The coastal areas of Eastern and South-Western Australia are at a crisis point as a result of unbridled development, predominantly residential, that current and even new planning restrictions seem unable to stop. This crisis has been the subject of much media coverage, particularly in weekend newspaper supplements.i The most vulnerable landscapes under pressure for urban development are the fertile rural areas, particularly the rich volcanic land of Northern New South Wales and South East Queensland.
There are important lessons to be learned about how to deal with this crisis through the current planning and design work occurring in the Netherlands and United States where the debate about urban development is focussed on how to achieve new forms of rural/urban/natural landscapes. In the Netherlands, the focus is on an the area known as the Ranstad, a ring of cities in Western Holland, including Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam, the Hague, and Haarlem, which enclose mostly rural and natural areas known as the Green Heart. In this area, government policies aimed at preserving rural land are continually being compromised by urban development pressure. So intense is the debate that it has even been proposed that all of Western Holland become one huge metropolis. There is clear consensus that new typologies for urban development and productive land have to be developed. A similar call for answers to pressures on rural land due to urban growth and environmental preservation in United States.
In Australia this crisis is manifest as continuous linear coastal development with occasional breaks of nature conservation and recreation areas, but with a damaging loss of rural heritage. Sadly, this is occurring in areas of relatively fertile soils and reliable water supplies, a serious loss for a relatively infertile, dry country.