Envisioning the Greater Sydney Region

Sydney city and harbour

With Sydney’s population topping 5 million it’s time to ensure we have a plan to prepare for future population growth and demands on infrastructure. Today population growth is already putting pressure on housing, infrastructure and services, and if plans are not put into action in the present we will not be not fully prepared for what the future holds.

Chief Commissioner, Lucy Hughes Turnbull AO

Chief Commissioner, Lucy Hughes Turnbull AO

According to the ABS it took city 30 years, from 1971- 2000, to grow from a population of 3 Million to 4 million people, and it has taken only half that time to increase another million. Driven by economic growth and a predicted population of 6.5 million by 2028, and 8 million by 2056 (based on current rates), The Greater Sydney Commission has presented a plan to future proof our city and has formulated a vision for the Greater Sydney Region.

Sydney Harbour Bridge from the air. Image by Wikimedia Commons.

Sydney Harbour Bridge from the air. Image by Wikimedia Commons.

The Commission is working to better underpin strategic planning for a more productive, liveable and sustainable city. Some proposals have been viewed with controversy but under pressure from a city that is soon bursting at the seams, the response has been to organise Sydney as “three great cities in the Greater Sydney Region”; The Eastern City, the Central City and the Western City, within which fall six districts – Central, North, West Central, West, South West and South.

Photographic print of the Sydney Opera House under construction, photograph by Max Dupain, Sydney 1958-1973, MAAS collection, 2006/25/1

Photographic print of the Sydney Opera House under construction, photograph by Max Dupain, Sydney 1958-1973, MAAS collection, 2006/25/1

Eastern Sydney is currently the Global city and the engine of the economy, the heart of the city and economic activity. Chief Commissioner and Adjunct Professor, UNSW Built Environment, Lucy Turnbull stated at the Annual Bradfield Oration, UNSW that,

 “Our vision for the Eastern City is to enhance its role as a powerhouse of the Australian economy. If businesses want to locate in the Eastern City we should celebrate and encourage this — a city that rejects investment is a city in serious trouble. The Eastern City also demonstrates agglomeration economics at work – in the financial, business and professional services and IT sectors in particular. The power of economic scale and agglomeration is a critical one for global competitiveness.”

Aerial view across Sydney looking east, Gnangarra . wiki commons

Aerial view across Sydney looking east, Gnangarra . wiki commons

Met with some consternation by the public, as are all ambitious, large scale and fast moving projects, the view of the Commission places Sydney as one of the major global cities in the region and beyond. Turnbull continues,

“Sydney is growing more quickly than ever, we need strong and effective growth management. This is a challenge of course – but a much more optimistic one than cities in other parts of the world, which are facing the reality of population and economic decline. Sydney is globally unique. This is Sydney’s moment in time. As global commerce, trade and growth pivots to the east we have a competitive advantage matched by, arguably, no other city.”

Australia’s Eastern board in particular, has become highly desirable not only due to its attractive beaches and carefree lifestyle, it also offers a stable economy with consistent growth and a political environment where democracy and the rule of law prevail with great proximity to emerging markets. She continues to state that…

“As global commerce, trade and growth pivots to the east we have a competitive advantage matched by, arguably, no other city. This is Sydney’s moment in time. As we grow we need to maximise these opportunities, while also protecting and enhancing what makes Sydney so great. And the potential upside, if we get it right, is incredible. Already our financial services sector alone contributes more to the nation’s GDP that the entire mining economy of Western Australia. With sustained growth and progress we need ambitions to match. Sydney has the potential to be the capital of the Southern Hemisphere.”

Barangaroo ReserveThese views are supported by the rise of strong economic growth and innovation – for example Barangaroo (by Lend Lease) is the first carbon neutral precinct in the world. Innovations such as this are one of the strengths the city can continue to build upon.

.“…more than 18 per cent of Sydney’s jobs are located in the existing CBD and the City of Sydney Local Government Area accounts for 30 per cent of the Greater Sydney Region’s contribution to GDP. The Eastern City is now the hub of financial, business and professional services, education, culture, entertainment and tourism. The Eastern City also demonstrates agglomeration economics at work – in the financial, business and professional services and IT sectors in particular. The power of economic scale and agglomeration is a critical one for global competitiveness. “

Parramatta ariel view

Parramatta ariel view

To be successful, large scale urban development has to be sensitively initiated. Whether the plan is to accommodate growing pains or a more radical step to rejuvenate the true centre of Sydney to become a second CBD to Parramatta, at every step it is essential to take into account the needs of the community with a careful consultative and collaborative planning process. ’Co-creation’ is a key feature to be taken into account. On this Turnbull says,

“We need to be subtle, at the same time as we need to think big and inclusively. A city that works well for women whose perception of safety and accessibility may differ from men’s, and for children who need a sense of safety, wonder and playfulness — we need to create a great city for everyone.   Moving to the geographic heart of the Greater Sydney Region, the Greater Parramatta area is Sydney’s second CBD. Referred to as the Central City in our three cities model, this area is at a critical moment in history … We have been charged with the task of ensuring there is deep and continuing collaboration and co-ordination with local government and all the departments, agencies and stakeholders engaged in the area. Our mantra is that we are “co-creating a greater Sydney” and Parramatta is a good example of this in action. “

Somebody in the WWW at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0

Somebody in the WWW at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0

High Growth areas will extend from Parramatta to Blacktown and beyond. It includes Olympic Park that will undergo redevelopment as a key project known as GPOP – an attribution to Korean and Japanese POP (4,000 hectares area – larger than the City of Melbourne). There are many surprises in the package including the idea that the seat of the State Parliament could be moved to the second CBD along with other landmarks.

The third city will include Western Sydney where according to predictions, 50% of Sydney’s population will be living by 2036. Focused in this area will be the new Western Sydney Airport that will drive population growth jobs and related services to Camden, Campbelltown, Liverpool and the Penrith areas. About the Western region and it’s ‘string of pearls’, Turnbull says,

“If we don’t plan well there will be an increasing geographic separation between where people live and where they work. And we have to bring the lifestyle opportunities to where the population will be living.”

This article has focused on the key elements of the Vision for Sydney’s future.

You can find the full Bradfield Oration here to learn more of the detail.