It’s official. The Australian Bureau of Statistics confirms what the Committee for Sydney has been highlighting for a while: sometime between as early as 2030 and no later than 2053 Melbourne overtakes Sydney as the biggest city in Australia. That’s right. ‘Australia’s only Global City’ will be smaller than that township on the Yarra. The NSW Government may want our state to be ‘No.1 again’ but on current trends our capital city will be number 2. If we are to stay No. 1 – and I assume Tele readers share the view that it must – we have to find something which has been in short supply since the Olympics: ambition.
Ambitious cities embrace talent wherever it comes from and welcome population growth as a key indicator of prosperity and future wealth.
They overcome barriers to providing the housing our communities need. They plan, fund and deliver the infrastructure needed to support the jobs and services a fast-growing city requires.
They see well designed higher density development close to economic activity and public transport as the precondition for a more productive city with more amenities for all.
They enable smart growth as the alternative is dumb growth, sprawl and economic inertia. Above all, they support a radical increase in the supply of homes required to meet the aspirations of younger people and families for a foot on the housing ladder.
By these measures Sydney is not an ambitious city nor is it an equitable one. It is indeed fast-closing its doors to any but the wealthiest so that Sydney is becoming socially, economically and environmentally unsustainable. That’s why Sydney is losing the competition to be Australia’s top city.
Yesterday, support for this inequitable Sydney was given by the opponents of the Government’s vital planning reforms. Their amendments to the Planning Bill will stall Sydney’s current economic momentum in favour of a re-run of the ‘Sydney is full up’ inertia which killed growth in the first decade of the century.
The amendments will drastically reduce the chance of young Sydneysiders ever getting a step on the housing ladder. Their proponents talk loudly of ‘sustainability’ but have no idea what it is.
The ‘biodiversity’ they seek to promote actually excludes the one species whose well-being is vital to the long term viability of Sydney: the young people with ambitions to make their homes here. They will become all but extinct except in a few greenfield reservations at the edge of Sydney – far from jobs, services, transport and access to economic opportunity.
Our future prosperity requires that housing supply be increased close to where the best jobs are located – and where people want to live. Our children’s future depends on having access to those homes. These amendments do not balance the needs of the environment, economy and community. They are obsessively and narrowly green and anti- development.
As a former Labour ministerial advisor on planning in the UK, I looked to the Opposition to assert the party’s traditional commitment to growth and equity, housing and jobs – and to meet the needs of all Sydneysiders not just the few hiding their self interest behind a ‘green’ cover and a spurious commitment to ‘better planning’.
This was not a time for tactical politics. All sides of the House should work together to meet the needs of Sydney’s diverse and changing communities. We need planning reform – not wrecking.