A lesson noticed nationwide

There are newspaper articles that become fish’n’chips wrapping and there are newspaper articles that change the course of cities.

On 19 March 2000, months before the Sydney Olympics, the Sun Herald reported “The House is Full”. The article appealing to public antipathy to immigration and growth argued that Sydney must stop growing.

The industry knows that article marked one of the worst policy shifts in the state’s history.

Backed by the declaration of the then Premier that “Sydney is full”, the NSW Government stopped investing in infrastructure, introduced new charges and taxes to stifle investment and gave up on planning reform.

But population growth doesn’t halt via political decree. Instead of ‘Sydney is full’ we found that ‘Sydney had stopped’.

The end result was congestion, over-crowding in schools and hospitals and an acceleration in house prices. It was a lesson noticed nationwide.

But nothing in the world is new. This week the front page of another Sydney newspaper declared “We’re full”.

Again, we are witnessing the posturing of the short-term. Fortunately, it's harder to play the same bad trick twice.

The good news is that the growth ahead is quite manageable. According to most experts, the expected growth for our major cities over the next 20 years is about the same as what has occurred over the last twenty years. 

While our cities are bigger now – they are also more vibrant, more prosperous, more connected and have better infrastructure and transport planning than 20 years ago. We are overcoming the mistakes of the past, and mostly, getting our cities right.

But we can’t take anything as certain – and our cities still continue to require foresight and leadership from politicians, media and business.

You can be assured that during the debates ahead that the Property Council will continue to advocate for policies that result in cities that are more liveable, sustainable and prosperous.