On Tuesday night an ABC article popped up announcing that Troppo and another unnamed firm have completed their new town design in the Northern Territory. To house 50,000, Weddell is to be built about 40 kilometres from Darwin.
The population of Greater Darwin and Palmerston is currently 133,000, and this is expected to increase to 171,000 by 2030. They intend for most of this growth to happen in Palmerston (built in the 1980s) and in the new city of Weddell. Due to the expansion of Southern satellite cities and suburbs, they calculate that the population centre of Greater Darwin will in fact be 12km out of Darwin by 2030. Weddell will be as close to this point as Darwin.
A Troppo-designed house for Weddell
Weddell is being branded heavily by the Territory government as a Sustainable City. They have a document [ PDF ] explaining what they hope to achieve. Emphasis being on ‘hope’ as all the sustainability initiatives have question marks next to them. Given the sprawling nature of the new Greater Darwin, and the lack of commuter rail, you’d have to raise your eyebrows at the hope of having 20% of the population getting around on bicycles and public transport by 2030. Maybe they’ll all become triathletes. The long distance railway station is a 20km drive from the CBD – but at least it runs through Weddell.
In this document, they cite, “reducing car dependency by creating a compact city” as being the first in the list of trait that define a sustainable city. They have taken the liberty of applying this condition to Weddell itself, rather than to Greater Darwin.
“In Weddell, the following practices will be important to drive transport decisions: creating a self-contained, compact city that avoids the need for commuting to work and provides local services and facilities…”
Their hopes are that (with a question marks next to them): “80% of trips by Weddell residents are within Weddell by 2030… [and] a minimum of one person per household is employed locally in Weddell”. To get this rolling they are thinking of establishing a “hub of excellence for sustainability training”, local business clusters based on the horticultural industry, and a virtual office hub. And yet there are only eight small blocks labelled commercial along the “Village Square”.
It will be interesting to see the plans develop, if the government is serious about all its aspirations, and if Troppo really do get to design all the buildings. If it comes to pass that these aspirations vaporise once the town is built, and the project home builders have their way, then Weddell will be yet another dormitory suburb in eco city clothing.
Darwin’s Mayor Graeme Sawyer is pessimistic about the plans, saying in 2010 that, “Weddell is an absolute nightmare and shouldn’t happen… If you look at all of those criteria around public transport, around energy efficiency, around travel time, around all of those sorts of things, probably if you set up a matrix and ticked off those things against Weddell you probably wouldn’t build it.”
Just for interests sake, here are same-scaled Google maps of Greater Darwin (133,000), Melbourne (4M), and Auckland (1.5M). Despite being destined to sprawl, Darwin can at least take heart that it is Australia’s most Sustainable City, according to the ACF. This appears largely due to high rankings for air quality, employment, and biodiversity.
Weddell is on the lower right.
An exhibition of the proposed design is currently on at the Art Gallery, Chancellery Building, Charles Darwin University, Brinkin until December 16th (10am to 3pm).