It’s time for the Emerald City to shine

When we invoke the name of John Bradfield, it is usually associated with his vision for the Sydney Harbour Bridge. There’s no doubt it is a landmark asset for our city and an engineering and design masterpiece. But Bradfield’s name means so much more. It emphasises the need to be bold, ambitious and truly blue-sky in the way we plan for the future. That is why The Daily Telegraph has been right to emphasis his story and paint it as a lesson in seizing the possibilities before us.

Sydney’s economic renaissance in recent years is remarkable. And, bit by bit, we are shifting from a city where the naysayers told us what shouldn’t be done to a place where we applaud renewal and growth.

So the challenge then is to ensure it is more than a blip before slipping into bad old habits and instead set Sydney up for the generations to come.

Here are some ways to do it:

  • We need a new strategic plan for Sydney — and, more importantly, the capability to translate it to results on the ground. The Greater Sydney Commission, set to be unveiled, needs powers that allow it to bust through bureaucratic roadblocks and inertia.
  • The current renewal of infrastructure is welcomed but just a start on closing the backlog across Sydney. To actually get ahead of the game, it means the government’s objective of releasing $20 billion from the poles and wires to spend on infrastructure must proceed.
  • Every current or future infrastructure project should be audited to assess opportunities for new precincts with greater densities that bring together housing, jobs and transport.
  • Badgerys Creek is a game-changer — if we get it right. So let’s plan now for the roads and rail links, water and electricity investments and other infrastructure essential to make surrounding land use happen.
  • Red tape still kills projects and investment, so new planning laws that create a simpler, clearer and more efficient system are a must. Code assessment — where if you comply with the rules, you’re more certain of a quick approval — should be central to the changes.

The numbers are compelling. Sydney is poised to grow by more than 1.6 million people in the next 15 to 20 years. That means we need additional homes, stronger centres, extra jobs, better amenity and more efficient infrastructure.

If we get it right and embrace growth as an opportunity to remake our great city, we can give it the future it deserves. It is our time to shine.

Glenn Byres is NSW Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia.

This piece was first published in the Daily Telegraph.