BARRING a catastrophe similar to the one that wiped the mythical Atlantis off the map, Tamworth will still be standing in 100 years.
If the city matches the national population growth of 1.5 per cent per year, Tamworth will be a city of around 218,000 by 2117 – or roughly four times the size it is now.
So let’s start planning for it, Tamworth financial adviser Greig Meyer says.
“I really like Tamworth and I want it to be a nice place to live, not just for now, but also for the future,” Mr Meyer said.
“I hope it doesn’t get to 200,000, that’s a big city. However, unless something changes that’s the track we are on.”
Born out of a love for the place and a passion to preserve its charm, Mr Meyer began to jot down a few ideas about his vision for the city. Before he knew it, he was staring at a 1500-word, three-page document.
He says it makes sense to come up with the broad strokes of Tamworth’s future and fill out the finer detail over the coming decades.
“We need to make the plans now. You don’t have to implement them now, but it gives the city long-term direction.
“Canberra made the centre of its roads wide enough to accommodate tram lines, and nearly 100 years later, they are being built.”
Many of Mr Meyer’s ideas revolve around the beatification of the city. He pointed to forward-thinking citizens of Italy’s cultural hub, Florence, who 800 years ago passed laws aimed to provide a grandeur that would last the ages.
While Tamworth will never be Florence, Mr Meyer has an idea to create an architectural legacy for future generations – using granite from Bendemeer in the design and facade of all major developments in the CBD.
“When you go to Europe, they think differently to us, they build buildings that last hundreds of years,” he said.
“One of the reasons places in Europe are so appealing is that the materials are from the local area - the stone was local, timber was local – everything has character about rather than just a bit from here and a bit from there.
“If we agreed ‘Bendemeer granite is what we do’ and had that incorporated through the city, in time you would have a really cohesive theme.
“Everyone would be able to do their own take on it. Some might do big blocks, some might do sheets, some might do tiles.”
Even little changes in the way the city approaches everyday construction works would pay big dividends – such as shifting away from a “concreting mindset” and lining major roads with trees.
“Trees absolutely define a town,” Mr Meyer said. “If you look at all the expensive premier residential areas of the country – north shore of Sydney, the eastern suburbs of Melbourne – they all have established trees.
“There probably aren’t many country towns that have an entry as nice as Goonoo Goonoo Rd. The trees of Peel St are commented on by all who visit.
“There is great potential to line many other streets – Bridge St would be a good starting point.”
Another ambitious idea is to create a natural amphitheatre in Bicentennial Park that could seat up to 30,000 people.
“The current venue in Bicentennial Park is no longer coping with the numbers who turn out to the country music festival,” Mr Meyer said.
“The whole area could be redeveloped via significant earthworks to create a super-sized earth-based amphitheatre to focus on the stage.
“Keeping this venue near the CBD is essential to the overall atmosphere of the festival, planning now will make this possible. If we don’t plan for it in the centre of town, they’ll stick it out in a paddock somewhere.”
Tamworth mayor Col Murray said the ball was rolling on a number of big projects that would secure Tamworth’s future – an aquatic centre, a state-of-the-art performance arts centre, an international airport and the city's own university – but there was “still a lot of rolling to do”.
“Tamworth can’t hope to achieve its potential without at least one university here as our education requirements evolve over time," Cr Murray said.
“International freight from Tamworth Airport is inevitable. At some point in the future, I’m not sure when, that will also include passengers. International passenger flights are the next logical step, but for now we are focusing on the freight component.”
While the city has no lack of room for future housing development, Cr Murray expects high-rise apartments near the CBD are bound to happen sooner rather than later.
“I think there is already a strong desire from young professionals for apartment-style living,” he said.
Despite the potential population influx and changing landscape of Tamworth, Cr Murray said the city’s culture would stay unchanged.
“Whilst a lot of other things will no doubt change, the culture doesn’t have to change,” he said.
“I would suggest the country living, laid-back friendless we enjoyed will remain.”
One thing he would like to see change is way the community engages in the development of the city.
“I think city management as a whole needs to be a lot different,” Cr Murray said.
“At the moment most of it falls to local government, which I think is a failing of our system. I’d like to see service clubs, business chambers and community groups embed themselves in future strategies.
“Council needs to be a part of that, and draw on the resources of the whole city, rather than just a select few.”
Tamworth visionary Peter Pulley has had a hand in many of the city’s major projects over the last half-century and was instrumental in bringing natural gas to Tamworth. He said regardless of the many technological developments that happen over the next 100 years, water remains the city’s most important asset.
“We have enough water for a town this size, but not enough for one that’s more than double this size,” Mr Pulley said.
“If we are going to leave a town for our children, leave that town to grow, we have to always look at services to start with.”
Along with water, electricity, health and efficient transport links are other areas that will need an intensive upgrade.
“The city will only grow to that size if there is decent transport links to export centres, such as Newcastle,” Mr Pulley said.
While much of the future remains up in the air, Mr Pulley was adamant about one thing: “We must have a positive attitude towards growth”.
“We’re not very good as a civilisation at handling future problems,” he said.
“We’ve got to show the benefits of growing the city, which are considerable, far more so than the comfort of staying the same or shrinking – and it shrinks if it remains the same size, because everything else grows.
“A 100 years’ time is certainly not going to be the same as today, it will be hugely different. What we have to do is make the hugely different matter to the community.”
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