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Conference paper

What About Australia's Small Cities: Do They Have Their Own Planning and Development Agenda?

30 Nov 2007

Australia’s urban hierarchy of large metropolitan areas and a second level of centres with over 200,000 people create one of the world’s most urbanized countries. Australia’s urban planning agenda has understandably focussed on the major urban areas. Third level cities, those with a regional service centre function and a population of around 80 - 130,000 each, now have a total population of nearly a million Australians and represent a significant element of Australia’s urban scene. Yet at the national level at least, little attention has been given to these places as part of Australia’s urban hierarchy. In their recent edited publication Small Cities: Urban Experience Beyond the Metropolis (2006) Bell and Jayne ask, is the planning and development agenda of third level cities merely a scaled down version of that applicable to metropolitan areas or can they ‘find a meaningful and valuable use of … their localness, their smallness … [given that they are] caught between bulking up and staying small?’ This paper examines Australia’s third level cities, their role in an urban hierarchy and what their urban planning agenda is in a global world and national scene where size appears to matter.


The State of Australian Cities (SOAC) national conferences have been held biennially since 2003 to support interdisciplinary policy-related urban research.

This paper was presented at SOAC 3 held in Adelaide from 28 to 30 November 2007.

SOAC 3 was jointly hosted by the University of South Australia, the University of Adelaide and Flinders University.

Themes and Key Persons

SOAC 3 focused on the contemporary form and structure of Australian cities.
The conference proceedings were grouped into six key sub-themes, each the focus of one of more conference sessions:

City Economy - economic change and labour market outcomes of globalisation, land use pressures, changing employment locations.

Social City – including population, migration, immigration, polarisation, equity and disadvantage, housing issues, recreation.

City Environment - sustainable development, management and performance, natural resource management, limits to growth, impacts of air, water, climate, energy consumption, natural resource uses, conservation, green space.

City Structures – the emerging morphology of the city – inner suburbs, middle suburbs, the CBD, outer suburbs and the urban-rural fringe, the city region.

City Governance – including taxation, provision of urban services, public policy formation, planning, urban government, citizenship and the democratic process.

City Infrastructure – transport, mobility, accessibility, communications and IT, and other urban infrastructure provision.

Paper Review Process

Conference papers published from SOAC 3 were produced through a process of integrated peer review.

There were originally 147 abstracts proposed, 143 were invited to submit papers and 107 papers were finally published.

Publication Details
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