Intergovernmental collaboration needed: COAG Cities Review
Posted : Thursday, May 03, 2012
Intergovernmental collaboration, a renewed public dialogue and
removing barriers to private investment are the key improvements
needed for city planning, a CEDA audience has heard at a recent
event in Sydney.
With Australian cities containing 75 per cent of Australian
jobs, and producing 80 per cent of our GDP, and growing - we need
to act now COAG Reform Council, Chairman,
Paul McClintock AO told the audience.
"While our expectations of our standard of living will only
continue to rise as a community, we really can't afford to be naive
about the fact that our standard of living is linked closely to the
productivity of our nation, and the role that capital cities play
in that equation is crucial," he said.
"We need to act now to ensure our cities can continue to support
us into the future and are able to adapt to the changes in
technology and transforming global economy."
Mr McClintock said the COAG Capital Cities Review "gives
governments an unprecedented opportunity to ...cherry pick ideas
from the processes and systems that are happening in other
The report also supports the belief that just meeting
requirements and a bare minimum criteria is not good enough, he
And while comparisons across cities is not an entirely
meaningful exercise "a little bit of healthy competitive comparison
probably does no harm," he said.
Mr McClintock said the difference between a poor system and good
system was political focus and drive.
"If you have a good system that's well thought through and
structured, the key different factor between it being really good
and fairly ordinary is a very small number of people at the top of
it, who feel passionately about it and drive it consistently," he
He said the COAG Capital Cities Review found that none of the
planning systems reviewed are fully consistent with the criteria
and that no one government or level of government has the answers
to city planning, nor the ability to achieve their goals in
"Managing our cities is complex so collaboration, both in and
between governments is not just a nicety it is a necessity," he
He said that while governments are good at making long-term
plans, the weak link is largely in implementation and in getting
results. He said governments can do more, including:
- Improving the quality and sharing of information and data
available, and using this as a basis for evidence based policy
intervention in cities;
- Increasing engagement with community, business and stakeholders
because you cannot get people to accept change if they don't
understand why it's a priority; and
- Developing policy settings which encourage investment and
innovation in our cities by the private sector because the cost of
keeping them out is huge.
While the governments did seem to understand demand issues
underlying their plans to measure future needs, "no system looked
closely enough or early enough at the viability of their plans in
economic terms," he said.
On Sydney, Mr McClintock said: "The system...contains strong
planning and content but lacks a robust accountability, performance
and implementation measures, which are necessary to support
Infrastructure NSW, Chairman, the Hon
Nick Greiner AC said the reality is you either divide
responsibility between the states and Canberra or, if you don't,
you need intergovernmental collaboration.
Mr Greiner said that while it is obvious that silos are not
good, "intergovernmental collaboration is somewhere between the
bleeding obvious and the bloody impossible".
"We hope and expect that they actually will use common
assumptions, they will talk to each and whilst they don't have to
agree on every particular... there is at least a consistency of
intellectual approach," he said.
The problem in all of these areas is you have multi-factors, but
we need accountability of the public interest, rather than interest
of a single department, whether national or state, he said.
On NSW Mr Greiner said that while "it is very difficult to have
a single streamlined approach to investment applications" the
process is "not yet remotely good enough".
Representing close to 30 per cent of the economic activity of
the nation "getting Sydney right is a matter of national
importance, not just of importance to people who live here, or to
tax payers here in NSW," he said.
Mr Greiner agreed with COAG Reform Council's findings that
Sydney "ought to do better on integration, on prioritising
infrastructure, a long-term plan at Port Botany and the airport in
particular, intergovernmental collaboration, evaluation and
Mr Greiner said he is also concerned about the language in
We must be sensitive to the language of the debate and be
willing to have the debate, which is currently avoided, he
"I think the political debate lags reality and lags the
marketplace," he said.
"The real question is how do you better develop the capacity for
people to live and work in the existing areas which of course
reduces the burden on infrastructure in the sense that
infrastructure is already there or partly there."
KPMG, Director, Government Advisory Services
Group, Paul Low said the real challenge
of planning cities lies in the relationship between state and local
"That's where the real political tension comes - at the
"That interlocking and that relationship between state and local
government is fundamental if we are going to achieve those
"(In addition) we are not going to achieve the strategic
outcomes of our cities if we don't have the regulatory
"More effective interface between strategic and statutory
planning, the alignment and appropriate recalibration of regulatory
settings is critical."
On the issue of housing affordability Mr Low said that while it
drives a lot of the policy debate, the debate is narrow. It needs
to expand beyond the cost of getting a home to include affordable
living; the cost of getting to and from work and the social impact
of this travel, he said.
"They're the real issues that need to be focused on in terms of
the strategic outcomes for the cities," he said.
"More than 30 per cent of your income is spent on issues that
relate to where you live and work."
Mr Low recommended that COAG and the Commonwealth Government:
"Take the work of the COAG Reform Council and the Productivity
Commission's report together and look for solutions."
Committee for Sydney, Strategic Advisor,
Dr Tim Williams said: "Sydney appears to have a
governance gap like I have never seen for a metropolitan city."
Dr Williams said that while Melbourne has increased its share of
GDP in the last decade, Sydney slipped from 27 to maybe 17 per
cent. In addition Sydney has been approving 43 plans for every
10,000 people while Melbourne and Brisbane have been approving 106
and 103 respectively.
Dr Williams also canvassed some issues including housing
affordability, liveability and investment barriers.
"Inheritance is becoming the main access route to (home)
ownership in Sydney," he said.
Seventy per cent of Sydney-siders aged 35 and below cannot
access home ownership while 22 per cent of all Australians own 55
per cent of property, he said.
In addition the balance of the city is a massive issue for
Sydney, he said.
"Half of the population of Sydney now lives west of
Parramatta... but only a third of jobs in Sydney are west of
Parramatta, which explains an awful lot of the transport and other
issues," he said.
"Forty per cent of people in Sydney are travelling 40 minutes
each way to work and 23 per cent are travelling 60 minutes each way
"Politicians need to set housing as a top priority and we need a
new civic dialogue in Sydney around why growth is beneficial."
There is also an agency gap in Sydney and "politicians need to
try and understand the nature of the industry and the kinds of
de-risking that needs to be taken in order to liberate supply," he
"The risk to the private developers is so significant in this
city (Sydney) is that there needs to be de-risking initiatives," he
On April 2 COAG Reform Council (CRC) released their review
of planning systems for Australia's capital cities. Click here to read the report.
CEDA and CRC jointly hosted a series of discussion forums across three
cities to provide stakeholders with the opportunity to discuss
Adelaide, 20 April
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Sydney, 27 April
Melbourne, 4 May