Being healthy is more than eating sensibly and exercising – hence there are eight rather than two pillars of health. Relaxation, sleep, relationships together with fun and purpose get less attention as there are few pharmaceutical agents and no grant funding for big public health.

Two things got me thinking about this recently. When I was a child Halloween was not “a thing” in Australia. Our family was first introduced to it when new neighbours from Europe moved in over a decade ago and their children came around for trick or treat. My two kids through this sensed a good idea. They were not alone and since the mid 2000’s Halloween has grown in popularity here.

Watching groups of children in costumes recently reminded me of how much fun it was for them and is for the current group of children. The nanny state nay-sayers will bleat about sweets and children being on the street. All groups of younger children had supervising adults. There is a spirit of neighbourhood community where you get to chat with those who live near you but whom you may rarely see.

It is always possible that there is somebody who will behave badly. In no way does this undermine the positives of such an evening.  The children have fun dressing up in an assortment of costumes and will enjoy their treats. The adults have fun dressing up the children and wandering around with them. It is likely that they partake of a few treats too. All this is positive for relationships at a family and community level.

The other one that got me thinking was data on travel times for people in Australian cities and issues with lack of public transport. Compared to many European and even some US cities, all Australian cities are sprawled. According to a report prepared by engineering consultancy Arup for the Future Perth 2050 forum, my home city has the 63rd biggest metropolitan footprint in the world. It ranked 1005 out of 1064 biggest cities in the world for population density.

This is not all bad and the wide open spaces here are an integral part of the way of life. However, for those having to live further out on the urban fringe, lack of jobs, infrastructure and public transport close to their homes leads to lengthy commutes.

Fortunately, Perth has good road networks which assists the 645,000 with poor access to public transport.

Melbourne fares badly with 1.8 million people deprived of useful public transport options.  Dave Sharley told The Australian Newspaper that he was driving two and a half hours each day. This meant leaving home at 6 am and getting home after his son had gone to bed.

He ultimately quit his job and started his own business to work closer to home. Not everyone with a long commute has this option though.

Many in western Sydney face long daily commutes too. Inhabitants of the latte strips in these cities have no understanding or appreciation of this or what it means.

A longer commute means higher petrol (gasoline) bills which stress the household budget. It impacts on family time as described above. It increases stress levels, reduces relaxation time and can impact on sleep.

I am not claiming to have the solution to this and increased housing density is not a panacea. However, the impact of poor government planning and policy impacts on the lives of people in a very real way every day. These people tend to get on with life rather than complain. Yet theirs is a far more important issue than the “sensibilities” of the perpetually offended who clog up government agencies with complaints about the latest confected outrage.

Planning is an area where government has a legitimate role. People who pay their taxes to keep government employees in a job deserve far better than what they are currently getting.