“Town planner Nicole Bennetts says Gold Coasters have a responsibility to attract investment to the city, and it is only through wise investment that the city will be able to manage population growth.

The Gold Coast is expected to double in the next 35 years to 1.1 million by 2050, according to lead demographer Bernard Salt, and Bennetts says adapting to that growth is going to be one of the biggest challenges the city faces

“The most sustainable way to grow is in those areas we already have infrastructure and services, like along the light rail route and around our existing centres,” she says.

Bennetts, a recipient of the PIA Young Planner of the Year, currently works for the City of Gold Coast as a senior strategic planner on the City Plan and was the property developer of ENVI – the Gold Coast’s first infill small lot housing project.

The young professional talks to YP Gold Coast about some of the challenges facing the city, along with her vision for growing the region as leading destination.

What makes the Gold Coast a great place to live and work?

The Gold Coast oozes potential. I am excited to work in such an evolving city. I love the variety of lifestyles the Gold Coast has. People don’t realise the depth of opportunities. Its proximity to Brisbane is a huge benefit too – I think the two cities complement each other really well.

As a YP Gold Coast committee member, why are you so passionate about educating future generations of city leaders about the Gold Coast’s potential?

Developing a network of highly skilled professionals is vital in ensuring the Gold Coast’s economy can mature and break-out of the cyclical patterns of previous booms and busts. Bringing people together with the common goal of improving our skills and knowledge is my way of giving back to the place that has launched my professional career.

What do you believe are some of the challenges the city is facing?

As an urban planner, the biggest challenges the city will face is managing growth. The most sustainable way to grow is in those areas we already have infrastructure and services, like along the light rail route and around our existing centres. To support this growth, upgrades to the infrastructure and services will be needed but it is a chicken and egg thing. The City Plan has a 20-year planning horizon with many variables and investment in infrastructure is expensive. Critical mass is required to make the investment worth while. Building new roads/expanding our existing roads is never going to solve traffic congestion. Investment in mass transit is the only way we will mature into a world class city, this includes buses, ferries, light rail, cycle ways – a multi-model approach is the only way to grow.

What needs to be done to create more jobs on the Gold Coast, and grow the city’s corporate culture?

We each have a responsibility to attract investment to the Gold Coast. This investment needs to be in a variety of different sectors. Supporting new business and the relocation of existing business to the Gold Coast is a must. The people of the Gold Coast are the best advocates for this.

What is the city missing?

We have a lot, but there are still so many opportunities. For instance, active citizenship, a ferry system, a cycle network, missing middle housing – we have the high rises and we have the suburbs but nothing in between, such as terrace housing, or small lot housing. Everyone has a role and responsibility in seeing the Gold Coast mature.

Author: Nicole Bennetts