Creating Great Australian Cities: Time for Action

Australia’s major cities risk heading towards a low amenity, low liveability future unless all levels of government, business and the community work together to rethink and refresh how we plan, build and manage our urban areas.

A major new research project commissioned by the Property Council of Australia provides an ‘outside in’ perspective on Australia’s major cities, based on an analysis of global megatrends, case studies and benchmarks.

The landmark research looks at how Australia’s major cities are positioned for the ‘metropolitan century’ - an era of increasing urbanisation and more diverse competition around the world.

The project comprises four comprehensive papers on global city megatrends and disruptors; benchmarking of Australian cities with their global peers; lessons from international case studies; and, recommendations on the policy toolkit for creating great Australian cities. The reports have been authored by Professor Greg Clark and Dr Tim Moonen of The Business of Cities Ltd.

Australia is not alone in facing the challenges of growing cities, although our major cities will grow year on year at above-OECD averages over the next 30 years.

Australia’s population is set to increase from 25 million to 36 million and three-quarters of this growth will happen in just four of our major cities: Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

The research project shows that Australian cities have inherited many unique strengths and are internationally highly regarded. But, our cities are not well equipped to face the remainder of the metropolitan century. The brand reputation for Australian cities is stronger than their actual performance in critical areas.

Population growth in Australian cities is outstripping the capacity of their infrastructure systems, housing supply and metropolitan governance. Australian cities are less well served than their international peers by high capacity infrastructure, and are less coordinated and less well-managed.

These deficits have previously been less costly due to the exceptional natural environment, few constraints on growth, successive cycles of economic growth and a compelling set of national and city brands based on lifestyle and opportunity.

However, these positive attributes won’t be enough for Australian cities to prosper in the metropolitan century.

As the report highlights, ‘The metropolitan age holds great promise for countries that get it right, and untold risks for those that get it wrong.’

Our big cities need metropolitan infrastructure, new urban forms, better governance and new policy tools if the rapid population growth and the economic transition underway in our cities is to be well-managed.

Ken Morrison, Chief Executive of the Property Council of Australia, said Creating Great Australian Cities was designed to stimulate debate among policy-makers, business and the community on the future of our cities.

‘More than 90 per cent of Australians live in urban areas. This discussion is absolutely vital to the future prosperity and liveability of our cities,’ Mr Morrison said.

‘Cities are about people, and the employment, educational, cultural and lifestyle opportunities they provide.

‘Australians love their cities, but they are becoming more difficult places to live, work and travel around and gain access to affordable and good quality homes,’ Mr Morrison said.

Professor Greg Clark said there is a clear challenge for Australian cities to match their brand appeal of great lifestyle and opportunity with systems of management, investment and coordination and reform that equip them for the century ahead.

‘Australia is not alone in facing up to these challenges,’ Professor Clark said

‘All of the great cities of the 21st century have been through some version of this trek. Australian cities are starting from further behind, but they can also benefit from the experience of comparable cities around the world.

‘Australians are being challenged to rethink their traditional ideas about their cities, including a future that involves shifting from the low-density sprawl of the past to high quality, medium density living.

‘Addressing the challenges and opportunities of the metropolitan century is not just an agenda for politicians, urbanists, metropolitan elites or city planners.

‘It needs to be a national project that touches every aspect of public life and demands the support of every Australian,’ Professor Clark said.

James Tuma, National Design Director for Urbis said: ‘Australian cities are at an exciting juncture. In an age of the Metropolitan Century and Asian Century, we have the opportunity to define the future of our cities. One that is distinctively Australian, yet also confident on the global stage.

‘In doing so, we may need to challenge conventional thinking about liveability and density; the two can go hand in hand. This is already starting to happen with millennials who view cities as not only a place of employment - but a place that celebrates innovation and culture, and presents new and distinctive experiences.

The task of future-proofing our cities isn’t an easy one, but it is one that together, with strategic thinking and design, we can achieve,’ Mr Tuma said.

Professor Clark will present the findings of the research project and its recommendations at a series of events in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane during May, and in Perth in June.

More information on Creating Great Australian Cities including the reports and fact sheets is available from

Media contact: Matt Francis | M 0467 777 220 | E [email protected]