February 27, 2018
Source: Daily Telegraph
Author: Eamon Waterford
27 February, 2018
IF you build it, they will come. So goes the famous quote in Field Of Dreams. But what if they were coming anyway?
According to the recent report from Infrastructure Australia (IA), people are coming in droves to Sydney — so we better get building.
The figures are striking. Infrastructure Australia suggests that an extra 2.5 million people will call Sydney home by 2046, raising the city’s total population to about 7.5 million.
In contrast, the population of Greater Sydney was about four million at the turn of the century. The debate over population growth is a popular conversation here in Sydney and nationally. The findings of the IA point towards substantial economic benefits for the country, and particularly Sydney, but only if we plan effectively and invest in high-quality infrastructure, particularly in major growth areas in Western Sydney.
Population growth in itself is, like ridicule, nothing to be scared of. Speak to a resident of St Louis, Detroit, Milan or Barcelona, all cities with a declining population, and they might welcome an arrest to this decline. Booming cities bring additional jobs, wealth, vibrancy and diversity.
As Australia’s premier global city, we shouldn’t be afraid to grow. The IA report suggests that in 30 years’ time there will be about 2.5 million additional daily journeys on the road network and about 950,000 additional daily journeys on the public transport network.
For a city already facing the challenge of major traffic congestion and creating new and faster transport infrastructure for people to travel around the city, this is a big ask.
Some will suggest that we should just pause and limit growth. There have been times in Sydney’s past when we have invested in road, rail and other infrastructure. And what happened? The population still grew, we just didn’t plan for it. In essence, even though we didn’t build it, they still came. This time around, we can and must plan for a bigger and better Sydney. This means giving a green light to much-needed mass transit projects such as Metro West and the North-South Rail Link. Western Sydney will absorb much of the city’s future population growth and its communities need reliable and fast public transport with easy access to jobs, services and homes.
More people also means creating new communities. While house prices remain high, a record number of houses were built in Greater Sydney last year. But effective planning means that new housing must be close to schools and hospitals, to leisure and cultural facilities and to green spaces.
The good news is that a lot of this planning is already taking place. NSW government and the Greater Sydney Commission will shortly publish final plans on how the city will be shaped over the next 40 years.
Federal government must also come to the table.
In recognising that Greater Sydney will take in a big proportion of Australia’s future population growth, it needs to stump up some of the cash to build better infrastructure.
Change can sometimes be unsettling. There are those who will fear a Sydney of 7.5 million people. However, we are at our best as a city when we embrace our pioneering spirit and embrace, rather than resist, progress. A growing city is a sign of strength. Let’s get building before they come.
Eamon Waterford is director of policy at the Committee for Sydney.