Canberra is the nation's most liveable city.
It's official. Canberra is Australia's most liveable city. This may surprise some people around Australia, but not Canberrans. We know our city is a great place to live.
The latest ''My City'' survey, conducted by Auspoll for the Property Council of Australia, measured the liveability of capital cities from the perspective of the people who live in them. For the first time, Canberra has overtaken Adelaide as the nation's most liveable city. Darwin was rated the least liveable, below Perth and Sydney.
Canberra's rise to the top is due to perceived improvements in areas in which we've always performed well - having a city that is safe and clean, good schools and healthcare and good employment and economic opportunities.
When we break down the measures of liveability and look at where Canberra outperforms others, it's easy to see why we're a winner.
We scored highest for a city that's clean, well-maintained, unpolluted and safe, with high-quality outdoor environments and educational opportunities. We appreciate having a city that is home to a diverse range of people who get along well. We also ranked No.1 on a sound approach to environmental sustainability.
Canberra rated second on its attractive natural environment and city design, good healthcare, employment and economic opportunities, good roads and minimal traffic congestion.
This is the fourth year we've commissioned the survey, which aims to track changes in the liveability of Australian cities, as well as the performance of federal and state governments in ensuring our cities are good places to live.
While Canberra's liveability score of 65.2 is higher than any other city, we're still only two-thirds of the way there. There are areas we need to improve. Those surveyed believe the ACT government needs to make housing more affordable, supply infrastructure to keep up with demand and set a fair level of taxation for real estate.
Housing affordability is a hot-button issue. We must build a city that is liveable for everyone. This means students can live close to universities, older Canberrans can happily age in place and young professionals and skilled tradespeople can find an affordable first home.
To boost our liveability ranking, the ACT government must think more creatively about increasing the supply of homes, particularly at affordable rents. Investors need the right policy settings to adapt vacant commercial spaces into residential rentals. That will expand housing options and ease rental pressure. Government should also work with industry to ensure the release of a supply of land, including affordable blocks under $200,000. A city can't be liveable if it's not affordable - so affordability must not slip down the agenda.
Canberra's future as a liveable city also depends on infrastructure projects - civil, community and cultural. Progress has been made with new hospital facilities, enlargement of the Cotter Dam and the Capital Metro project. But as a community we've been talking about high speed rail, redevelopment of Constitution Avenue, a new convention centre and upgrading of the Kings Highway. These all have community support - and all are yet to be realised.
Finally, we must revisit our property taxation system. The property sector underpins the health and growth of our economy, generating 24,000 jobs and 9 per cent of the ACT's total wealth. It contributes more tax than other industry. The 2013-14 ACT budget forecasts that property taxes will provide 52.4 per cent of all tax revenue. This heavy burden has the perverse effect of slowing investment, jobs and productivity.
Securing Canberra's place as Australia's most liveable city demands strategic incentives to encourage investment. While it's clear from the My City survey that we're leading the pack in Australia, now is the time to work harder to ensure we reach our potential as one of the world's most liveable cities.
Catherine Carter is ACT executive director of the Property Council of Australia.