October 31, 2017
Author: Nicole Frost
31 October, 2017
While Sydney has a global reputation as a fun and welcoming destination for tourists, in some areas it’s falling behind the competition as a compelling place to live, experts say.
Competitive cities tend to have strong economies, adaptable labour forces, and a good quality of life, which includes good transport and infrastructure.
But as people flock to big cities around the globe – 75 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050 – Sydney is struggling to cope with the influx, Director of Policy of the Committee for SydneyEamon Waterford said.
Sydney was lagging in several areas by comparison to similarly-sized developed, competing cities such as Amsterdam, Beijing and Chicago, Mr Waterford said during a panel discussion at CBTUH’s Connecting the City Conference earlier this week.
Specifically, affordability for young professionals, transport options, internet speed, and the digital sector competitiveness were holding the harbour city back.
Mr Waterford said the “unintended consequences of somewhat unmanaged growth” were becoming increasingly visible in Australia’s most populous city.
“The inflated costs, the loss of liveability, the deficits in infrastructure are all beginning to affect Sydney’s performance in a bunch of different measures,” he said.
Architect and spatial design researcher Christian Derix said the perception of Sydney as a tourist destination was different to the reality of living there.
“The brand of Sydney is very strong, and often tied to the Bridge and Opera House … and with the fun factor of the beaches and the harbour. But living in the city is quite a different experience,” Mr Derix said.
According to population forecasts, another quarter of the city’s population will be added to Sydney by 2030, with growth outstripping comparable cities such as Toronto.
Grappling with the issue of infrastructure and housing demands for this growing population, while simultaneously boosting economic prosperity, was one of the main topics under examination during the Branding the City panel.
On one hand Sydney excelled in global financial services, attracting investment and luring global firms, largely due to its geographical location as a gateway to South East Asia.
But the city was performing worse than in 2016 in terms of business friendliness, transport, infrastructure and liveability, Mr Waterford said, citing the Committee for Sydney’s recent report about the city’s performance.
Rated second in the world last year for liveability, Sydney had dropped down the ranks in 2017 – partly due to Liveability indexes taking into account that merely having natural attractions such as waterways, beaches and national parks was not enough.
“If you can’t get to those things, it doesn’t matter [if they exist]. Part of the challenge of Sydney is that our transport network fails us,” Mr Waterford said, noting that now the ease of access to a city’s attractions was being factored into liveability studies, the harbour city’s ranking was beginning to falter.
The chair of the panel, Viviana R Muscettola, from Zaha Hadid Architects, said the challenge was attracting global talent to Sydney and then convincing them to stay.
While the “fun vibe” of the city was an important factor, recent changes in visa restrictions were making it more difficult to get the sort of workers that the city needed to truly become a global city, she said.
Mr Derix, who had also set up an office in London, said he had great difficulty trying start a similar group in Sydney. He was reliant on bringing in talent rather than finding it locally, he said, and recent visa changes had made that more difficult.
“We are in the CBD where it is all very nice, but my operations are really hampered by the governance, rather than the city itself”, he explained.