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Is Perth really a slow city?

By ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia
 

Glancing at a BBC webpage one day last month, we were surprised to learn that Perth wants to be classified as one of the world's slow cities. "A move to win Cittaslow status for the Fair City has received backing from the council and enterprise company," said the report. "Cittaslow, which means 'slow city', began in Italy in 1999 and aims to improve life in small towns and cities."

The only slow thing about Perth when we last visited it, was its traffic, which moved at snail's pace at peak hours, a condition shared with most of the world's great cities.

Perth (population nearly two million), on the banks of the picturesque Swan River, is Western Australia's dynamic state capital, . It's enjoying boom times as a result of record prices for the state's seemingly inexhaustible reserves of gold and iron ore, plus a steady flow of natural gas from its offshore fields. There are said to be more jobs available than people to fill them.

However, when we searched the internet to discover the reason for Perth's strange wish to be labelled a slow city, we found these items to support the claim:

The first non-convict settlement in Australia, Perth was slow to progress until 1850 when convicts were shipped in to assist the free settlers in the development. - Perth Tourism.

These reports along with the difficulty of clearing land to grow crops was a factor in the initial slow growth of Perth during the first couple of decades. - History of Perth - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Slow Food - Perth Food Review - Restaurant. - Perth Food Review, March 27, 2004

Feast Perth Slow Food Festival stall, Bernie & Brenda. - Environment House.

Air strikes slow humanitarian effort. Howard was leaving a party conference in the west coast city of Perth when about 200 protesters... - The Boston Globe, July 30, 2006

Use Perth Drive? Slow Down! Motorists are being reminded of the increase in student traffic across Perth Drive (North Campus Building) beginning September 9. - Western News story.

Is the 'net still slow for anyone else? But it's been slow, like before dialup and timing out for the last few days. Doesn't seem to be getting any better. I'm on Mt Hawthorn exchange in Perth. - Whirlpool.net.au forum.

BIS Shrapnel expects Perth house-price growth to slow to 5per cent in 2006-07 after having soared 19 per cent over the past two years. The Australian newspaper (July 27, 2006).

A lack of office space has the potential to severely impact upon the growth of the Perth City in the next three years... Despite a number of major projects being offered to the market, no major new office developments have been given the green light, with tenants and financiers slow to pre commit. - Property Council WA (August 2, 2006).

Still puzzled why Perth in 2006 wanted to be called a slow city, we re-read the news story, on a BBC Scotland webpage, this time more carefully, and all was explained. We had overlooked the very first paragraph, which reported:

A bid to make Perth the first Scottish member of an international movement which champions local culture and produce is being driven forward.

The story referred not to Perth, Western Australia, but to its ancient namesake in central Scotland, 70 km (43 miles) northwest of Edinburgh, population below 50,000. Called "the fair city," it was the capital of Scotland from the 12th century until 1452. James I of Scotland was assassinated there in 1437. Queen Victoria named the Australian city after its Scots ancestor in 1856.

Three English towns have already joined the Cittaslow movement: Ludlow in Shropshire, and Aylsham and Diss in Norfolk.

Cittaslow's UK President, Graeme Kidd, who is also mayor of Ludlow, said the movement was about encouraging and helping towns to retain their own identity and vibrancy.

"It's not about resisting change and development," he said. "Rather, Cittaslow aims to promote a mindset that pays due attention to the needs of individuals and the needs of the natural and man-made environment."

Scotland's Perth isn't always slow. Edinburgh's Evening News reported on July 29:

Perth is gearing up for a real party this week with a concert on the Scone Palace track. The Commitments will play live on a giant stage at the end of Tuesday night's racing in what will be a new experiment for the Britain's most Northerly racecourse.

And only a week later, Perth Theatre featured The Singing Kettle: Old MacDonald's Farm.

Who could possibly call that slow?

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Story first posted September 2006

Copyright 2006

Eric Shackle

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