Adelaide is not a smart or hip city, even though it desperately wants to be, given the emergence of the National Broadband Network. The high speed fibre broadband technology would allow a rustbelt Adelaide to reinvent itself as a hub for high tech and advanced manufacturing. The City of Chattanooga in the US is a model of what could be.
Adelaide struggles to reshape its old doughnut structure, to embrace experimental urban design, become more people friendly or even make itself more sustainable. But it just doesn’t have the vibe. Melbourne has it. Adelaide has the appearance of a backwater.Despite its extensive free Wi-Fi coverage and being home to three public universities, Adelaide is stuck in a stasis between what it once was—a rustbelt city— and what it could be—-a smart European style city. There is a desire to have cosmopolitan lifestyle with an inner city full of young creative professionals and a white-hot arts/design scene; but it cannot deliver.
The rustbelt is manifest in the region of the northern suburbs of Adelaide.I t is similar to the postwar industrial cities like Newcastle, Wollongong, Geelong and Whyalla and the traditional industrial parts of our cities such as within the central and south-western sub-regions of Sydney, the central-west and northern suburbs of Melbourne.These areas have the highest concentrations of workers displaced by job loss in australia’s manufacturing industry; and while unemployment rates have improved in these areas over the last decade, higher than average numbers of disability support pension recipients and lower than average employment ratios across all age groups, male and female. Compounding the problem of the old industrial regions has been the migration of welfare dependent families into these regions, chiefly in search of cheap housing.
Adelaide talks about the revitalization of the doughnut centre a lot with its extensive thinkers-in-residence programme. These experts come up with lots of wonderful and interesting ideas to make Adelaide a more exciting and vibrant place, and these place-based ideas are then widely discussed through various community forums. Nothing happens. Another thinker-in-residence arrives, studies the place, comes up with more great ideas, and then shares them in public forums. Nothing much happens after the talking.The cycle repeats itself.
An optimistic interpretation of the stasis is that it feels like two steps forward, one and half steps backwards. All the energy and money appears to go into subsidizing Rundle Mall—the departmental shopping precinct. This emphasis on commercial boosterism results in a “with us or against us” mentality; a knee jerk defensiveness in which the critics of boosterism are dismissed as anti-development and the critics outside the state (eg., in Melbourne) are deemed to be misinformed and pushing an agenda.
So we have a rigid defensiveness of the status quo. Stasis.