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How to deliver better places to live and a more competitive Australia

The State of Australian Cities 2014-15 report released yesterday once again reinforces the need for strong investment in our cities, says the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).

“We are pleased to see that this report has been made public at long last. Previous editions have been downloaded millions of times, demonstrating that Australians place a great deal of importance in measuring and reporting on the performance and progress of our cities”, says the GBCA’s Chief Operating Officer, Robin Mellon.

Australia’s cities generate more than 80% of our GDP and more than 7.6 million people are employed in Australia’s capital cities, yet the report shows that the labour productivity of Sydney and Melbourne falls below international averages and all of our other cities rank outside of the top 100 Asian-Pacific cities for Global Urban Competitiveness.

The report highlights two distinct trends; density is increasing in the inner cities, but alongside continuing low-density growth outwards, making commute times longer and urban fringe-dwellers increasingly distant from employment, education and health opportunities.

According to Mr Mellon, “Increasing density can deliver improved productivity and a great quality of life in Australia’s cities, but it is only through best practice planning and delivery we can ensure that liveability, affordability, productivity, sustainability and health outcomes will be positive.”

While it is important to highlight issues such as changing demographics and settlement patterns, the GBCA is concerned that the report does not mention the urgent need to make our cities more resilient to climate extremes, nor opportunities for reducing emissions or the impact of our cities.

“There is no single, simple solution for better, more sustainable cities, but there are a number of things we can do to ensure our cities remain the resilient, competitive engines of our economy, as well as places people want to – and can afford to – live,” Mr Mellon adds.

The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) has today called for new investment in cities and action by all governments with the release of its policy platform, Investing in Cities.

“We must deliver best practice infrastructure planning and new investment, create sustainable places for people through best practice buildings and urban design, and measure and report success,” Mr Mellon says. “All spheres of government must work together, and with industry, to develop effective, strategic, long-term planning systems.”

ASBEC President, Ken Maher adds that “with our cities growing so quickly, we need governments to deliver policies that maximise their value and protect the ‘liveability’ we are world-famous for. With this report ASBEC has delivered clear next steps for all spheres of government”.

“As an ASBEC member, the GBCA is calling for national leadership and coordination through a federal Minister for Cities. The Australian Government has a critical role to play in providing direction and coordinating evidence-based, integrated policies and financing arrangements.