Address to the Urban Development Institute of Australia NSW Annual State Conference


“Planning for Growth”

Address to the Urban Development Institute of Australia NSW Annual State Conference

Luke Foley MLC

Shadow Minister for Planning & Infrastructure

24 October 2013

Simon Basheer,
Stephen Albin,
My parliamentary colleagues Brad Hazzard and Craig Baumann,
ladies & gentlemen.

Thank you very much to the UDIA NSW Branch for honouring me with the invitation to address you today.

I was pleased to join the celebrations of the organisation’s 50th birthday at the annual president’s luncheon last month,

and I salute the UDIA’s commitment to excellence in urban development.

I want to talk to you today about our state capital.

I believe that Sydney is one of the world’s great cities.

And we should be proud of it.

We should want our city to rank with the world’s greatest cities – cities like New York, London, Shanghai and Singapore.

We need perhaps to dump some sense of inferiority - for we are not a provincial city.

We should refrain from talking Sydney down.

We should have no truck with the defeatism that says that Sydney has outgrown itself, that nothing works, that we should put up the house full sign, that we should turn people away.

The greatest cities don’t turn people away.

The greatest cities are magnets, attracting people from their own countries and from all over the world, because they are vibrant, dynamic, energetic, creative hubs.

My thinking about cities has been significantly influenced by Edward Glaeser’s Triumph of the City.

Glaeser makes a compelling argument for the city as the great modern powerhouse of innovation, creativity and environmental responsibility.

Let me tell you what the Labor Opposition wants for this city.

We want a city that is internationally competitive and a city that is geared to families and provides for the aged, the frail and the vulnerable.

We want open space, we want enough schools and health services, we want abundant and quality affordable housing.

We care about both housing affordability and affordable housing.

We aspire to provide public transport within a walk of where people live that is regular, safe and affordable.

We want communities that are diverse, supporting a mix of incomes and life expectations.

A successful city is home to innovation and economic activity, and it also cares about its homeless, its renters, its young people wanting to buy or at least find secure housing.

Commerce alone cannot deliver the city of which we dream: cities that, as the French writer and theorist Guy Debord put it, provide an “environment suitable to the unlimited deployment of passions”.

An international city that attracts capital and talent must be a city where diversity of background, income and ambition flourish.

We need to act consciously, and conscientiously, to ensure that Sydney is an attractive place to live and work in the years ahead.

I do not believe that Sydney is full.

I believe that we can, indeed must, put Sydney on a path of sustainable growth.

I want to emphasise the importance of focusing on the whole of the city strategically – a long term integrated approach.

Planning the growth of Australia’s one truly great city over the coming decades is too important to be left to Planning Department officials and the likes of Brad Hazzard and me.

I think that the time has come to consider the establishment of an independent body of eminent persons to examine, give advice on and oversee the sustainable growth of Sydney over the next 25 years.

A Commission for Sydney would draw on expertise from the public and private sectors to examine and advise governments about appropriate policy settings that can be applied to better manage, govern and deliver sustainable growth in Greater Sydney.

It would also review measures and proposals to attract private investment to property, infrastructure and employment initiatives.

A commission of experts would bring high calibre figures from outside government - from business, universities, public policy institutes - together with public sector executives from the three tiers of government.

While it would be driven by the NSW Government, the national significance of this city, in terms of economic development and population growth, demands the Commonwealth should be a major partner in such an initiative.

In planning for Sydney’s growth the challenges are many and varied.

In the time available to me today, I want to make some remarks about the jobs challenge, the transport challenge and the challenge of making better places.

Creating several hundred thousand new jobs in Western Sydney over the next 20 years is perhaps the most important single thing that can help all of Sydney manage growth sustainably.

Forcing people to travel from west to east for work, and then back again to get home, is a threat to Sydney’s liveability and a drain on our productivity.

A three hour daily commute means less time at home with the kids and less involvement in one’s local community.

It’s also a burden for business.

The Government’s draft metropolitan strategy targets a population increase of 913 000 in Western Sydney by 2031.

70 per cent of Sydney’s additional 1.3 million population will live in greater Western Sydney, in the metropolitan strategy’s three sub regions called West Central & North West, West and South West.

When it comes to employment growth, the metropolitan strategy targets 50 per cent of new jobs for Western Sydney.

Without a serious plan to achieve this it is an empty target.

Professor Phil O’Neil from the University of Western Sydney has pointed out that Western Sydney will need to add the equivalent of 24,000 additional jobs every 18 months - equivalent to the entire jobs target for Barangaroo on completion – in order to meet this modest target.

In fact, we will need to do even better than this, or the jobs deficit in Western Sydney – currently around 200 000 - will grow further.

And the impact on our roads and on our train and bus systems will be extreme.

The congested pipes that funnel workers into the inner core of Sydney can be widened.

