December 6, 2019
Source: The Daily Telegraph
Author: Dominic Perrottet
Date: 5 December 2019
“What is Sydney’s heart, its soul?”
That’s the question Jeff Kennett, the combative former Victorian Premier, asked in The Daily Telegraph just a few weeks back.
It’s a good question, but when it’s a Victorian asking, it’s obviously difficult not to get defensive about our city.
I’m as parochial as the next New South Welshman and I relish an interstate stoush.
When South Australia released its latest tourism campaign featuring an older man wandering around various locations crying his eyes out, my first thought was: cheer up old mate, at least you’re not in Brisbane.
I do love our state and our city, and that means acknowledging it could be better — and imagining how.
As with most great cities, I think the answer is: its people.
Of the places I have been lucky enough to visit, there are always sights to see, but when you find the places the locals go to make their own fun, that’s where you find a city’s soul.
Think cosy London pubs — a refuge from the cold. Trendy hidden bars in Melbourne’s bluestone alleyways. Tapas bars in Spain. Izakaya dens in Japan.
Sydney’s signature is the sun, and of course our glittering harbour. We don’t have to work as hard as most places to generate good times. Take a stroll towards the Quay at 4pm on a sunny Friday afternoon, and the buzz spilling out of every watering-hole is genuinely uplifting.
Having said that, it’s no secret that Sydney’s night-life has been more subdued in recent times. Some readers will consider that an understatement.
The “lockout laws” put a dampener on our city, after a dark period where unthinking violence claimed too many young lives.
A recent Committee for Sydney report found Sydney was the second-most “admired” city in the world but we’re ranked 26th for “fun”.
Traditionally, governments aren’t great at “fun”, partly because we have to consider other obligations, such as ensuring public safety.
It will always be a difficult tightrope to walk but one thing we can do is keep working to get the balance right, get out of the way as much as possible, and set an ambitious vision for a night time economy that offers the best of all worlds.
When I think of Sydney at its best, I think of the 2000 Olympics, and the atmosphere of optimism and good-natured fun that overwhelmed our city.
It was as if the global spotlight brought out the best in us, and that is the soul we should be aiming to cultivate.
Reaffirming our international status is at the heart of our plan to supercharge the state economy over the next 20 years, outlined in the 2040 Economic Blueprint released just a few weeks ago, and the State’s Global NSW strategy announced this week.
And as Treasurer, I am acutely aware of the important role our night time economy must play in our state’s economic success.
Sydney is our nation’s No. 1 tourist destination and rejuvenating our city’s night time economy has the potential to unlock enormous economic opportunities. Rolling back the lockout laws is only one piece of the puzzle.
Early this year Deloitte produced an Imagine Sydney report which estimated Australia’s night time economy comprises 3.8 per cent of the nation’s economy, compared with the UK’s 6 per cent.
The report estimates that if Greater Sydney matched the UK, more than $16 billion would be added to our economy.
In practical terms that’s hundreds of thousands of jobs, and a flurry of business and investment opportunities big and small, not just in dining and hospitality, but entertainment, the arts, sporting events and cultural festivals, transport and, of course, accommodation.
The good news is, we have boundless opportunities to grow our night time economy, and we are working to make the most of them.
Soon a new light rail will pulse through the city’s heart, and the City of Sydney Council’s plans to improve outdoor dining along that corridor will help create a dining and entertainment boulevard connecting the Rocks, the QVB shopping precinct, Chinatown, Surry Hills and Moore Park.
The new stadium at Moore Park will draw fans from around the state, the nation and the globe.
Then there’s the revitalised Western Harbour precinct connecting the stunning Barangaroo headland, a refreshed Darling Harbour, and the soon-to-be revamped Sydney Fish Markets.
A vision document launched this week by the Western Harbour Alliance estimates this precinct alone could create more than $20 billion in economic output by 2036.
These are whole new precincts ready for their nocturnal potential to be unleashed, and we are working to bring them to life, and bring Sydney’s night time economy roaring back.
Dominic Perrottet is the NSW Treasurer.