Advocacy in Action - What We Thought Would Kill Us: Learnings and Recommendations

What We Thought Would Kill Us (WWTWKU) is a series of research reports which investigate controversial, landmark projects in Perth’s recent history. Seven case studies have been completed in the series so far, focusing on:

  • The development of Perth’s Bell Tower
  • The evolution of Perth’s Passenger Rail
  • Hillarys Boat Harbour
  • Perth Arena
  • The Raffles Waterfront Development
  • The Graham Farmer Freeway and Northbridge Tunnel
  • The Old Swan Brewery

Each case study outlines the history of the project, the development processes, controversy surrounding the projects and the eventual outcomes. By providing a snapshot of metropolitan Perth and Peel coming to age over the twentieth and early twenty first century, the case studies illustrate the challenges associated with change and development in an expanding urban environment.

What We Thought Would Kill Us: Learnings and Recommendations makes ten recommendations, building upon information from the seven case studies as well as literature on public involvement in decision making. These recommendations seek to provide a best practice guide to the planning and delivery of future major projects that could be potentially controversial.

By identifying common features of the WWTWKU case studies as well as recurring issues of community concern, the report illustrates the importance of ongoing community engagement and participatory planning. Importantly, a common theme in the case studies was the recommendation that governments adopt a more transparent process when undertaking major development or infrastructure projects.

Additionally, the report examined controversial projects recently delivered in other Australian capital cities. What was found was that conflict and controversy resulting from development and infrastructure projects is not a problem unique to Perth, rather a common occurrence wherever high-density development is proposed.

The learnings and recommendations outlined in the report have been identified as strategies to minimise conflict associated with significant land use projects. As the Perth and Peel region continues to grow and evolve, so too must strategies for ensuring the success of major developments. As the report illustrates, often the most controversial projects are ultimately the most celebrated.

The Committee launched the Learnings and Recommendations report to members and guests at a Perth in Focus event during April. Attendees received a hard copy of the report, which can be accessed here.

Key take away messages

  • The community were against the projects in 6 out of the 7 case studies, yet they are now part of our everyday lives with no controversy.
  • A great place can be somewhere a community comes to value even if they don’t like the design.
  • State and local governments need to stand hand in hand on developments that are going to change the density of an area.
  • Social media is a platform for outrage.
  • Political courage is needed to develop cultural infrastructure.
  • Reactive engagement is harder than proactive engagement, so engagement with the community must happen early and often.
Acknowledgement of Country

The Committee For Perth acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.