Top Nav

Sustainable Cities Task Force Report

Executive Summary

Australia’s major cities have grown beyond their optimum size through poor planning and insufficient infrastructure. These cities are experiencing reduced productivity, increased congestion, increased costs of production and energy and water insecurity. They are amongst the most expensive cities in the world.

Regional areas have insufficient population and economic growth prospects to attain the critical mass required to build the infrastructure that would enable them to offer an alternative to city dwellers and so alleviate population growth pressures in the major cities.

Our major cities are strangling on their over population while the vast opportunities that exist in regional Australia are untapped. This is leading to deteriorating productivity and living standards which suppress the quality of life for all Australians and the wealth of our nation.

Recent economic growth is unsustainable being fuelled by population growth, a commodities boom and favourable terms of trade.

Australia’s economic prosperity depends upon the delivery of a comprehensive plan to address our growing infrastructure deficit in a way that facilitates optimum population distribution. Our Vision is to effect a staged development of a network of appropriately linked sustainable cities[1] where the majority of Australia’s population has chosen to settle.  A true decentralisation program that progressively builds regional towns to the critical mass of a sustainable city; that will provide a new paradigm for the lower cost provision of affordable housing and economic inputs including property and labour.

This vision requires the execution of a well devised, articulated and managed plan with three essential components.

  1. The delivery of pioneering infrastructure projects that will link strategically targeted cities to facilitate their growth just as the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge facilitated growth north of Sydney Harbour. Australia needs a Very Fast Train network to facilitate national growth.
  2. The agreement of a National Spatial Plan for critical land use that recognises existing settlement patterns and provides “umbrella” guidance to the established system of Local Environmental Plans and thereby assure the preservation of necessary lands including wilderness, agricultural, mining, urban and commercial.
  3. The establishment of a robust governance system for the agreement, implementation and administration of the foregoing including the re-instigation of a robust Foreign Investment Review Board regime.

The bold delivery of “city” services and amenity to regional Australia in the absence of “city” congestion and prices will encourage a migration of people and businesses from our cities and provide a lower cost entry point for foreign people and businesses wishing to reside in Australia. This will drive the transition of our regional towns to “sustainable cities”.

Increased efficiencies achieved through better urban planning and the pre-emptive delivery of integrated public and active transport solutions combined with substantial land release will deliver a reduced cost structure fuelling economic growth. Sustainable economic growth with less reliance on population increases will follow.  Natural productivity increases through increased work force participation and reduced costs of production will realise our nation’s potential.

Infrastructure financial feasibility analysis must recognise the indirect benefits of facilitating infrastructure including improved public health, education, employment participation, productivity and increased regional land values as regional towns transition to sustainable cities. These benefits should be recognised in any cost/benefit analysis of key facilitating infrastructure.   A portion of land revaluations in particular could be harnessed, if desired, to partially fund such infrastructure.

Existing cities, alleviated of their excessive population growth pressures, will be able to retrofit / revitalise for reduced costs, improved sustainability, productivity and efficiency. This is the subject of the Sustainable Cities’ Taskforce paper authored by Ms. Jane Prentice MP.

Australian cities, new and old, will then provide a healthier human habitat with minimal environmental impact within a cost structure that empowers Australia for international competitiveness providing the framework for sustained productivity increases and economic growth.

The staged implementation of such a plan has the added benefit of providing an effective mechanism for the delivery of economic stimulus as required.

[1] Meeting the economic, social and environmental needs of their citizens, now and in the future.