The sustainable development discourse has significantly shaped the way planners talk about planning problems and their potential solutions. Drawing upon an analysis of Western Australian planning between 1990 and 2004, this paper argues that the mainstreaming of sustainability ideas has had more impact on policy-making processes than on the substantive content of planning strategies. In Western Australia sustainability has become a discursive device for advocating compact city policies and collaborative approaches to policymaking. This discourse was adopted for strategic reasons to frame preferred policy options that represented what policymakers viewed as ‘good’ planning decisions and also to share responsibility with communities for addressing planning problems.
Keywords: sustainable development, compact city, collaborative planning, public engagement, partnerships, Australia