Is Open Space our Birthright? (Cover Article - 30 July 2005)

Submitted by Webmaster on Tue, 06/09/2005 - 21:29

After a lot of contemplation about what made Australia differentfrom the rest of the world, I decided that the defining difference washaving open space. Our open spaces are part of our National identityand access to open space is the birth right of every Australian. Theyare the key to our sense of freedom and are probably the source of oursuperior performances on sport and on the battlefield. Who would we beif we had to grow up without open spaces?The importance of open space goes unrecognised and is not consideredwhen Australian towns and cities expand. It is almost like there is anational mission to fill in every open space with house blocks and fillup as much as possible of every house block with house. It not anencouraging sign when Europeans who migrate to Australia say that theyhad more open space back home. How could people in crowded Europe havemore space than regional Australians? There is simple way to find out;compare aerial photos of Australia and Europe.To compare Australia with Germany, I used a new product calledGoogle Earth, that provides highly detailed satellite imagery of manyparts of the globe. It is so good that I could recognise individualcoconut palms on the beaches of Magnetic Island – unfortunately thereis no high resolution imagery for Cairns at the moment.Some images of Brisbane and of Bonn are presented below. Theyclearly show that in poor areas of Germany, people have significantlymore open space around their houses and scattered through their townsthan Australians living in recently constructed suburbs do. One of thecomments that my European friends have made is that modern Australianhouses have no back yards for kids to play in. They related to me, howwhen they were young there were trees in the yard and that mum grewenough vegetables to feed the family.Shouldn’t we asking some questions about our current developmentpattern? A major weakness in the planning of Australian towns is thatdevelopers do most of the planning and we get what the developers want.There is nobody representing the future residents and so I think thatmost of our developments are not really well designed when it comes tolooking after the interests of the people who will live in theseplaces. Lack space for kids and suburban monotony are immediatelyobvious. Lack of space for trees and growing food is also of concern.Space to grow food is to me food security, and whilst not important nowcould be in the future. Every one of my older relatives remembers beinghungry and growing food in the gardens (did you eat pigweed sandwicheswhen you were young). Today, Germans still grow food in their gardensand those who live in flats can actually rent small plots of ground to grow vegetables. Some of the plots have small cottages to keep tools or rest in. Here is a photo gallery for a schrebergarten complex Photos: (left)Typical modern Queensland suburb. (right) Relatively low socio-economicarea in Bonn; at the top are factory dorms, below are normal houses andto the west is are two freeways with aclover leaf bypass. There is ahuge difference in the availability of private and public open space.Click on the above thumbnails to enlarge and match image scales Photos: A typical view out the back window, and helping brother farm the backyard.Perhaps we should seriously consider economic and planning measuresto encourage people to build smaller two storey houses as they do inEurope and as we used to do (ie. Queenslanders) so that more land isavailable for open space, kids, food growing. Should the town plan bealtered to allow houses to be built closer to the street to allow forlarger back yards? Maybe larger backyard would also help to improveenvironmental and socials issues such as reducing serious flooding thatoccurs when rain is shed from a continuously roofed landscape or beingso close that you can’t avoid listening to your neighboursconversations. The current development paradigm is horrible in myopinion and fails to create really liveable communities.Ed.



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