“YP Gold Coast sat down with Natalie Hoitz, Director of Urban Design at Urbis, ahead of her appearance at this year’s City Leaders Forum. Here’s what she had to say.

What do you love about the Gold Coast?

It’s perhaps cliché and a common answer but it has the be the coast itself with the hinterlands as a backdrop. The sheer length of coast, it’s pristine beaches and headlands – they are such a defining feature and probably what I love the most about the Gold Coast.

Do you think the Gold Coast has potential to become a global city? If so, what is holding us back right now?

Absolutely! The Gold Coast has many of the physical assets necessary to make it a global city – quality education, medical, infrastructure, tourism and entertainment facilities. Where grow and attention is needed is around the attraction and diversification of business and employment opportunities. The lifestyle offer on the Gold Coast is second to none but really cementing Southport as the business heart of the coast will be critical in the journey to becoming a global city

In your travels, what have you seen done in other cities that you believe could work well on the Gold Coast?

When you look the best coastal cities around the world like Singapore, Los Angeles, Miami, Vancouver, Barcelona and Auckland they all enjoy a beautiful coastal location but this is only part of their success story. Beyond the coast they all have a richly diverse offering of locally relevant galleries, museums, sports, arts and culture. These elements done well play a key part in elevating the status and attraction of a city. The Gold Coast has some of these features but much more can be done to grow this aspect of the city.

What is your grand vision for the Gold Coast? What do you want it to look like in 20 years?

My grand vision is for the Gold Coast to transform into a truly global city and a dynamic destination for locals and visitors alike. With the upcoming Commonwealth Games and the transformational infrastructure projects planned or underway, Queensland’s second largest city is quickly maturing into a place of broad opportunity and rich experiences. In 20 years, I see the Gold Coast being a creative city famous for its subtropical coastal lifestyle, arts and culture. These are the city shaping values that make a city enjoyable to be in and therefore more attractive to live, work and invest in.

What is the biggest challenge facing the Gold Coast? And do you have a solution?

To me the biggest challenge remains the transient or tourist vibe that prevails in many of the densest and busiest parts of the coast. There is still a perception that the Gold Coast is mainly a holiday destination. The golden rule of urban design is places need to be designed and delivered for the locals. This means locally relevant and accessible. Tourists want to go where locals go. They want an authentic experience. Therefore it makes good sense to put locals at the heart of any brief. For a long time many areas of the coast have been delivered specifically for the tourist market. A changed mindset of putting locals first needs to happen across the board. Becoming famous for more than tourism is the next necessary step in the evolution of the city.

What advice would you give today’s young professionals and future leaders of the city?

My advice to young professionals is not be overawed by the pace of change and the quantum of information out there in the world. What remains most valuable is smart, articulate and clear thinking professionals who can cut through all the data and noise and get to the heart of the matter. Our future leaders will need to be able to do this and do it well!

Natalie is just one of the exciting panel of speakers for the 2017 City Leaders Forum”