A great chance to build an aerotropolis

24 November 

Joseph Carrozzi - Partner, PwC. This article first appeared in The Australian, 24 November 2017

Rather than simply being a place where more planes land, the new Western Sydney Airport is a once in-a-generation opportunity for Sydney to develop a new international economic hub. But to get there we need a once-in-a-generation change to the way we do things.

We need united advocacy to develop a comprehensive economic plan that talks up the business opportunities and then seeks to sell the plan to the world.

There are signs of momentum building. Attending the NSW Chamber of Commerce forum on the airport “city” this month, many of us listened to a passionate Premier implore us all to be bold about the potential for western Sydney. An equally passionate chief executive from Liverpool council spoke about the opportunity to deliver 21st century jobs for the local community.

To close the session, federal Minister gave a commitment to release a city deal and focus on attracting businesses to develop an economic engine in western Sydney. All are clearly behind the opportunity to build an aerotropolis, not just an airport.

Taking this sentiment forward is now what we must all focus on. Our challenge is to kick-start investment and get enough businesses to take a leap of faith to base themselves in the region so that we maximise opportunities. One way to do this is for all three levels of government to work together to develop a joint investment prospectus for the aerotropolis.

A prospectus is not normally associated with the development of precincts, unless you are an investor wishing to commit funds in the capital markets to a new venture. But in the case of the new aerotropolis, we need to develop a prospectus to attract investment, especially from overseas, and to provide a strong message to the global community that our often confusing tiers of government are united behind this opportunity. Business must have confidence in our commitment to deliver and they need to see that we’re rolling out the red carpet for them.

Our view is that a project of the scale of a new economic precinct in western Sydney will only appeal to new investors if they are confident it will happen, that it will survive our uncertain political cycles and that Australia is easy to do business with. The prospectus must set out the opportunities, the incentives and the standards and regulation that will inform a decision to invest in our region.

While relocating businesses is part of the answer in creating jobs, a far greater economic boost will be generated by securing foreign capital. Attracting a significant big business will help drive growth and innovation across the precinct. But to attract a big prize we need a united voice and a strong sales pitch that paints a compelling picture of opportunity and certainty.

As we described in our recent report to the Liverpool City Council, strong industries grow around planned airport precincts. Industries like defence and aerospace, logistics and freight, food and agribusiness, advanced manufacturing hubs in health and medical devices and growth in the tertiary education and skills sector. These industries are marked by global businesses, based in places like the US, Germany, Italy and Japan, but why can’t they look here for a new home? Our next step should be to have our government agencies sell the bold and deliverable plan.

The prospectus must include clear commitments on land use; zones reserved for industries or services to create hubs or centres of excellence; transport plans to keep the zones connected; and residential zonesthat cater for the workers who are needed. Finally, the prospectus should also demonstrate how Australia will make it easy for new entrants to do business here. Business registrations, export incentives, skilled labour transfer and land use approvals must all be discussed in this one master plan. The prospectus would be our key selling tool. It will bring together agencies such as Austrade, the NSW Department of Industry, the key local councils in western Sydney and the Greater Sydney Commission. A prospectus that unites the message and the approach will be welcomed warmly by new investors.

Our aerotropolis will be competing for business with the rest of world. We need to face the challenge and actively sell our nation, our people and our position in the Asia-Pacific.

This opportunity has been 50 years in the making. We have the potential to create more than 100,000 new jobs over the long term. Let’s do the work to build our prospectus together and sell the western Sydney aerotropolis to theworld.

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