Canberra is not far off the mark for a place where people can live better

The philosopher Aristotle once noted that "a city comes into being for the sake of life but exists for the sake of living well". In other words, people come to cities to live, but they stay because they're living life better.

And if Canberra's performance on recent quality-of-life indices is any indication of living well, we're not far off the mark.

What our city does well is accommodate the needs of our future generations. Simply put, with its high education, employment, environment, and safety levels, Canberra is an ideal place to raise a family.

If you view our city in this way, the enviable quality-of-life rankings are largely attributed to us living in a city planned around suburbs and, many would say, the car.

In the push by government, city planners and industry for greater urban density, it's perhaps easy to conclude that there's a disconnect with the everyday wants of most residents.

Yet, as we continue with Canberra's city-building agenda, the real opportunity that should not be missed is in renewing our city along the lines of modern realities and changing demographic needs.

Living well should be about how one wants to live, and not how one is forced to live. This gives us pause to reflect on the idea that a city needs to be an inventory of the possible.

In this regard, ongoing public discussions on urban densification, mixed-use developments, lockout laws, precinct creation, and sustainability are all valid. And recent debates on transport highlight evermore the need for improved frequency, speed, and walkability.

In continuing Canberra's pedigree as a planned city, we must ensure that residents can find meaningful career opportunities, feel included, travel with ease, find unique urban experiences and live sustainably.

This is neither about high-density housing versus detached private homes, nor is it about private cars versus public transport.

It's about building on and evolving what our city has come to do best, ensuring that future generations get to live well and enjoy a wealth of possibilities.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 August 2016.