VICTORIA’S top town planners converged on Warrnambool yesterday with regional development at the top of the agenda.
More than 250 delegates took part in the first day of the State Planning Conference which continues today with a keynote speech from former prime minister Malcolm Fraser.
Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) state president Brett Davis said his organisation wanted to have a clear focus on regional issues given the rapid expansion of the state’s provincial centres.
He said Warrnambool was chosen for this year’s event due to its coastal location and impressive record on planning matters.
“We’ve got a range of speakers over the two days which come from different backgrounds but are all known for their ability to challenge their listeners,” Mr Davis said.
Town planners will participate in a walking tour around Warrnambool’s business precinct tomorrow, examining progress on the city’s renewal program.
“It’ll be interesting to see how Warrnambool has managed population growth while still retaining a fresh and inviting townscape,” Mr Davis said.
Twelve guest speakers addressed delegates yesterday including State Planning Minister Matthew Guy. Several international visitors participated including Toronto’s chief urban planner Jennifer Keesmaat.
Canada’s largest city is experiencing similar growth trends to Melbourne, especially the redirection from suburban sprawl to an emphasis on high-density living.
Along with Mr Fraser, veteran architect Daryl Jackson and Lend Lease national product manager Megan Boazman, will speak at today’s session at the Lighthouse Theatre.
PIA national president Dyan Currie said holding the conference in Warrnambool highlighted the need for greater research into regional planning.
“I’m from Toowoomba so it’s great to come to another regional city and see how its council and state government have worked with population growth,” Ms Currie said. Warrnambool City Council growth director Bill Millard welcomed delegates to Warrnambool yesterday morning, noting the economic benefits of hosting the seminar in the south-west.
“In the space of only four years, the pace of development in our region has gone ahead in leaps and bounds,” Mr Millard said.