Huge Challenges as Australia Cities ‘Shrink Back in’ on Themselves

melbourne suburb aerial shot

Major cities throughout Australia face enormous challenges competing with an ever growing number of large cities throughout the region, Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese says.

Albanese added that Australian cities will undergo profound change as they increasingly shrink back in on themselves as more work is concentrated in an around major CBD areas.

Speaking in Melbourne at the launch of the State of Australian Cities 2012 report on Tuesday, the Minister said Australian cities are ranked among the best in the world.

He also said increasing levels of wealth and urbanisation within the Asia Pacific region provided opportunities for Australia in terms of demand for minerals and opportunities for sectors such as financial services.

But he warned that Australian cities are facing increasing competition, and that how the country plans and manages its cities will be a critical factor in terms of our ability to capitalise on these opportunities.

“For the past two centuries, Australia and New Zealand have been the only advanced economies in our region,” he said. “There are now 280 cities with a million people or more in our time zone. About 40 of these are as big as or bigger than Sydney or Melbourne.”

Albanese noted that Australian cities will continue to face competition from a growing number of larger cities in the region.

“That puts a major incentive in dealing with how we position ourselves in our increasingly urbanised and increasingly affluent region,” he said. “Our cities have to be more productive. Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it’s nearly everything.”

Albanese added that the changing nature of cities will mean more need for inner-urban medium density housing as work increasingly shifts away from outer urban areas toward city centres.

over crowded train

“In terms of economic functions, our cities are shrinking in on themselves,” he said. “The forces which drove the spread of our cities in the post-war period, predominately manufacturing, are being replaced by knowledge industries – the banking, legal, insurance and myriad of other business services.”

Albanese pointed out that the changes will continue to influence the shape of cities in Australia.

“Whereas manufacturing plants which are traditionally located on the city fringe or in industrial zones, the job-rich knowledge industries tend to concentrate in the heart of our cities,” he said. “As the State of Australian Cities reports, this trend is seeing more and more workers commuting into our city centres.”

While this can cause challenges, Albanese said it can also bring about positive change, ensuring that growth is not concentrated in CBDs in the middle of major cities.

“We need to take seriously the idea of second, third and fourth major CBDs in our capital cities if we are going to deal with some of the challenges that are there,” he said. “At the same time, we see housing growth continue to creep outwards, making the journey to these jobs increasingly difficult.  Narrowing the distance between where people live and where they work needs to be at the forefront of urban planning in coming years.”

The State of Australian Cities 2012 report provides a snapshot of key trends regarding population, productivity, sustainability, livability and governance across all 18 ‘major cities’ in the nation with a population of greater than 100,000.

By Andrew Heaton
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