Built environment | Urban Planning | Cities

Making Sydney an even greater city on the agenda

Improving its ability to implement plans, tolerance, quality public transport and strong leadership are key components in making Sydney an even greater city, attendees at CEDA’s Capital Regeneration: Sydney’s New Future event have heard.

Improving its ability to implement plans, tolerance, quality public transport and strong leadership are key components in making Sydney an even greater city, attendees at CEDA's Capital Regeneration: Sydney's New Future event have heard.

Speaking from San Francisco, Arup USA Principal and Leader, Planning Consulting Practice, Aidan Hughes told the audience that a big city was not necessarily a great city, with other factors such as tolerance and inclusiveness equally or more important.

"It's about making sure everyone feels at home," he said.

For that reason he ranked Rio de Janeiro as one of his top cities in the world because it not only had climate and culture, but it was also actively addressing inequality.

Mr Hughes said working with a city's natural assets was also important and the proposal to reconnect and reestablish Sydney as a naturalised waterfront was a great move.

He said what was being proposed for Sydney had precedence as being very successful in other parts of the world in cities such as New York and Copenhagen.

Mr Hughes said cities with public transport that is "for all, used by all and is the mode of choice" was another key factor in building a great city, along with knowledge and knowledge exchange.

"Great cities are cities of learning and teaching, a great city not only provides learning opportunities but importantly engages institutions in the planning and development of the city," he said. 

Key recommendations he had for Sydney were to make sure it was a walkable city, because easy access makes a city more liveable, and to ensure great leadership, citing New York as an example of where under Mayor Michael Bloomberg's leadership, the city was having resurgence in success.

Sue Holliday from the COAG Reform Council, Cities Expert Advisory Panel, provided an overview of the panel's work along with key findings so far in the capital cities reform review.

Ms Holliday said one of the council's initial findings for all capital cities - an area she said Sydney was notorious for - was that Government's are good at making plans but very weak at implementing them.

Ms Holliday said most cities have plans in place "but the big challenge for Sydney and for most Australian cities is implementation".

"One of the strongest findings to date is that the gap between the various visions for cities and the framework that allows both government and private sector to deliver that vision," she said.

"In particular the regulatory and micro economic frameworks that set the rules for delivery are not creating the right conditions - that is the framework is not creating the right balance between risk and reward for the private sector to build our cities in the way we want."

Under the reforms, all capital cities must have a strategic planning process based on nine criteria and Commonwealth infrastructure funding was dependent on consistency with the nine criteria, she said.

Ms Holliday said infrastructure was costly and generally in place for a long time, and with the size of our cities growing and demand for infrastructure increasing, it was important there were strategic planning systems in place.

Each capital city has provided information on their processes to the panel and initial feedback has been provided with the panel to provide a final report in December, she said.

Attendees also heard from:

Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, on the importance of the arts and arts spaces for any major city to create meaningful places for people to use and connect with - and provide new links for businesses. Ms Macgregor highlighted that art spaces can turn dead spaces into living spaces creating a new sense of community.

Professor Stuart White, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney, on the importance of efficiency being embedded into new infrastructure, arguing that efficient energy provision is at the heart of livability.

Cate Harris, Head of Sustainability for Lend Lease, on how they are designing and delivering sustainable developments in Sydney, and that the built environment is our legacy for the future.

For full audios of speakers please click here.