Some letters from the last few weeks:
THE latest United Nations human development index (“Not quite Norway, but still a great place to call home”, theage.com.au, 3/11) shows it is clear that a nation’s population has little relationship to its ultimate economic strength. Countries that are better off per capita than Australia are smaller - Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Norway.
High immigration is the key driver to a “big Australia” but is this likely to make Australians better off? No. According to the Productivity Commission’s annual report for 2010-11, two benefits often attributed to immigration, despite mixed or poor evidence to support them, are that immigration is an important driver of per capita economic growth and that it can alleviate the problem of population ageing.
Among the 187 nations surveyed, Norway, Australia and the Netherlands topped the annual index while Congo, Niger and Burundi - with the highest population growth - came last. A rapidly increasing population mostly serves the interests of a few rich businesses, and produces more taxpayers for the government. For the rest of the public, it means our capital and social capital is cut into ever-thinner slices.
– Arthur Bassett, Blackburn South
We always pay
THE controversial north-east road link connecting the ring road and the Eastern Freeway remains a threat.
It’s all about perpetual growth, and removing obstacles. “Big Victoria” requires monolithic concrete infrastructure and transport access for the (mainly) imported goods to all the mega-stores and shopping centres. It also requires ignoring peak oil and common sense. Corporate Victoria has the power to hijack our government’s agenda.
The link would destroy parklands, wetlands, heritage artists’ sanctuaries, Yarra River walking tracks, havens for wildlife, picnic areas, and sporting facilities.
Without government funding, this tunnel/freeway would involve tolling and private operators. The costs - including the loss of Melbourne’s intrinsic values - are always passed on to average Victorians.
– Chris Hooley, Viewbank
Still happy to fight
I’M SORRY the people of Toronto either had no success in protecting the sunlight on their balconies or were too dispirited to even try (Letters, 25/11). The people of Melbourne still have a bit of spunk left to speak out about unwanted high-rise and other developments that are seen as disadvantageous to them. Canada, like Australia, suffers from high population growth and developers flourish and dictate terms in such an environment.
– Jill Quirk, president, Sustainable Population Australia (Victorian branch), East Malvern
At mercy of speculators
WHAT’S good for Toronto is not necessarily good for Melbourne. Most Melburnians don’t appreciate high-rise human “termite mounds” (as one Southbank resident called this blot on the landscape) overlooking and overshadowing our Yarra River and surrounding residential neighbourhoods (“Southbank skyscrapers ire”, The Age, 24/11).
These apartments are probably not even for sale in Australia. With another big Southbank development, apartments were sold off the plan overseas. It seems we poor suckers are at the mercy of developers and property speculators.
– Lewis Prichard, Hawthorn
Rankings have message
MELBOURNE the most liveable city in the world? Too right. So, to all the planners, developers and councillors, why would you want to change it? And just where did those cities jam-packed with apartments, crawling traffic and block buildings abutting each other with no garden in between rank? All the way down there.
– David Cathie, Mordialloc
The letter from Toronto:
Get over it
TO A Toronto resident, the controversy about a skyscraper in Southbank seems almost quaint (“Southbank skyscrapers ire”, The Age, 24/11). The location for this building is the centre of a major metropolis, right? If the tower is well designed, everyone should just relax and get used to the fact that big cities have big buildings. And Freshwater Place residents have to get over themselves. Do they expect the city to stop growing just to spare them the hardship of less sunlight on their balconies? Perhaps they should have opted for property in Poowong instead. Ironically, an article about a proposed 240-metre residential tower in downtown Toronto also appeared in the Toronto Star: “Toronto’s skyline heads for the clouds”. The article quotes the architect as saying, “I think 100 storeys is completely do-able in Toronto; that’s sort of the next generation of height.” The residents of Freshwater Place should check out the accompanying photo and prepare themselves for their future.
– Michael Harris, Toronto, Canada
“In city's middle-ring burbs, many towers rise”, 26/11. The dismaying sight of high-rise towers is now beginning to blight many suburbs, no thanks to the dysfunctional planning laws. People who oppose them are derided by architects and developers as “NIMBYs”, but the towers are an ugly eyesore and have a dehumanizing effect on the landscape over which they loom arrogantly. They block out sunlight and the sky, and give one a feeling of claustrophobia. They are touted as being enviromentally-efficient, but virtually all current structures require vast amounts of power and water imported from elsewhere, and certainly could not be self-sufficient. They are primarily built for investors and to make money, not to help the environment.
A quote regarding such structures from a science fiction novel:
She glanced down between her boots through the transparent deck of the ship as it passed over the center of Jejeno. The city was both a tribute to isenj engineering skills and an indictment of their stupidity. The forest of asymmetric towers – bronze, brown, copper, tan – and narrow streets created endless canyons. Shapakti said that it was an echo of isenj origins as termite-like animals living in giant mounds, but Esganikan had seen almost identical soaring buildings in the images of Earth. It was how greedy species built: it showed space was at a premium because they had filled it and out-priced it – yes, she understood Earth’s economy now, she understood it very well – and they didn’t care about the intrusion on the landscape. It was a statement of their contempt for all other life.
– Karen Traviss, Ally