1954: The no-spin zone

This doco is worth watching for its own sake. (Why are media organisations so dumb and unprepared to allow embedding of their videos – given that the vids themselves come with ads that are hard to avoid – but I digress …) What struck me is how different it would be today.

The film is for the Board of Works, which would have paid for its production and it functions as an ad for an elaborate process of city planning they’d been going through. In fact I think we do the actual planning a lot better today, with the involvement of the community handled much better. I could be wrong about this, but the impression created by the doco is that it was a very technocratic and top down process with people’s input being had via surveys etc. Today we hold lots more meetings, and get lots more people involved and so lots more energy in the process.

So, if that’s all good, what’s all bad is that today the corresponding bit of PR would be a product of the PR profession, which would ensure that the whole thing sounded like a smarmy pack of lies. It would be full of PR speak, hollowman speak. It would be obsessed with a feelgood factor and with staying “on message”. There’s none of that, rather lots of information, much of it just by the way, and then a strong call to action at the end – get involved and (please) get behind our plan. With a genuine call for civic mindedness and intergenerational generosity.

Postscript: graph supplied by John Walker below. 

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David Walker
David Walker(@d-w-griffiths)
7 years ago

What struck me was how little had changed, apart from video production values.

The most instructive aspect of this video is the prominence of ideas about urban society that many people imagine are very modern – the car as threat, the evils of “unplanned suburban sprawl” and “indiscriminate subdivision”, the “long, tedious and time-consuming journey” to work, “hospital overcrowding”.

Also striking is the biggest difference between Melbourne then and now: proportionately, far more jobs were within five kilometres of the city.

There is plenty of PR happening here. The music tells it clearly. The tone of the presentation is “we’re fixing problems with science”. The bottom line is political – the Board wants your support. The audience was less sophisticated, but I suspect the intent was much the same as slicker, briefer productions today.

Nevertheless, like you I wonder what a more fact-based delivery could bring today – a story that honored the process people like Rob Adams’ team have gone through.

And while this was not your point, the whole thing intrigues me as a historical document about the idea of shaping Melbourne. Those guys in their suits look kind of funny, but the idea they worked to – that cities needed to be steered in the right direction – still seems valid. And the city they steered seems to be working. As cranky Sydneysiders keep reminding me, Melbourne has managed to deal with its expansion better than many other places.

Mike Pepperday
Mike Pepperday
7 years ago
Reply to  David Walker

How little has changed? You’re not wrong yet I, sidetracked by the trivial, had the opposite reaction: the declamatory presentation, the white shirts and ties, the well dressed pedestrians, no pedestrian crossings, cars that had style (well you could tell one brand from another)…

Patrick
Patrick
7 years ago
Reply to  Mike Pepperday

There’s a monarchist in you somewhere!

Mike Pepperday
Mike Pepperday
7 years ago
Reply to  Patrick

Well, NOW there is. I can start working on my knighthood. Now it is all worthwhile.

Fred
Fred
7 years ago

In fact I think we do the actual planning a lot better today, with the involvement of the community handled much better.

Looking at the East West Road Link proposal, I disagree that we do planning a lot better today.

The government won’t tell the taxpayers how much the project will cost (presumably because the business case for the project doesn’t stack up). Details of the project are being made up as they go along (the successful tenderer is able to suggest changes to the proposal). The public consultation process is rushed and limited (the panel hearing is considering an indicative proposal rather than an actual proposal).

For more than 175 years Royal Park has provided much needed public open space in inner Melbourne for active and passive recreation. Now they’re plonking a freeway interchange right in the middle of Royal Park.

The MMBW planners recognised in the value of public open space in a liveable city.

john Walker
john Walker(@johnrwalker)
7 years ago

Sydney’s geography does play more of a restricting role than Melbourne’s geography.
All those arms of the sea- Port Hacking, Botany bay , the Harbor and the Hawkesbury have all shaped Sydney’s lay out, big bridges are expensive. Until 1890 and the building of the bridge across the Hawkesbury, NSW rail was two completely separate systems.

And Sydney’s western, northern and southern edges are rough sandstone (often cliff) escarpments, expensive work for road and rail builders. There are not really any Vic equivalents to things like the Zig Zag railway near Mt Victoria or the corkscrew needed to climb the border ranges

john Walker
john Walker(@johnrwalker)
7 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

‘train use’ , do they include trams in train use?

john Walker
john Walker(@johnrwalker)
7 years ago
Reply to  john Walker

Thisgraph comparing pop density and distance from CBD for OZ cities backs you ( though there are some ‘oddities’ – Canberra’s density at 22km is the same as its density at about 1km )

Any idea as to ‘number of trains’ per head of pop?

john Walker
john Walker(@johnrwalker)
7 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Could it be better to say that Sydney, unlike every other major Oz city has been more tolerant re sprawl? – All the other cities drop to about 20-30 at about 5-10 kms.

john Walker
john Walker(@johnrwalker)
7 years ago

Nicholas
I love maps, this map of global road deaths from the Pulitzer center has a few fascinating oddities- Portugal’s rate is 11.8 (per 100,000) , Spains is 5.4. Why such a big difference?

David Walker
David Walker
7 years ago
Reply to  john Walker

One suggestion is differences in general standards of development. Compare with this map: http://chartsbin.com/view/5352

john Walker
john Walker(@johnrwalker)
7 years ago
Reply to  David Walker

Thanks for the link to chartsbin, it is very cool , Hours of fun :-)

Portugal and Poland have similar HDIs and road death rates , however the road deaths map indicates that Malaysia (with a HDI of .761) has a much higher fatality rate – 25, than Indonesia (HDI .671) and fatality rate 17.7 any ideas?

David Walker
David Walker
7 years ago
Reply to  john Walker

OK, here’s a pure guess. At some point the development/road safety relationship breaks down because very poor countries just don’t have that many cars per person. And Indonesia is very poor, with low car ownership rates and roads that are mostly hard to speed on. The same is true for Egypt, famous for crazy drivers, and especially India, which is even poorer.

Note that nations with a lot of oil production and low domestic oil prices – Venezuela, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, the US – tend to have higher road death rates than their HDI scores would suggest.

No, I am not going to model this.

john Walker
john Walker(@johnrwalker)
7 years ago
Reply to  john Walker

:-)