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Friday
Nov252011

Sydney No.1

 

Australia’s major cities have long held competitive strengths in liveability. The 2010 ADC Cities Report: Enhancing Liveability describes liveability as a key part of “brand Australia”, a critical element in attracting and retaining the brightest and best and in providing the basis for a high quality of life for all Australians, whether they live in cities or simply visit them.

 Australian capital cities regularly feature in the top ten in international liveability rankings. However, the refreshingly honest federal State of Australian Cities 2010 report noted a concerning tendency for some rankings to decline in recent years. The absence of cities of greater than 5 million among the top ranked cities in The Economist and Mercer liveability surveys is also notable.

 Australia has seen a number of different population projections of late, with projected numbers for 2050 being successively increased to about 36 million, and even higher in some scenarios. A range of 26 to 40+ million population by 2050 is currently well within the range of possibilities, the former perhaps reflecting a policy decision to have zero net migration and the latter assuming a sustained very high migration level, possibly linked to an humanitarian decision regarding a growing intake of climate refugees.

In light of these numbers, should we be planning for cities of 8-9 million or aiming to redirect growth to new cities or smaller cities? Can we have better cities at the same time we have bigger cities? If we have bigger cities, must they be high density?

 Professor Ed Blakely from The University of Sydney notes that, with the right linkages, cities of 250,000-300,000 people, either standing alone or as a substantially self-contained element within a wider city, can have the benefits of both scale and density to be competitive, without the detriment and burden related to larger populations.

 The “city of cities” concept acknowledges population groupings of this scale, and urban planning is increasingly recognising the benefits of structuring larger groupings of population into modules of this size. This means that entirely new cities can get built with 250,000 to 300,000 people or parts of existing cities re-imagined around this sizing. 250,000-300,000 persons in large conurbations provide for a sense of spatial identity and boundary, while allowing each node to contain many aspects of urbanity, such as theatres, sports teams and large parks and gardens.

 The logic of this suggests that “cities” of 250,000 to 300,000 people, embedded with meaningful densities (sufficient to support strong economic and social networks, with a high degree of walkability being a key indicator), the right elements of competitiveness and inclusiveness for a knowledge economy, and good accessibility both within the city and between other cities, should provide one focus for our future thinking about cities. Within larger cities, the modularity implied by this approach provides an opportunity to soften the consequences of size by thinking village/neighbourhood.

 There does not need to be a fixation on building mega cities. This allows our urban thinking to consider the most desirable strategic locations within the nation, taking into account relationships with resources, the environment and linkages to other cities and regions, both within Australia and externally.

 

Australian Davos Connection

Sydney No. 1 Rt click