May 18, 2011

Our Cities, Our Future

The Gillard Labor Government has today released a long-term blueprint for making the nation’s eighteen biggest cities and regional centres – the engine rooms of growth, innovation and opportunity – even more productive, sustainable and liveable.

During an address this morning to the Property Council of Australia I released our National Urban Policy – Our Cities, Our Future: a national urban policy for a productive, sustainable and liveable future.

We understand that as one of the most urbanised societies on the planet, Australia’s continuing economic prosperity will largely depend on how successful we are at making our cities work better. Already they house three-in-four Australians, produce 80 per cent of our national income and create 75 per cent of the nation’s jobs.

Developed by my Department’s Major Cities Unit following extensive consultations with all levels of government, as well as academia and town planners, the final framework sets out ways to:

  • Better connect infrastructure with work and opportunity in our cities so we can reduce people’s dependency on the car
  • Develop high quality public transport and infrastructure systems to ease congestion and improve quality of life.
  • Reduce the carbon footprint of our cities and adapt them to the consequences of climate change.
  • Improve urban planning and design to better reflect our increasingly diverse lifestyles.

While Australian cities are amongst the most liveable in the world, there’s no room for complacency given the long term challenges we face including climate change, population growth and an ageing population.

For instance, in the absence of a new approach, traffic congestion is set to cost Australian businesses and families more than $20 billion a year by the end of this decade.

Importantly, we don’t seek to diminish the role town halls and state or territory authorities play in shaping the character of their local communities. Instead we’re offering national leadership and a readiness to make strategic investments in support of the actions being taken by other levels of government.

To progress implementation of the framework, last week’s Federal Budget made an initial down-payment with a $181 million Action Plan for Our Cities which included:

  • A $20 million Liveable Cities and Urban Renewal Program to leverage additional resources from state, territory and local governments for innovative solutions to poor urban design, high levels of car dependency, traffic congestion, a lack of open space and rising carbon emissions
  • A National Smart Managed Motorways Trial to be developed by Infrastructure Australia and involving the retrofitting of smart technology to improve traffic flows along congested motorways and outer city roads, with $61.4 million available to co-fund projects with those states and territories which sign onto our historic national transport reforms
  • A new $100 million Sustainable Australia – Suburban Jobs initiative to develop job opportunities and employment precincts close to where people live in the outer suburbs of Australia’s major capital cities.

Our Cities, Our Future and the accompanying action plan are the latest initiatives designed to restore national leadership over the growth of our cities and the development of a sustainable Australia.

Since being first elected in late 2007, this Labor Government has:

  • Established the Major Cities Unit to put issues such as traffic congestion, and urban planning back on the national agenda
  • Committed more than $7.3 billion to modernise and extend urban passenger rail infrastructure in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and the Gold Coast – the most significant ever Federal investment
  • Recognised the importance of infrastructure planning, placing the need for reform on the agenda of COAG with the establishment of the National Planning Taskforce
  • Required state and territory government to have strategic plans for their capital cities in place by 1 January 2012 as a condition of Federal infrastructure funding
  • Compiled and published the first State of Australian Cities report, establishing a baseline to monitor the performance of our cities and inform our efforts to build more sustainable, affordable and accessible urban communities.

The National Urban Policy complements COAG’s commitment to reforming city planning systems as well as our recently released Sustainable Population Strategy and ongoing commitment to regional Australia.

A copy of Our Cities, Our Future: a national urban policy for a productive, sustainable and liveable future can be found at: www.infrastructure.gov.au