But the M2, M4, M5 and the railway lines will never be wide enough to accommodate the population tsunami that is expected for Western Sydney.

We hear much about the so called “Global Arc”, stretching from Sydney Airport to Macquarie Business Park.

I want to hear just as much about a “Western Sydney Jobs Diamond”.

Draw a rough line connecting Rouse Hill to Sydney Olympic Park to Liverpool to Penrith, and back to Rouse Hill.

That is the Western Sydney Jobs Diamond.

That is the priority area for the creation of jobs.

Western Sydney should not be seen as simply a logistics hub.

A graduate of the University of Western Sydney should be able to find a high order job in Western Sydney.

Let me say in passing that attracting and retaining talented graduates requires a better cultural offer for the Western Sydney region.

90 per cent of the Arts NSW budget is spent in the Sydney CBD.

Less than 5 per cent is spent in Western Sydney.

We should have a plan to foster the creation of new jobs in health related research and industries around the existing health facilities at Westmead, Liverpool and Penrith.

In government Labor relocated Sydney Water, the NSW Police and the Attorney Generals Department from the Sydney CBD to Parramatta.

There should be other government agencies relocated to Western Sydney.

Government office decentralisation makes sense.

Government departments can move from B and C grade Sydney CBD locations to A grade buildings in Parramatta for a similar rent.

And the new buildings are more productive and sustainable.

A Western Sydney Economic Development Authority within the Department of Premier and Cabinet would drive economic development in the region.

It would work with Infrastructure NSW.

It could administer a Western Sydney Infrastructure and Investment Fund, which would be modelled on the NSW Government’s Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund.

An increasing number of political, business, trade union and community ledaers from Sydney’s west are now advocating the potential benefits for the region that would flow from a second airport.

I have been influenced by the work of the American academic Dr John Kasarda, and his concept of the aerotropolis.

An aerotropolis is a type of urban form comprising aviation intense business and related enterprises.
An aerotropolis has an airport as its core and is surrounded by clusters of aviation related enterprise.
Kasarda argues that,
“Airports will shape business location and urban development in the 21st century as much as highways did in the 20th century, railroads in the 19th and seaports in the 18th.”
South Western Sydney has perhaps the greatest imbalance between housing and jobs.

I challenge you to suggest an employment catalyst that could achieve employment growth that would be comparable to an airport.

Western Sydney’s full potential will not be realised without a second Sydney airport located in greater Western Sydney.

It presents the major economic development opportunity to grow jobs in the region.

Any such airport must address, rather than inflame, the congestion problems of the region.

Last December the Premier and the Minister for Transport announced that light rail will be built through the Sydney CBD to Randwick and Kingsford, in order to “reduce congestion and revitalise the city”.

Governing always involves hard choices.

The CBD and South East Light Rail project is a worthy one.

I believe that the proposed Western Sydney Light Rail Network is an even worthier project.

Because the lack of north – south transport connections in Western Sydney must be addressed.

We need to move beyond a transport vision for Sydney that only focuses on moving people into the Sydney CBD and back out again to the exclusion of other connections.

The first stage of the Western Sydney Light Rail Network would link Parramatta to the north and the north east.
The link to Castle Hill would connect Castle Hill, Baulkham Hills, Northmead and Greater Parramatta, as well as providing interchange to the North West Rail link.
The link to the north east would connect together Westmead health precinct, Parramatta CBD, University of Western Sydney at Rydalmere, Eastwood town centre and Macquarie Park.
The second stage would connect Parramatta to Bankstown.
The first two Lines would connect Greater Parramatta together: Westmead medical precinct, North Parramatta urban renewal precinct, Parramatta CBD, Rosehill/Camellia and the University of Western Sydney at Rydalmere.
The Western Sydney Light Rail Network would help stretch the Global Arc and its smart job opportunities from Macquarie Park into Western Sydney.
The light rail proposal is one of the best ways to link Global Sydney with Greater Sydney.
The global economic corridor would meet the Western Sydney Jobs Diamond.

The progression of this project requires funding and support from all tiers of government.

The next stage of planning for the Western Sydney Light Rail Network will require $20 million in funding to conduct additional detailed planning.

Many of our urban areas already enjoy the benefits of a significant green canopy cover, but other areas have a deficit of trees, shrubs and green places.

I am sure you have all heard people talk about the ‘leafy North Shore’.

I want us, in the years ahead, to talk about the ‘leafy Western Suburbs’.

I want to see our growing city make a major commitment to greening our suburbs.

Increasing the number of trees and plants in an urban area can:

• Improve air quality
• Reduce heat absorbed and reflected by concrete and asphalt surfaces
• Assist in managing stormwater flows
• Be part of an anti-graffiti strategy
• Promote biodiversity and provide habitat for wildlife
• Raise property values
• Create pleasant pedestrian environments

A building shaded from the summer sun will require less energy to keep it cool.

