Let’s Not Make Our Third City a Divided One

There’s been a lot of talk about how fast Sydney will grow – double its current size by 2050 by most estimates – but just where that growth will happen often gets overlooked.

sydney central business district

While Sydney frequently is defined by its harbour, CBD and eastern suburbs, the reality is the city has been heading west for a long time. And that’s about to get a lot faster. 

By mid-century greater western Sydney will be home to around four million people, roughly the size of Melbourne or Sydney now, with around two thirds of the newest residents opting to live west of Parramatta. 

The Greater Sydney Commission recently acknowledged that reality, launching a plan for 3 cities it calls Eastern, Central (at Parramatta) and a newly minted Parklands City around the ‘Aerotropolis’ at Badgery’s Creek. It’s a great vision that gets a lot right, including – for the first time – an alignment with Sydney’s transport plan.

The chance to create a smart city and green ring around Parklands is clearly an unprecedented opportunity for Sydney. What’s missing is how crucial connections between it and the rest of Sydney – particularly Parramatta – will be delivered without derailing an inspiring vision.

By connections I mean the enabling infrastructure that will make Parklands thrive long term. This includes the obvious mobility issues of rail and road of course, but the no less crucial links for water, energy, fuel, distribution, waste and a host of other services.

In the current blueprint, there’s no plan on how to deliver these connections in a unified or integrated way. 

The very real danger is that our newest city will repeat the history of the first two by planning, building and delivering them all in isolation of each other, with all the inefficiencies, disruptions and costs that means on the ground.

That’s not smart in any sense of the word, but also threatens the potential for Parklands to create a green corridor that isn’t sliced and diced by myriad pieces of infrastructure. Creating pockets or easements of green, not a seamless corridor to promote biodiversity, leisure, best practice environmental management, sustainable development or even tourism.

This isn’t to say that Parkland’s infrastructure needs aren’t already being discussed, but just not in a way that will optimise the city’s potential. Sharing infrastructure space just makes a lot of sense as its being planned and designed, a task that requires all the stakeholders to work collaboratively to share and resolve issues like governance, responsibilities, costs and the technology to make it happen.

Embedding other infrastructure within transport corridors as they are built is one obvious solution, but that requires a comprehensive business case that takes planning to another and deeper layer of asset planning. 

The Greater Sydney Commission – and the NSW Government by extension – have started the conversation, but we need to be going further to deliver real corridor protection at Parklands through integrated design. This is a role the private sector can help fast track given its ability to draw easily on global experience and expertise, as well as greater flexibility to work with all stakeholders unhindered by short term political constraints.

Sydney’s ‘Third City’ is a compelling idea, but making sure it’s a liveable alternative for people and businesses means that it needs robust connections that unify, not divide

Justine Kinch

Client and Operations Director - Property, Energy and Resources M + 61 (0) 439 142 531 Ask me a question