Sydney is growing just as it has always grown. To plan and make the best from this growth we need to give the Greater Sydney Commission the time to implement the recently finalised strategic plans for our city. The last thing we need is another public inquiry.
In a dramatic but under-reported first, Sydney now has three strategic plans that are aligned; one for land, one for transport and one for infrastructure. This is a monumental achievement; yet we shouldn’t kid ourselves. Now the hard work really begins.
Although the strategic plans provide direction; the community will begin to see real change in their neighbourhood when the strategic plans of local councils, known as Local Environmental Plans, have been updated in accordance with the city-wide plans.
This is the next step for Sydney and one that will require real and sustained focus, leadership and courage - from the highly skilled public servants working within both tiers of government but also, and perhaps more importantly, from political leaders in government and in communities across the city. This will take time and require patience – something in short supply given the community discontent in some areas towards our changing city.
What won’t help our city or the community is changing horses now or having a debate about immigration. The Greater Sydney Commission has worked hard to engage with the community, collaborate and create consensus. Pulling our support – just at the point when implementation is set to begin - would be churlish and counter-productive.
That’s not to say that our city’s growth cannot be better managed. But let’s not forget that for NSW, growth is familiar. Growth provides workers to our labour force for those industries that need it, to contribute to economic growth and encourage further investment and also enrich our cultural landscape.
But there are growing pains. More people increases demand on our transport systems, on our schools and hospitals and on housing. No one wants more traffic, long waiting times for hospitals or demountables in schools. And, in a city like Sydney where housing supply has simply not kept pace with demand, the increased price of homes is perhaps where we feel the worst pain of all.
But to alleviate the pressure on the community we need considered reforms to our current planning, transport and infrastructure systems; we need better ways of doing things.
Recent reports from Infrastructure Australia, the Grattan Institute and the Reserve Bank all provide solutions to better managing growth that will help with solutions to the challenges we are experiencing.
Infrastructure Australia found that cities need metropolitan governance to plan for growth, yet should adopt a place-based approach when translating those metropolitan visions into the sequencing and delivery of development with infrastructure; in NSW, local environment plans play this role.
The Grattan Institute recommended fixing planning rules so that more diverse housing, including medium density terrace housing, can be built in the inner and middle rings of our city. This was introduced by the state government last week via the Medium Density Housing Code and will soon give Sydneysiders access to more affordable housing, closer to jobs.
And by improving the NSW planning system, the Reserve Bank has said we could cut $490,000 from the price of a Sydney home. By improving our zoning, we can improve house prices for the community.
We don’t need another inquiry to tell us what we already know.
Jane Fitzgerald is the executive director of the Property Council NSW.