June 5, 2018
Source: Illawarra Mercury
Author: Glen Humphries
05 June, 2018
Wollongong could follow the lead of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Hong Kong by becoming part of a mega-region.
The Committee for Sydney brought together a panel of experts, including University of Wollongong Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings as deputy chair to investigate better links between Sydney and regional centres.
“International experience has demonstrated the scale of the economic and social benefits that mega-regions can deliver without compromising the distinctive historical and cultural identities of their individual component cities,” Prof Wellings said.
The panel has put forward a report suggesting Wollongong, Newcastle and Sydney link up to form what it called the “Sandstone” Mega-Region – after the geological bases of the three areas.
The report pointed out that places we think of as a single city – like San Francisco or Hong Kong – are often part of a larger group of cities.
“All successful growing cities extend beyond their formal boundaries and are supported by other cities,” the report stated.
“That is, behind every great city there is a network of other great cities.”
The report calls on planners to consider whether having Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle develop as three separate cities is better than joining them together.
Such a mega-region would have more than 75 per cent of the state’s 3.6 million workforce, more than 70 per cent of the NSW population and around 25 per cent of the nation’s population.
But this mega-region won’t happen without something the Illawarra has been after for years – a one-hour train ride to Sydney.
“Even a moderately fast rail network that reaches speeds of 200km/h could connect Newcastle, the Central Coast and Wollongong with Sydney in 60 minutes or less,” the report said.
A trip longer than an hour would make it impossible for the region to function as a single economic entity – which is the other key thing that has to happen for the mega-region to be a success.
At first a 60-minute trip would lead to one-way traffic as Illawarra residents travel to Sydney in the morning and home in the evening.
However, the report suggested that could turn around in as little as a few years.
“However, our research shows that between three to seven years after the initial transport linking, these flows will begin to reverse, and all centres start to experience growth in local jobs,” the report stated.
One other aspect to consider, the report noted, was how such a mega-region would be governed.
Wollongong and Newcastle were at an advantage, being single-council areas, unlike Sydney with its 31 councils.