BATHURST must be prepared to plan for the population and the city that it wants.
That's the view of urban planning and regional economic development expert Professor Ed Blakely, who addressed Bathurst Regional Council recently about the opportunities and pitfalls in front of the city as its growth surges.
Professor Blakely - best known for overseeing recovery management in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, but who also worked on the Whitlam government's decentralisation program in the 1970s - said Bathurst should not be passive as it gets larger.
"I have a sense of how this history can roll out and if you let it overwhelm you, you then have a city that can't determine its future," he said.
Professor Blakely was brought to Bathurst through his connection with retired barrister Stephen Wilson, who is pushing for the city to have a long-term vision that pushes well beyond the next couple of decades.
"There is going to be a larger population and you can look at that and take it or you can say what kind of population do we want to have and how will it fit with our environment and our opportunities," Professor Blakely told the Advocate.
Giving a particular demographic a reason to move to the city will attract more of their ilk, he said.
If Bathurst had arts programs, for instance, that "brought in some of the best young people from around the world that would fit your needs and interests, then other artists across the world would hear about that", he said.
Similarly, he said Bathurst, with its motorsport history, could become a centre for developments in new motor technologies, attracting innovators and entrepreneurs.
Professor Blakely said Bathurst should not be afraid of density.
"It's the kind of density that people don't like; it's not density [itself]. No-one in Holland's complaining about density and it's far more dense than we are.
"It's the quality of your planning that brings about a density where people are overlooking parks; where you have plenty of green and open space built into the framework of your city."
A hub and spoke style of development - in which Bathurst is the hub and surrounding villages are at the end of the spokes - would avoid urban sprawl, he said.
"Those villages could carry some of that population as long as they had authentic features.
"Every village shouldn't look the same. They should all be a village. But they should all have a park and open space, they might all have a school and so on."
Bathurst is a 360-degree city, he said.
"Most cities can only build in certain directions, but you can build in every direction. That's an asset and a liability.
"As an asset, you can do the spoke and wheel. As a liability, you can spread out and sprawl."
Contacted about Professor Blakely's address, mayor Graeme Hanger told the Advocate it was a unique opportunity.
"Given Professor Blakely's long and distinguished international career and extensive publications in the field of town planning and urban design, plus his ongoing role in the NSW planning system and the Land and Environment Court, it was considered too good an opportunity to miss," Cr Hanger said.
"The topics for discussion were wide ranging and of no specific agenda."
In terms of attracting a specific population to the city, Cr Hanger said one of the challenges for local businesses was attracting staff.
"This extends to most trades and professions and includes the government sector, such as health and medical services," he said.
"Council actively promotes job opportunities across all demographics and industries, and can customise its attraction campaigns accordingly."
Cr Hanger said council was planning for development that incorporated the villages surrounding Bathurst.
"Particularly for the urban villages of Perthville, Eglinton and Raglan, but council has village plans for the rural villages as well," he said. "The transport challenge is a high priority with the next transport master plan under way.
"The village plans also need to consider the constraints to growth in those localities, including the desire to retain the character and heritage of the rural villages and the limitations of locating employment generating businesses in the villages.
"Council is actively pursuing and supporting tourism and events in the villages, reducing telecommunications weaknesses, even grant applications to extend the electric vehicle charging network."