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Adelaide has always lacked the financial heft, locational advantages or outrageous beauty of its more fancied siblings. 
Adelaide’s urban form seems to contribute to its low popular esteem – a condition it has reached over recent decades.
Yet, from its inception Adelaide managed – sporadically – to capture the imagination of those keen to develop better lives for themselves than they could lead anywhere else in Australia.
Could it do it again? Could this also be reflected in its urban form? Here’s Part seven, Coda
Outsiders apparently consider Adelaide is not bad, just unexceptional. 
The low regard does not apply uniformly – much of Adelaide is indeed great – but seems most applicable to its city centre. 
Outsider perceptions originate in comparisons of Adelaide’s city-making endeavours with exceptional counterparts elsewhere. 
Yet, unexceptional urban form does not necessarily make a city dull. The appeal of Adelaide during the Dunstan years had little to do with its appearance, which did not change much during that period.
Adelaide’s cult of mediocrity has grown largely unnoticed against a background of a worsening and more general malaise in all our cities, as Robert Crocker rightly pointed out in response to Part One of this series.
Yet, where other state capitals can hide their mediocrity behind enduring natural cultural and economic endowments, Adelaide cannot afford to be anything less than remarkable if it wishes to be nationally significant again.
We observed that Adelaide was highly regarded when it evinced a deep and compelling vision of itself that contrasted favourably with other Australian cities. 
When it was first established, South Australia promised opportunity for individuals to grow relatively unmolested by the oppressive forces afflicting many European cities. 
Determined post-WWII economic recovery attracted further European migration and was embodied in the development of new suburbs, industry, and visionary institutions, like the SA Housing Trust, all under conservative leadership. 
The progressive reforms of the Dunstan era stood in sharp and attractive contrast to the social and cultural claustrophobia encountered in larger Australian cities at the time.
Whenever the state evinced sustained visionary appeal, it eventually found expression in Adelaide’s urban form. Conversely, it is contended here, half-hearted urban gestures, mediocre built form and listless aping of exotic urbanity are symptoms of a deeper malaise that is the real focus of disparaging visitor appraisals.
Grumpy claims that Adelaide is perfect, because one can drive from a CBD office to a hobby farm in half an hour, do not do the city any favours (see comments on Part 1 of this series). 
The claims both excuse and thereby preserve urban mediocrity as vanishingly subordinate to a city-making principle of individual convenience, thus concealing deeper shortcomings from further analysis.
The folly is only amplified when vigorously expressed, as for example in a response to Part 5 of this series
Overlooking its gratuitous ad hominum tone – the remarks perhaps unintentionally point to the conceptual source of Adelaide’s urban mediocrity in a sneering refusal to contemplate anything other than ringing acclaim of its urban form. 
(An aside: by denouncing anything that does not toe a comforting party line, the remarks also resemble in kind recent “wolf warrior” diplomacy and the treatment of Russian antiwar protests, though without the same chilling consequences.)
Wilful uncritical toleration of urban mediocrity also resembles in its method the obsequious flattering of Anderson’s courtiers in The Emperor’s New Clothes who exposed their lord to sartorial shysters and the eventual derision of un-deluded subjects. 
Let’s return to the question posed in Part One; are there lessons to be learned from Adelaide’s growing reputation for urban mediocrity?
Perhaps the first is to note that the arc of Australian political endeavour over the last 20 years describes the incremental yet persistent dismantling of government during a period of escalating urban and global challenges that only competent governance can fix. 
Absurdly culminating in recent revelations, part comical and dire, the outgoing PM apparently did not trust government – which he led – yet secretly aggregated ministerial power to himself while in office, thereby further diluting from the very core of government the trust he warned it did not deserve. 
This should alarm anyone concerned about the democratic stumblings in America, the invasion of the Ukraine and its potential in Taiwan, all instigated by mediocre but determined autocrats cynically following the same conservative play-book to absolute power.
Thankfully, themes of mediocre leadership, trashing of state institutions, and centralisation of power are generating a savage electoral backlash (a remedy sadly unavailable in some jurisdictions). 
A recent Bagehot column observed that UK Tory heartland is turning away from the party in response to these behaviours. The same pattern was crystalised in the last Australian election by the Teal Wave rolling over once-safe conservative seats.
Yet the projection of a vision of the kind that served South Australia so well in the past was down to visionary leadership by competent and inspired governments, of all political hues. Those visions eventually found expression in Adelaide’s urban form; its absence is likewise now written in the city.
Observing the longer trajectory of species on this planet, the philosopher William MacAskill notes that human history has really just commenced yet may end prematurely because humanity has generated many ways to bring about its own immediate extinction. 
He argues that the proper focus of collective policy-making should elevate the importance of ensuring our long-term future; a perspective familiar to climate change scientists.
Might a similar perspective be usefully applied to urban policies in Adelaide?
We observed in Part Five that the fate of cities is increasingly linked to their appeal to knowledge workers, particularly the young. Capturing and growing their skills is what keeps a city alive and prosperous in the longer term. 
Conversely, accepting their departure as natural or unavoidable – as now seems to be the case – is fundamentally an acceptance of urban failure. 
