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Sydney: A tale of three cities

Photograph by Nic Walker

Sydney: A tale of three cities

The door is open for visionaries to launch Sydney into a new age.

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PILLAR: CITIES  Sydney needs to settle on a “metropolis of three cities” approach to planning and development in order to remain viable, according to new PwC research.

The CityPulse Sydney report, which rates each suburb across three broad criteria – “live”, “work” and “play”, is the latest research to support the Greater Sydney Commission’s focus on aligning planning to develop three unique but interconnected cities.

The three cities – Harbour (east), River (central) and Parkland (west) – would provide hubs of essential services, jobs and recreation in closer proximity to more Sydneysiders.

Joseph Carrozzi, PwC Australia’s Sydney managing partner, says that making this model succeed requires big-picture thinking, collaboration and putting more brand capital on the line from the public, private and community sectors. “Thinking bigger carries political risk, but the long-term outcomes are potentially game-changing.”

Carrozzi cites John Bradfield’s vision for the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Great Depression as an example of the strategic thinking the city needs. “Imagine Adelaide unveiled a new bridge, more than 500 metres long and featuring eight car lanes and two train lines. No conventional business case could make this stack up and the current political climate would ensure its backers weren’t in power for long,” he says. “Yet, that’s precisely what a similarly sized Sydney did when it opened the Harbour Bridge in 1932.”

Bradfield, also the mastermind of electrifying Sydney’s rail network, was challenged at every turn but eventually delivered a project that is critical to the city 86 years on. “It’s a great opportunity for the Bradfields of this generation to stand up and change the game,” he says. “Sydney is tipped to hit eight million residents in the 2030s. We need to be thinking of what a prosperous Sydney of that size looks like and get to work on preparing for it now.”

The CityPulse Sydney findings reconfirm the importance of the city’s transport network to Sydneysiders’ quality of life, with suburbs that do well on “live” and “play” being closer to major transport infrastructure.

The highest-rating suburbs for “live” – led by Epping, Erskineville and Strathfield – are scattered across the inner and middle suburb rings. All, however, are well serviced by transport infrastructure. This greatly increases access to schools and healthcare within 30 minutes of home.

Sydneysiders not only need to be able to reach their local city centre within 30 minutes, but also need to have easy access to the other two cities.

Joseph Carrozzi

Carrozzi says transport infrastructure will be even more important to the success of a metropolis of three cities model. “Sydneysiders not only need to be able to reach their local city centre within 30 minutes, but also have easy access to the other two cities. This is crucial to allow each city to focus on its relative strengths and have no need to duplicate services and infrastructure that make sense to be provided elsewhere.”

This is currently not the case, he says, with long journey times, insufficient capacity and poor network integration. “It’s great to see governments making significant investment, but there is still so much more to do.”

Supporting the development of three cities is the growth of new economic hubs outside the CBD. CityPulse Sydney found high “work” ratings outside the CBD for Parramatta-Rosehill, Homebush Bay-Silverwater and Macquarie Park-Marsfield, and rapid growth in Kellyville, Riverstone, Marsden Park, Rouse Hill, Cobbitty and Leppington.

The River and Parkland cities have the building blocks in place for thriving commercial hubs that will provide more jobs within close proximity to their residents.

Rather than directly compete with each other, Carrozzi says the focus should be on the city identifying its relative strengths and investing in them. “There are some amazing opportunities unique to each city, and getting them right will benefit Greater Sydney,” he says. “The Harbour City is crying out for an innovation precinct in the Ultimo-Camperdown region, bringing together the existing presence of universities, hospitals and research facilities with smart development of affordable housing and recreation to attract both talent and investment.”

Meanwhile, Parramatta and surrounds have become a hotbed of diverse festivals, he says. “A more strategic approach could turn the River City into Sydney’s festival hub. Local residents would be the greatest beneficiaries of the festival hub and the businesses that would pop up to support it, helping to address the distinct drop-off in “play” CityPulse Sydney identified west of Fairfield.”

To the west, the Parkland City has a big opportunity to turn the proposed airport at Badgerys Creek into not just a gateway for people and freight but into an “aerotropolis”, he says. “That would attract trade, freight, logistics, advanced manufacturing, defence, aerospace, health, education and science industries into the precinct to create a thriving hub. This would greatly help improve job access to several neighbouring suburbs that rated poorly for work in CityPulse Sydney.”

With so much potential across Sydney, Carrozzi believes the current generation can leave an even greater legacy than Bradfield. “It’s a critically important time,’’ he says. “Success is going to require new levels of collaboration between public, private and community sectors, huge investment by all players and innovative adoption of new technologies and skills.”

The Press is a publication by PwC Australia, aimed at sharing expertise, capturing insights and working together to solve important problems.

Opportunities up for grabs
  • Increase funding for the Liveability Program, with a bigger commitment to development of community facilities and urban amenities.
  • Create a festival calendar for Parramatta, which could become Sydney’s festival centre, with a series of community-based festivals connecting culture, the arts, sport and business.
  • Encourage more active living in Western Sydney, including more walkways, cycleways, parks and recreational facilities in the Central River and Western Parkland cities to encourage healthier lifestyles and connect communities.
  • Develop and retain a talented workforce in Greater Western Sydney, which will need a commitment to education access and funding. 
  • Improve Work and Play scores in the Camellia, Westmead and Sydney Olympic Park precincts.
  • Prioritise community health, with investment in health infrastructure and greater attention to preventative healthcare.
  • A clear strategic direction for the Western River City, providing housing at a suitable density and sensitive development of commercial centres, innovation and business hubs as well as social amenities.
That’s Sydney
  • Greater Sydney generates more than 24 per cent of Australia’s GDP.
  • Almost 40 per cent of Australia’s top 500 corporations are headquartered in Sydney.
  • The Sydney Fish Market is the world’s third-largest fish market.
  • San Francisco, Nagoya, Wellington, Portsmouth, Guangzhou and Florence are all sister cities of Sydney.

This article first appeared in Edition 6 of The Press
By Charlie Carter, Senior Reporter, The Press

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