourhood might look like. It was a crucial time, as community members deciphered heights, quantities of open space, services, commercial and retail areas, and distribution of buildings.
After 18 months working with the community, getting ready to discuss planning and urban design issues, it is also a time for reflection. There is a lot to ponder when you look back at all the work Inner Sydney Voice has done with the community. What have we learnt, and how can we best use it? What’s next and what does it mean for other urban renewal projects?
There is this misconception that people find urban planning too complex and not relevant to their lives, but I have found that people are interested in the future of their neighbourhood and keen to have their say.
It is essential, however, to be straightforward and transparent, and clearly define from the beginning what it is that decision-makers want to discuss and understand about the community. Once it is established that the community can have input and impact on decision-making, it is not hard to engage with local residents. They will come to consultations and put their ideas forward.
Truly engaging with communities impacted by development and change is hard. Co-design and horizontal decision-making is even harder. It takes time and effort. It is messy and rarely delivers clear conclusions. I believe, however, that it is the best way to harness local expertise and to bring the local community on board. Over the long term, it is probably more efficient than a top-down approach.
Jane Jacobs used to say that “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody”. How we do it is up to us.
The Waterloo community has the capacity to inform and assist government in developing a great masterplan for the future of the area. Daring to share some decision-making and giving co-design a chance is the challenge. I am convinced that current and future community members would benefit from such an approach. Not only until the end of the Waterloo master planning process but beyond, so we create an inclusive, sustainable and fair Sydney.
Thomas Chailloux is currently Engagement & Outreach Project Officer with Shelter NSW.