The trickle of departing Adelaideans, particularly the educated young, should be an alarm-call to urgent action much more intense than the smug joy expressed when the pandemic and escalating interstate house prices combined to send them scurrying back “home” in despair.  
As a cohort, the young now confront a cluster of challenges bequeathed by their parents.  
Beyond the twin policy responses of earnest hand-wringing and the banking of profits, Australia’s other major cities have failed to address the contributing elements of growing intergenerational inequity.
These failures provide the opportunity for smaller cities, like Adelaide – witness contemporary national esteem towards the state’s energy policies. 
Regarded as visionary when it did what other Australian cities were incapable or unwilling to do, Adelaide could usefully set itself a new visionary goal of becoming the first choice of Australia’s young. 
The young will always be the source of future wealth – but only if retained and nurtured.
Grounding all other urban policies on this one principle could transform Adelaide – and would eventually be reflected in a new as yet unknown but genuinely spectacular and authentic urbanity. 
The state might even express this vision in memorably challenging terms; let’s propose a slogan, “Adelaide wants to steal Australia’s young”.
Recalling the adage, “always bet on the horse called Self Interest because at least you know it is trying”, such a vision could also be politically astute. The young either do or will eventually vote for a long time, whereas the wealthy old will soon die.
We have already noted in Part Three how much Adelaideans love their cars. 
One of the largest recent road projects in Adelaide is the expansion of the South Road corridor.
The controversy this project generated is remarkably similar to that from Sydney’s WestConnex: appropriateness of building bigger roads in the face of escalating climate change; consumption of valuable land; anger at forced acquisition; escalating cost; and the induced traffic demand the corridor will generate. 
The delivery agency, the SA Department for Infrastructure and Transport, recently announced the final stage called Torrens to Darlington (T2D); that part of the overall corridor that runs closest to Central Adelaide.
The agency clearly understands its work entails “city shaping and urban design”, yet its rhetoric is eye-rollingly similar to the onanistic twaddle accompanying most interstate urban-motorway announcements.
Many Adelaideans will recall the now-severe transport and access problems generated by haphazard accommodation of suburban growth around distant Mt Barker, yet significant inner-city land will be consumed by T2D. 
Reproducing the irony-free optimism of Sydney’s road builders, a video flythrough explains that while 60 per cent of the almost 11 kilometre T2D corridor will be in tunnels, the remaining two-fifths will be above ground or in open cuttings. 
For example, near the Barwell Avenue junction some 12 lanes can be counted – 17 lanes near South Road – plus slip lanes, landscaped banks, sparsely-treed foot paths and other familiar city-shaping gifts of the road building industry. 
The urban impact of tall exhaust stacks – the bettes-noir of Sydney’s tunnels – is downplayed. 
Potential objections are headed off in the section dedicated to City Shaping and Urban Design. For example, objective two includes: “opportunities for new land uses and precincts along the T2D corridor will be encouraged through rezoning and new access to the North-South Corridor. This will building (sic) on existing strategies”.
Much like the Parramatta Road improvements promised in the initial WestConnex sell, the likelihood of city shaping disappointment from T2D can be gleaned from a close sceptical read of the weasel words in objective two.
However, let’s just suppose that South Australia adopted a vision to “steal Australia’s young” and, informed by the challenges they face, decided to infuse all subordinate policies with commitments to meet those challenges.
How might such a vision find expression in objective two’s city shaping goals for Adelaide, for example?
How about this:
“Following the coordinated project delivery principles developed by the SA Office of Urban Innovation, new opportunities for medium density residential land uses will be identified within the Corridor, with a capacity equal to twice that of the previous capacity of residential land occupied by the Corridor.
“Where the Corridor will occupy employment lands, development capacity for new employment in innovative industries will be developed equal to twice that of the previous capacity of employment land within the Corridor.
“In all instances, planning consents will be obtained, allotments created and serviced including connection to the Corridor and surrounding facilities, and transferred to affordable housing and related delivery agencies, such as the recently expanded SA Housing Trust. All associated development within the Corridor will be either complete or commenced before the Corridor itself is opened to traffic.”
Knowing with certainty that transport technology will change profoundly within the investment lifespan of the corridor, and that trunk roads – along with airports, rubbish tips, piggeries, and sewerage farms – are generally toxic to dense urban development, traffic design might also reflect a vision informed by the climate change challenges that disproportionately confront Australia’s youth:
“Road networks within the T2D component of the Corridor will be designed to fulfill the SA Sustainable Transport Strategy. Lanes will be dedicated for the exclusive use of electric vehicles, with the number so dedicated increasing annually.
“Particular and preferential attention will be paid to the servicing needs of electric vehicles along the Corridor. The servicing needs of fossil-fuelled vehicles will only be located outside the corridor.
“Predominantly below-grade corridors for fossil-fuelled vehicles will ensure containment of noise and emissions and will be dimensioned so that when these vehicles eventually cease to operate, the corridors can be retrofitted with public transport modes to service the increasing population and job densities that will eventually exist along the Corridor.”
Oi, wake up!
Get a grip – we all know this will never happen. 
Road builders only want to do what road builders do and Adelaideans love their cars.
After all, this is Adelaide – it could be worse.
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