The Bold and the Beautiful?

How can we better leverage our cities to drive the country’s wealth? Stephen Taylor, City Executive, Sydney, asks whether we're being bold enough in our approach to cities.

A blurred image of a road and lights

"Most Australians are now urbanised and the research suggests that cities are the most sustainable, liveable and wealth generating concepts to have ever been created, but most are becoming victims of their own success."

Almost two decades ago South Australia proposed building a brand new city for quarter of a million people outside Adelaide with the awkward name of ‘Multifunction Polis’, an idea that was quietly dropped a few years later.

But was this futuristic, purpose built ‘new town’ for high tech companies, workers and investment just before its time? I suspect so.

Australia looks like it’s entering a golden age for infrastructure as we strive to bolster the role our cities play in driving the country’s wealth. It’s projected that we will invest $57 trillion in infrastructure by 2030 to make our country and cities work better for people and business. At the same time the Prime Minister is reportedly considering issuing the country’s first 30-year government bonds at 2.75% (just above the 2.5% inflation rate) to fuel visionary projects such as high speed rail.

But is it bold enough? Most Australians are now urbanised and the research suggests that cities are the most sustainable, liveable and wealth generating concepts to have ever been created, but most are becoming victims of their own success.

Sydney makes that very clear. The city expects to house and employ another 1.6 million people by 2031 despite limited land, ageing infrastructure, roads, public transport-I could go on. While there is now significant infrastructure investment underway that’s only really playing catchup?

The Multifunction Polis never got off the media release for all sorts of reasons, but it’s now time for us to have a conversation about building a city of the future on fresh, unimproved land somewhere in eastern Australia with national and global transport links.

This purpose built city would cluster the booming technology, knowledge and finance industries without the legacy of poor infrastructure-a clean slate in other words. With both federal and state government backing this may just be possible.

Is the answer a high speed link between Melbourne and Brisbane?

I suggest we build the much discussed high speed link between Melbourne and Brisbane now. This may not be a rail link as currently envisaged but something more technologically advance and of the future. There are a number of alternatives being developed to transport freight and passengers at rapid speeds in a safe environment that could connect the new city and the proposed international airport at Badgerys Creek

But how could we finance it? By capitalizing on the currently low interest rates and issuing 30 year bonds to fund the high speed link allowing sufficient time for the new city to be developed whilst capturing a high proportion of value of the raw land improvements to repay the debt.

It would also require a whole new, innovative level of collaboration. But at a time when we’re borrowing trillions of dollars to make our ageing country fit for purpose in the 21st Century, shouldn’t we be aiming at a much smarter, more sustainable vision?

Stephen Taylor

Australian Cities Director +61 2 8907 9084 Ask me a question
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