Curing Ills in Suburban Melbourne

<p>Melbourne, Australia, has its own brand of suburban sprawl: suburbia without the space. A new comprehensive plan aims to address the woes of suburban Melbourne, but some say it doesn't go far enough.</p>
May 12, 2008, 7am PDT | Nate Berg
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"Overstuffed housing estates rise from scrubby plains. Houses sit cheek-by-jowl, yet a trip to the nearest shopping centre requires a car. The CBD is a long way away, but there are limited, if any, public transport options."

"It's suburbia, but not as we traditionally know it. In its worst examples it's an inflated, overblown idea of suburbia minus the typical accoutrements of suburban life, such as the backyard, the Hills Hoist and the compost bin; a pale facsimile of the adage that a man's home is his castle."

"It's also an increasingly acute cultural fl ashpoint, driven by the fumblings of policy-makers, the power of developers and housing industry bodies, and the aspirations of "ordinary" Australians versus the prejudices of the so-called elites."

"Clearly suburbia, which urban sociologist Graeme Davison described in The Rise and Fall of Marvellous Melbourne as 'the opiate of the middle classes', continues to exert a powerful hold over the Australian psyche."

"'Low-density suburbia is in our DNA and that's been the case for 100 years,' says demographer Bernard Salt. 'Melbourne does suburbia better than anyone else in Australia. Melbourne 2030 comes along and says we want you to ‘dense it up'.'"

"Now, that might be what the planners want, it might be good for us and might be the sensible thing to do, but it ain't what middle Australia and middle Melbourne wants to do."

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Published on Tuesday, May 6, 2008 in The Age
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