By Rhonda Dredge
When councillors travel overseas on the public purse they usually cobble together a couple of pages to account for their time, hoping they won’t end up in the tabloid press.
When Councillor Nicholas Reece went to Copenhagen last September he was so impressed he churned out a 40-page report complete with recommendations.
The report was whittled down to 30 pages and tabled at the Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) at its first meeting this year.
Cr Reece is claiming that his account, made up of 12 factsheets, is the longest post-travel councillor report in the council’s 160 years of existence.
“I had a ‘Come to Jesus’ moment when I visited Copenhagen,” he said. The city gave him so many ideas for Melbourne he had to record them.
He spoke to CBD News about his vision, having decided against formally tabling his recommendations.
Prime amongst the statistics he brought back from his dream city was the one that 50 per cent of journeys in Copenhagen are now by bike or foot.
“Copenhagen is world-renowned as a cycling-friendly city. It wasn’t always like that,” he said.
In the 20th century priority was given to cars in their transport system and squares were converted into carparks.
“In the 1970s with the oil shock they turned away from the automobile and converted them back to squares,” Cr Reece said.
“The next step was new major bits of infrastructure for cycling and public transport. Over the decades one good decision has been built on another.”
Cr Reece said the new Fishermans Bend bridge, mooted to go from Collins Landing to Point Park, should be public transport, cycling and pedestrians only for “that will deliver far more trips a day across the Yarra.”
Another idea is that the planned Metro Tunnel entrances at St Kilda Rd, Carlton and the City Square could be redesigned to be less obtrusive.
A week before Cr Reece arrived in Copenhagen, a new metro line was opened and the streetscape preserved by keeping the infrastructure underground.
“They’ve designed the station entrances differently to the Melbourne Metro,” he said. “We have above-ground canopies.”
The difference is that the escalators come up to ground level in Melbourne but in Copenhagen they’ve brought the escalators to a concourse then used stairs and a lift to ground level.
“The result is that they’ve saved money and it leads to better urban design.”
He said the city had made some hard decisions and had a target of being carbon neutral by 2030.
“This is not some green basket-weaver’s fantasy. The Danes are not on a road to serfdom. New industries are engaged to help meet the standards.”
He said only three per cent of Copenhagen’s waste ended up in landfill compared to 75 per cent in the CBD.
“The city calls itself a green superpower. The story that the Danes tell themselves is a clever one.”
He said that Melbourne could do more with its livability image to market services.
And even the Yarra is in Cr Reece’s sights after his life-changing visit. Denmark has swimming baths in its harbour. It took 20 years but Cr Reece can see a similar situation happening down at Victoria Harbour.
Cr Reece spent six days in Copenhagen while attending the C40 global mayor’s summit and five pages a day of research is not a bad tally.