A wall or fence that is screened by trees and shrubs is a much less attractive target to taggers.

Money is saved with reduced power bills and lower maintenance costs.

Trees soften the urban environment and make streets, schools, industrial estates and car parks more welcoming places.

When more people are out and about, the streets feel safer.

Individuals are healthier when they have opportunities to walk and cycle in pleasant environments.

Promoting urban greenery involves many stakeholders as trees and plants grow on all jurisdictions and tenures.

Cooperation with all stakeholders is required as households, councils, NSW and Federal Governments, companies and corporations are all involved.

Any plan to achieve more greenery has to have all these owners working together.

Support from a local community for any plantings is a pre-condition for success.

A greening program that involves and is supported by the community is much more likely to be sustained and to deliver greener urban areas.

The Labor Opposition is developing a comprehensive policy to work with local councils, communities and companies to implement an ambitious greening of our suburbs and neighbourhoods.

Governments should not force people into a particular lifestyle. People should be allowed to choose the life they want, and are prepared to pay for.

Car based living in the suburbs is not going to disappear, and nor should it.

Denser development, close to transport connections, must be an option too.

Population growth cannot simply occur long distances from the CBD.

We need to both protect our suburbs and plan for growth.

We need a combination of denser development in some areas and preservation of suburban character in other areas.

We desperately need more housing.
Demand is outstripping supply and has done so for some time.
The Metropolitan Strategy estimates that we need 545,000 new houses by 2031.
Building enough homes makes cities more affordable.

Opposing new building at every turn is a pretty good way to make a city unaffordable.

We need regeneration of existing urban areas, especially our transport corridors.

Infill and medium density neighbourhoods enables greater preservation of urban bushland and urban farmland.

Our policies should not force people to the urban fringe.

The environmental costs of sprawl are heavy.

Anyone who believes in addressing global warming should support greater urban density.

Denser urban settings are far friendlier to the environment than is urban sprawl.

There is an inverse relationship between density and car usage.

Across a broad range of cities, Edward Glaeser found that as density doubles, there is a 6.6 per cent drop in the share of the population that takes a car trip to work.

Dense cities mean less cars and more energy efficient homes.

Lower urban density and more fringe development leads to an over reliance on private car travel.

Land development is still critical, but we can deliver more infill development.

I believe in density done well.

Density accompanied by employment, services and amenity.

We need to work to create more sensitively designed higher density housing.

I know that the urban development industry is doing that.

Before I finish I want to make some brief remarks about the planning laws.

Labor remains proud of the Wran Government’s Environmental Planning and Assessment Act of 1979.

It was a world first.

It explicitly strove to deliver a balance between that great planning triangle of economic growth, environmental limits and community expectations.

And for a long time it got that balance right.

The EP & A Act protected the forests of the state’s north and south east, creating over 1 million ha of new forest reserve, it delivered the Olympics – with flamboyance, logistical precision and to international applause - it managed our burgeoning waste problem and cleaned up our Harbour.

It built the preconditions for economic activity and investment.

And for a long time it effectively housed our people and managed our growth.

But over time its efficacy eroded.

Successive governments tinkered with the laws until they became complicated and unwieldy.

At the same time community confidence in the planning system collapsed.

The last Labor Government must carry some of the responsibility for this.

Our political opponents bear some responsibility too.

In opposition Mr O’Farrell shamelessly exploited not in my backyard anti-development campaigns all over this city and state.

No local protest against development was too small for Mr O’Farrell to lend his support to.

Since I assumed the position of shadow planning minister I have resisted the temptation to add to this phenomenon.

The traditional job description of an opposition planning spokesperson is to loudly complain about every controversial development proposal and accuse the government of the day of forcing unwarranted high rise development on communities the length and breadth of the state.

I have chosen not do this.

We need a planning regime that is simple and delivers in a timely fashion.

We also need a system that protects our environments and listens to our communities.

Community engagement must be real and it must be meaningful.

It cannot be merely tokenistic.

We need community engagement processes that help us create more higher density housing that is accepted in existing neighbourhoods.

We need to all take part in moving beyond the winner takes all approach.

A great city has commerce, has adequate housing stock, but it also has a community that is creative and heard and energised.

It has diversity, it has artists, it has struggle and aspiration and it grows based on a broad consensus, a shared vision and community confidence in its planning processes.

Let me say this: If the leader of this government could resist using every statement he makes on planning as a platform to attack the Labor Party, that would go some way toward building the possibility of a consensus between the two major parties on a new planning system.

Here in Sydney we sit on the edge of Asia, a sophisticated, achingly beautiful and highly skilled and diverse metropolis; but we must step up and take seriously the opportunities and challenges of greatness.

World class cities do not happen by accident, they are thought about and planned.

Both the burdens, and the benefits, of Sydney’s growth must be shared.