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Pacific 2010: Planning the Future: Melanesian Cities in 2010.

Studies of development in the smaller, island Pacific countries have long been dominated by rural concerns. Urbanisation has correspondingly been under-explored despite, as Connell and Lea outline historically, the increasing demographic shift and rapid growth of cities throughout Melanesia. As such, the authors' call for a concerted and concerned consideration of urban growth, policy priorities, and administrative practice is most timely.

The rural bias has not been without substantial justification: there are hardly cities which can rival the massive metropolises of other parts of the Third world (Latin America, Asia, sub-Saharan Africa). Nonetheless, the authors' main point is surely beyond doubt: namely that, especially in the post-colonial wake, urbanisation has been arbitrary and poorly planned, and that rapid urbanisation demands effective planning and proper implementation, together with the need to address the deepening problems of an increasing urban poor.

The book is largely concerned with the practical and administrative problems of viable urban infrastructure, with chapters on housing, water supply and sanitation in particular. The importance of these for a functioning city, is self-evident. The discussion is often very general, but much of this can be attributed to the nature of the project, which is broad by intention and aimed very much at planners in the Pacific and those likely to offer them aid. While certain differences emerge through considering Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Solomons and Fiji in some detail, this too is often general, although supported by an impressive collection of statistics and what appears to be a substantial review of the relevant literature. The issues they review are most pertinent, and their call for a more equitable plan is most praiseworthy, but they add little specifically to how this may best be achieved.

My major difficulty with this book stems from what is left unexplored or under-explored, namely the nature of the state and the attitude of the populace to it: this work is largely a theoretical and highly 'unsociological'. It seems to me paramount that the state and reactions to it, and to a lesser extent things such as urban ethnicity, be seen as independent factors: there is no apolitical urban policy. The target readership of this book, the political and bureaucratic elite, would hardly welcome this perspective, and thus it may be counter-productive to the aims of the project. However, the image of the state embedded in this work seems to be one of the modernisationist positivist ideal, which is irreconcilable with the limited but unfortunately growing evidence of state abuse of at least part of its citizenry in the Pacific. If the state were truly neutral, it would not be a problem, but I have no clear impression of how much power the authors would wish to allow to the state to implement policies which may seriously discriminate against at least some sectors of the population.

Perhaps more at issue is the image of the urban populace within the book. Connell and Lea forcefully debunk popular assumptions of the crime ridden urban poor, thus highlighting the need for adequate social research before any policy would be viable. They also note the need to incorporate the politically and economically marginal in urban advancement (if, for no other reason than the severe economic constraints facing state sponsored development: it is impossible to imagine, say, Papua New Guinea becoming a gargantuan welfare state). Yet it seems more than just poor policy and implementation, a lack of resources, mismanagement and poor conceptualisation, as the poor themselves at least in many parts of the Pacific seem to be actively resisting state structures and intervention. For example, my impression is that Port Moresby, as a microcosm of the nation state itself, is far from an imagined community in Benedict Anderson's sense: there may be localised, probably now multi-ethnic urban enclaves which constitute moral communities, and they operate accordingly, even to the point of manning unauthorised protection against outsiders, rascals obviously -- and the police as well? However, the city does not exist in this sense of community. Its unity is only from above, and, except perhaps through coercion, it is difficult to see how the state can effectively mobilise such communities, as these too cannot be regarded as politically neutral. The squatter settlement is not simply a symptom of bad development as Connell and Lee appear to argue (e.g. in chapter six), but an active response as much against the state as in reaction to the economic difficulties confronting the poor.

Two small points also deserve mention. As always, the lack of an index is irritating, something not offset by the contents page which simply lists chapter titles, thereby obscuring the broad range of matters covered in many chapters. Second, since this publication is apparently the eleventh in a wide ranging series on planning and development policy and practice in the changing Pacific with the year 2010 as focus, the absence of a list of previous (and any planned) titles is mystifying.

MICHAEL NIHILL Australian National University
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Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Nihill, Michael
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1994
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