Strong planning critical for Sydney's future

Today’s planning will only truly be valued in tomorrow’s Sydney, New South Wales Minister for Planning and Minister for Housing, the Hon. Anthony Roberts said in Sydney.

Addressing CEDA’s Sydney 2050 event, an annual discussion looking at the future of the city, Mr Roberts said  when planning is done well, it’s benefits will be valued for decades if not generations.

“Our planning system needs to be nimble, it needs to be progressive and it needs to be open to insights,” he said. 

“Planning drives this state – planning is fundamentally the allocation of resources which is the basis of all economics. 

“Planning’s resource is land – that finite commodity that determines where economic activity takes place and where people live. 

“If we don’t plan strategically the economy either doesn’t know where to go or is inefficient. 

“Without sharp strategic planning the whole system breaks down and the State Government needs to intervene and that’s not what I want as Planning Minister.”

He said the Government aims instead to be the guide and support self-determination in the planning process. The Government should worry about macro issues and let councils and local communities plan their neighbourhoods. 

Mr Roberts said planning for now had not served Sydney well in the past.

“Arguably we failed future generations with our love of the quarter acre block and unwillingness to control or plan for its urban sprawl,” he said.

“We can’t live like the 1970s when people built new homes on subdivisions and then worried about who was going to build their footpath, school or road. That planning for the old is not a level of planning that we want to enter into now.” 

He said it was critical to acknowledge the absolute need for Sydney’s renovation. 

“The unprecedented infrastructure spend of this Government is not folly, it’s vital," the Minister said. 

He said it is particularly vital to meet population growth with projections showing NSW will grow to some 9.9 million people by 2036 and is just days away from passing eight million. 

“Greater Sydney is one of fastest growing regions in the western world and we need to set ourselves up to become competitive economically in the global market,” he said. 

“We also want to continue being one of the most desirable places on this planet in which to live.”
He said there were lessons to be learned from Sydney’s “bumbling planning history” now colliding with major growth needs. 

“Firstly, inaction is not an option. We must plan for the future not the now. Infrastructure services must meet or indeed exceed growth,” he said. 

“Secondly we’re dealing with complex realities as well as topography and there is no one correct answer or mightiest stakeholder. 

“The State Government can’t force change from the top down. We need to collaborate while at the same time providing guidance. Interventionist government doesn’t need to be there for every step of the planning process. 

“But history shows when we think big and we get it right the benefits last for generations. “

The Minister cited the Greater Sydney Commission’s A Metropolis of Three Cities plan as an example that has made a huge advance in the city’s strategic planning with many people working together to provide a meaningful path to the future.

Mr Roberts said while the Government wants to empower councils and businesses with more autonomy in planning, he will not hesitate to step in if councils don’t do the right thing. 

Further, he said he would be happy if in a few years there are no planned precincts because that will mean councils would have done their jobs well. 

“Planned precincts were a necessary response to inertia and chaos. But I want the State Government to ultimately get out of the way of local councils and communities. But I’m not going to be afraid to call out inefficiencies or councils that aren’t serving their citizens well by capitalising on the incredible infrastructure being provided,” he said.  

The Minister said housing has been the Government’s priority since it came to office and inherited an undersupply of 100,000 dwellings, driven almost entirely by Sydney. Since then the Government has increased supply to record levels, with more homes under construction in NSW than any time in history. 

“We needed to move the dial dramatically and we did. Frankly I’m done with the term ‘overdevelopment’ in this booming state. Overdevelopment does not exist. Infrastructure failure exists,” the Minister said. 

“Growth projections show we can’t actually overdevelop while meeting the needs of Sydney.
“Admittedly previous governments have allowed poor development but I’m confident we’re rectifying that with world’s best design and planning principles. 

“And that’s the issue. Today people drive past tired old legacy projects and lament they were examples of what was acceptable. Not any more. We need, and we are encouraging bold thinking. We are encouraging the best not the adequate.” 

Revised plan to look towards 2050

Sydney Lord Mayor Cr Clover Moore told the event that the framework for the successful Sustainable Sydney 2030 plan will be maintained in a revised plan looking towards 2050. 

Reflecting on the development of Sydney’s planning strategy, Ms Moore said it had been developed in 2007 following the largest community consultation in the city’s history. 

She said consultation on Sustainable Sydney 2030 found 97 per cent of people wanted the city to take action on climate change, wanted a strong economy, a city that supports arts and a city that connects people to each other and the world. Those ambitions were summarised in the words green, global and connected. 

“Sustainable Sydney 2030 is the cornerstone of what we do and everything we’ve been doing since that time. We constantly refer to it and update it as circumstances change,” she said.  

“Our wide consultation and the fact that we’re transparent, accountable and corruption free, and that we take action on commitments has contributed to our strong track record and the broad acceptance of our agenda.”

Under Sustainable Sydney 2030 housing development has focused on urban renewal precincts. Around 250 projects have been completed with dozens receiving design awards. Some $25 billion of private sector development has been approved resulting in high-quality developments that add to Sydney’s appeal and international reputation, Cr Moore said. 

Cr Moore said while Sustainable Sydney 2030 has helped Sydney face many challenges, new challenges mean it’s time to revisit the plan. 

“In the years since Sustainable Sydney 2030 was adopted there has been a whole range of new challenges arising and some old challenges intensifying,” she said.

“Population pressures are bringing their own challenges on social infrastructure. Technology is continuing to evolve, and smart cities are becoming more common. 

“At the same time rising inequality, homelessness and mental illness are matched with increasing levels of obesity and growing one-person households at risk of social isolation.” 

She said it’s now time for Sydney to look beyond 2030. The city will soon proceed with a new community consultation to develop a revised strategic plan looking out to 2050. It will again be informed by research and the best possible technical advice. 

“Our new 2050 plan will include our original 2030 framework and those targets while including new targets for the decades to 2050,” she said.

“Our targets will be informed by an extensive consultation program again and input from experts. 
“Working out what Sydney will look like in 2050 must come from our community; from our residents, our businesses, our workers, our visitors, our students and even our children.

“It must be informed by the aspirations of the community and must be informed by thorough research and through real collaboration with business and other levels of government. 

“It is what we did in developing Sustainable Sydney 2030 and I think the results show what can be achieved when you’ve got good governance, when you’ve got long term vision and you’ve got sustained ethical leadership.”

The Hon. Anthony Roberts
Minister for Planning, Minister for Housing 
N180914_Roberts_Speech | MP3

Cr Clover Moore
Lord Mayor of Sydney | MP3

QandA | MP3

Delegate Handout | PDF