Address to Sydney Transport Forum

The following is an address by the Director of the UWS Urban Research Centre, Professor Phillip O'Neill, at the NSW Transport Forum, which the Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian attended. 

I'd like to start with the major report from Infrastructure NSW, released a fortnight ago. The report is called First Things First, and it contains advice to the government about infrastructure strategies over the next 20 years.

In Section 4.2 the report discusses the economy of the part of Sydney it calls Greater Sydney, which is bits of the north and south of Sydney, but mainly the Greater West. Section 4.2 identifies Greater Sydney as being specialist in four economic sectors: manufacturing, logistics, construction, and local services; local services being a category that includes healthcare, education and retailing.

Now I'm not going to get picky about the categories. What interests me is the statement that comes next in the report.

"This industrial mix means Greater Sydney's employment patterns are much more dispersed than in Global Sydney, where most activity is focused on a small number of high-density centres that are clustered closely together, with the CBD paramount," the report says.

"Sectors such as manufacturing, logistics and construction do not benefit from close proximity in the way that many service sectors do. Preference is given instead to less dense areas which generally bring lower land, labour and transportation costs."
"While Greater Sydney contains important regional centres such as Parramatta, Liverpool and Penrith, these account for a much smaller proportion of employment in the region, and these centres are also relatively distant from each other. Most employment is spread across the region."
"The residential and employment patterns of the metropolitan area have implications for infrastructure investment in Greater Sydney, particularly for transport infrastructure. The concentration of jobs in Global Sydney means many Greater Sydney residents commute into the region each day, often by public transport. The majority of Greater Sydney residents work within the region however and rely on their cars to get to work. Congestion is a daily issue therefore for many lives across Greater Sydney."

Minister, this extract summarises Sydney�s transport problem perfectly because it shows two things.
The first thing about the extract is that it recognises the prime geographical problem we confront. This is that jobs in Western Sydney have become too dispersed to be matched by a decent public transport system.
But the second thing it tells us, is that whoever is doing the analysis for government has very little idea about location theory nor of the role of infrastructure. To say that �manufacturing, logistics and construction do not benefit from close proximity� is not just silly. The statement, if acted on, is costly to government, taxpayers and the environment.
From around the 1980s government and planners took their eyes off the jobs ball. Now, Minister, you and Minister Gay are looked to to retrofit a transport system over the top of a congested, car-tied city, to do all these meetings out west, while the economic and finance ministers look down from their Macquarie Tower offices, across other closely proximate office towers, their eyes drawn to the harbour, as they ponder the next stages in the success story that we know as Global Sydney.
Of course, one task for these ministers is to ensure the success of $6 billion worth of commercial investments at Barangaroo. Which will create, we are told, another 23,000 CBD jobs. Which works out at over 3,000 jobs per hectare. Remember this figure.
In comparison, we find these densities for Sydney�s newest employment lands: For the North West region, the ratio is 31 jobs per hectare; for the South West region it is lower at 25 jobs per hectare. Minister, the best new employment lands along the M7 corridor are barely yielding 15 jobs per hectare.
Barangaroo will yield 3,000 jobs per hectare.
Sure, Western Sydney isn't on the harbour, and it doesn't have a CBD with 300,000 plus jobs.
Yet simply to maintain the presently inadequate local supply of jobs for Western Sydney will mean a net additional 384,000 jobs within Western Sydney over the next 25 years.
To put it another way, Western Sydney will need the jobs equivalent of 16.7 Barangaroos over the next 25 years, or one Barangaroo completion every 18 months. In total, the employment targets are these. For here in West Central, we need 4.3 Barangaroos. North West will need 6.3 Barangaroos and South West will need 6.1 Barangaroos.
And all this while Eastern Sydney seeks 13 additional Barangaroos of its own just to satisfy the jobs needs of its own growing population.
My point is this Minister. Adding 683,000 jobs to Sydney in the 25 years is a mind boggling task. Completing the motorways, as you propose, is right and proper, in my view.
But the next task isn't just a transport planning task. First and foremost it is an employment creation and planning task. Sydney's new jobs must be located in concentrations: in our major centres and in higher density industrial estates and corridors so that they can be serviced by public transport not by private motor vehicles. The era of jobs scatter has to end. The era of jobs creation in major concentrations has to commence.


23 October 2012

Contact: Mark Smith, Media Officer