On the Death of Australia's Jane Jacobs

The life of trade union leader Jack Mundey, who died this week, is being celebrated across the Australian media. He undoubtedly had a long lasting impact on Sydney, but perhaps in ways most commentators fail to acknowledge. As secretary of the communist controlled NSW Builders Labourers’ Federation from 1968 to 1975, Mundey pioneered a boycott tactic which came to be known as ‘the green ban’. In short, if the union disapproved of a property development on heritage or environmental grounds, BLF members would be withheld from the site. The BLF’s share of the construction workforce was such that this type of strike effectively killed the project.

Mundey came on the scene at a crucial time in Sydney’s post-war history. Cost-efficient developments in transportation technology like motorisation, particularly trucking, and containerization ended the industrial sector’s need for proximity to maritime facilities, which had been the case since settlement, and rail junctions, which had emerged in the mid-19th century. This led to a dramatic transformation in Sydney’s industrial geography, including a process of inner-city deindustrialization. The traditional light industrial ring surrounding the CBD and extending westward along the harbour foreshores began to disappear. Transport hubs which had serviced the ring like Darling Harbour wharves and rail yards became redundant. As factory, workshop and warehouse owners moved their operations to cheaper sites in the western suburbs, industrial workers left the inner-city in droves for the prospect of a quarter acre block. Until now, the cost of housing across inner suburbs was suppressed by low amenity associated with noisy and dirty industry. The departure of these activities combined with locational advantages created the potential for a rapid escalation of land and property values.

Read the rest of this piece at The New City Journal Blogspot.