By Garry Howe
Inspired by a recent visit to China, mayor Sam Aziz is committed to making the City of Casey one of the world’s smartest cities within 20 years.
Cr Aziz told guests at his annual Business Leaders Dinner at Cranbourne Turf Club on Thursday 15 June that Casey was well placed to be home to Australia’s version of Silicon Valley in the United States or China’s impressive National Science Park.
He said Marshall Baillieu’s Minter Farm property in Berwick was ideal for this purpose, having been earmarked as a technological park.
The mayor insisted the China trip in April – with council colleague Wayne Smith and two members of Casey’s management staff – was already bringing tangible benefits to the region.
He said a letter of intent was signed to form an economic partnership with Dujiangyan City, which goes against the regular convention of having several visits before that step is taken.
“This is not all aspirational,” he said.
“We are almost in daily contact with China and have committed money to making this relationship happen.
“This is about opening up the City of Casey to one of the world’s most dynamic economies.”
Dujiangyan City has a population of 652,000 people and has a lot of similarities to Casey, Cr Aziz said.
Its mayor will tour Casey in a reciprocal visit later this month.
Cr Aziz said China was creating a city the size of Brisbane every six months and was a world leader in technology and innovation.
He described its National Science Park – where the Chinese Government pays 10,000 scientists each day to undertake research and development in a whole range of areas – as “as one of the most remarkable places I have seen on earth”.
“It is their version of Silicon Valley in the US,” Cr Aziz explained.
“They are aiming to improve the lives of people through technology, tapping in to every aspect of human endeavour where innovation can occur.
“We want to bring this kind of development to the heart of Casey.
“Some of the jobs that exist now won’t exist 20 years from now and some of the jobs that will exist in 20 years’ time we don’t know about now.”
Cr Aziz said Casey was committed to becoming a “smart city” within one or two decades – one that has traffic control without traffic lights, using driverless vehicle technology, and where rubbish bins self-regulate the waste.
“It was remarkable to travel around Dujiangyan City and not experience the traffic congestion I do on Clyde Road each day,” he said.
“Despite the high population, there is very limited traffic congestion in China.”
Cr Aziz said Casey had already taken steps towards this aim, having digitalised 14 council services.
He said the previously archaic process of issuing disabled parking permits was a great example of this.
“These people have a disability, yet the hoops we made them jump through to get a permit was incredible.”
He explained that they could now make an application online and have it ratified by their GP.
“Now they can do this with one conversation with their GP.”
All Casey staff now have mobile devices to access council records on the spot, eliminating so much wasted time sifting through paperwork.
Cr Aziz said he was heading back to China in October and encouraged Casey business people to join him on that trip.
“I would love to fill a plane with Casey business people,” he said. “We will be happy to open the doors for you.”