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What inspiration can Canberra take from international cities?

A shared backyard in Copenhagen, Denmark.A shared backyard in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo: Supplied

At a time of growth and transformation of our city, it is critical that we look to other cities to question what makes them liveable, sustainable and affordable. 

Over the last two weeks the Property Council was part of a delegation, led by planning minister Mick Gentleman, to do just that.

As we travelled to Prague, Brussels, Copenhagen, Berlin and Singapore we learnt that each city had faced significant challenges that all related to their growth and change. 

Car lanes to bike lanes in Copehagen.Car lanes to bike lanes in Copehagen. Photo: Supplied

The path to success has been to be focused on solutions for their city that would set them apart, and create community through the built environment.

We saw innovation and sustainable renewal in Prague – building for floods and extreme weather, seamlessly integrating with the centuries old buildings and infrastructure.  

In Copenhagen, we saw how that planning for people first, has delivered cycleways and bike rakes where carparks and road lanes once where, with more than 75 per cent of residents now choosing bikes over cars. 

Sustainable office space in Prague.Sustainable office space in Prague. Photo: Supplied

We saw how replacement of private spaces with communal playgrounds, backyards and community hubs has helped the social isolation of minorities and retain a sense of community and respect for others despite more than 1500 people moving to the city every month. 

In Berlin, a city which has seen more than half of its infrastructure rebuilt after the war, and faced the social challenges of reunification after the wall fell, has been able to deliver affordable and sustainable co-housing models for more than 20 years, retain green spaces and connect infrastructure, determined to leave no person behind.

In Singapore we saw a city constrained by lack of land and booming population growth – reclaiming land from the sea to accommodate more housing and more green spaces – a city, which despite its enormous wealth, also provides social housing for as little as $22 a month where people are supported to thrive and made to feel equal.

And while every place we saw was vastly different, what they shared was an ambition to focus on building cities for people. 

As Canberrans we must also be focused on that ambition, so that we don’t just become a bigger city, but we also ensure we become an extraordinary one.