Straight to the source – we chat with visiting global cities expert and urbanist Greg Clark - Choose Brisbane


Straight to the source – we chat with visiting global cities expert and urbanist Greg Clark

Greg Clark

Image: Greg Clark

6 May 2015

Professor Greg Clark knows cities and in particular, new world cities.

The London-based, globally renowned urban economist is an advisor and mentor to leadership groups in global cities and regions, international companies and inter-governmental organisations.

He spent a whirlwind two days in Brisbane this week, speaking with city leaders, industry and media, contributing to the wider economic agenda and consulting on a document outlining the key economic priorities and recommendations for the city.

This document, commissioned by the Lord Mayor’s Economic Development Steering Committee earlier this year, will set the course for Brisbane’s next wave of economic growth.

Professor Clark places Brisbane alongside Barcelona, Oslo and Cape Town as cities capable of or indeed already building a future-proof economy by taking certain actions now. The economic development agenda will harness those actions as they relate to Brisbane.

He shared a few insights with Brisbane Marketing:

Why pursue a new world city agenda and what would happen if Brisbane did nothing?
The new world city agenda says that you should simply optimise the assets that you’ve got. Don’t lose your quality of life, don’t lose your liveability, don’t lose your amazing character but do seek to align your higher education, your research and development, your digital industries, your visitor economy with the new growth that there is in the global economy. Align that and be welcoming of growth, but try to shape it in a way that works for Brisbane.

What is the alternative to that?
I guess it is an accidental strategy that says we will be totally opportunistic, we’ll take whatever comes, we won’t marshall our strengths and our assets, we won’t try to make a clear proposition to the world and that accidental strategy is likely to result in a form of growth which is unmanaged.

This proposal is simply to make the most of what you are and to give up any ideas that to succeed you have to be different. The new world city proposition is that to succeed, Brisbane has almost everything it needs.

What do you personally think of Brisbane?
I personally like the amazing weather, the people and their style and character, their directness, their friendliness but also their ironic sense of humour and their desire to challenge, albeit in a friendly way.

I particularly like the fact that it is becoming a great hub of international education. I think there is almost no industry that has so many benefits for a city, as being a place for international students to study.

Because, what happens of course is that not only do you attract young people from all over the world and build your global profile, you also end up with people for whom Brisbane is forever always on their CV, and therefore a piece of their heart is always in Brisbane. And I think that’s quite important, so I like that. The food and coffee and outdoors culture is also fantastic.

I would be very happy to move here and spend some time here. Persuading my wife and children to leave our home and school in north London might be tricky!

How do you find the willingness of civic leaders and the wider community to embrace new world city thinking?
I think that the Lord Mayor has taken a really decisive and important lead over recent years, in saying that Brisbane is a new world city and inviting the city to form a distinctive and unique view of itself and to take it forward.

In Brisbane, unlike in some of the other cities that we might think of as new world cities – the Barcelonas and the Cape Towns and the Amsterdams – I don’t yet see the business community and civic leaders being as proactive in supporting the new world city thinking. In the next 10 years I expect to see the business community, the universities, the airport, the other institutional leaders being much more vocal and proactive supporters of the long-term development agenda of the city.

Sharing the costs, sharing the risks and sharing the benefits.

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