The first Australian Town Planning Conference and Exhibition took place in Adelaide, remarkably, during war time. It marked a growing interest in town planning and questions around the growth of cities in Australia.
This electronic version of the Official Volume of Proceedings of the First Town Planning and Housing Conference and Exhibition was produced to mark the centenary of the conference which was held in Adelaide from 17 to 24 October 1917 and to coincide with the 2017 State of Australian Cities Conference (SOAC), also held in Adelaide, from 27 to 30 November.
The first Australian Town Planning Conference and Exhibition may, with the flight of time, come to be numbered among historic gatherings which have left a definite impress upon the urban life of a continent. It was remarkable amidst the upheaval and tragedy of the war of the nations that a gathering of such magnitude and representation could be arranged and carried through to success.
The organisation was imperilled by domestic as well as external circumstances, for strikes in three States at different times, together with political disturbances, threatened to defeat the project. Happily it reached fruition at a time when it was possible for over 250 delegates to assemble from many parts of the Commonwealth· at the South Australian capital and engage in memorable discussions extending over eight days. Some of the Queensland visitors travelled over 3,000 miles in order to take part.
The widespread interest evoked by the Conference among Government, municipal bodies, professional societies and others, was the natural outcome of important events which preceded it. The City or Town Planning Movement in Australia and New Zealand, seemingly tardy in growth, has latterly gathered impetus sufficient to place it in rank with important national problems.
The disinclination to move as rapidly as other British dominions towards town planning legislation during the last decade may be characteristic of the national psychology, but circumstances are different. The central areas of our leading cities are conspicuous for broad thoroughfares, spacious avenues, and liberal provision of lands for public purposes, the gift of pioneer imagination and genius. Up to recent times these essentials in an isolated continent but thinly populated have been regarded as sufficient. Australia, moreover, for some years prior to the war had been prosperous, and the external appearance of her cities was the subject of favourable comment from visitors graciously inclined. The complacency thus engendered stultified criticism of the central cities, and was more than sufficient to divert attention from tbe suburban extensions which to the modern town planner usually constitute the more immediate and urgent problem. Under the influence of normal increase of populations, transit, real estate speculation and other contributory factors, these extensions from the logically planned centre have spread in recent years with great rapidity. The irregular and haphazard nature of the suburban growth has left many deficiencies -- absence of proper arterial routes along selected grades, shortage in open spaces, uneconomic, inconvenient and unsightly networks of streets, inadequate provision for public purposes and facilities, &c. The mistakes are still going on. Since the war began some thousands of acres of suburban lands have been subdivided in Australian cities much with the same result. With the continuance of the system: increase of population, and absence of sufficient and efficient powers, as was pointed out recently by the Right Hon. Lord Mayor of Melbourne (Cr. Frank Stapley), our difficulties will assuredly increase.