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Could Melbourne end up like Jakarta?

This article, by Mary Drost, was originally published on Marvellous Melbourne on 8 Jul 08.

More than 30 years ago I moved to live in Indonesia and resided in Jakarta on and off for 21 years.

The first Governor of Jakarta under the Soeharto regime, Ali Sadikin, was an outstanding leader and one of the first things he did was to seek advice from a team of planning experts from the United Nations on how to manage this fast growing city of 3 million people.

The U.N. advice was:

  • Don't let the city population increase. They said if the city became larger it would become unmanageable.
  • Develop five or six satellite cities in a semi-circle around Jakarta but far enough away from the main city so they would not become suburbs at some future time.
  • Ensure that these satellite cities were self sufficient and self-sustaining.

The Governor accepted the U.N. advice and commenced to put the plan in place by immediately closing the city. However, President Soeharto refused to accept the policy and the city eventually opened up and was allowed to continue its rate of population growth and development.

Ali Sadkin told me all this during my recent visit to Jakarta. He said that it is now a city of 12 million people and a nightmare. His advice was do not let it happen in Melbourne as the State Government's Melbourne 2030 decrees.

Through developer greed and Government corruption Jakarta now suffers from poor public transport, massive traffic congestion, pollution, inadequate sewerage, overcrowded schools and hospitals, loss of public space, etc. Sound familiar?

Steve Brack's is on record as saying he would be happy to see six million people in Melbourne and be Australia's biggest city and his Melbourne 2030 plan is pushing us towards a population of five million in this city by 2020.

But stopping population growth is not like turning off a tap, it does not magically stop in 2030. What will the situation be in 2040 or 2050 – a lot closer to the Jakarta situation I suspect.

At what point do we say enough is enough? Maybe we should heed the advice the Governor of Jakarta got from the U.N. and maybe we should look very hard for a better alternative to the Government's very flawed Melbourne 2030 plan.

In my last visit to Jakarta I had nightmares that this could well be Melbourne in 20 or 30 years time if we follow the Melbourne 2030 principles. I spent hours in tightly packed traffic all day, every day, in all roads, in every direction, and I longed for the days when I drove myself everywhere in Jakarta with no problems. Longed for the time when I could see blue sky and breathe fresh air. It was a good lifestyle but it has gone.

How could the Indonesian administration have let this happen? We all know that corruption is quite open there but there has also been a lot of stupidity in what has occurred and a huge amount of developer greed. There certainly has been no vision.

Development through population growth leading to greed and corruption and all the infrastructure problems and social difficulties that follow must not be allowed to happen here. There are clear signs right now that we are well on the way. We of course have a problem Jakarta does not have. We are short of water, they have plenty. Maybe we cant keep many more people clean and hydrated, let alone keep our 'Garden State' from becoming the Concrete State.

We must take firm action now to ensure my nightmare does not become a reality".

Mary Drost Convenor of Planning Backlash
A network of 120 plus resident action groups across city, country and coast.

See also: Will Rudd Government's high immigration program turn Australia into Argentina? of 19 Jul 08, Melbourne 2008: Life in a destruction zone of 29 Jun 08

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