Misdiagnosing our cities

The one thing worse than not getting an ailment treated, is getting it mistreated.

Misdiagnosis can make problems worse.

Over the past week there has been plenty of debate about the growth of our cities. There’s been much talk about immigration, congestion and population growth.

The Property Council is a big believer in the economic and social benefits of cities. After all, have you ever seen a modern agricultural economy top any rankings for income, literacy, life expectancy or health?

It doesn’t ever happen because there are big economic, social, educational and health benefits that come from agglomeration.

Eighty per cent of Australia’s income comes from its cities and they account for two-thirds of all jobs and eighty per cent of all jobs growth. That’s a good thing.

Of course, we face challenges from growing cities. The answer to these challenges is not to ‘wave the white flag’ or mistakenly declare that our cities are ‘full’. Rather it is to anticipate it, and to plan and invest for it. It is to choose smart growth over dumb growth.

As a country we need to modulate our policy settings to growth, because that is the Australian experience. Last Friday, Infrastructure Australia published a very helpful blueprint to do just that. Its Future Cities discussion paper represented a clear eyed view of the planning challenge for Sydney and Melbourne in particular, and for all of our cities. You can read more about this below.

Our cities are growing. That means we must keep investing in the future. To their credit, our various state and territory governments get it (most of the time). There’s terrific investment in new transport linkages in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra. That’s good news!

We are also seeing government agencies like Infrastructure Australia and their state counterparts preparing the way for regular, ongoing, targeted investment in the economic and social capabilities of our cities and our regions. We can all take confidence from their good work.

So let’s not misdiagnose what is happening in our cities: they are creating new jobs and stronger futures. But we must also keep investing in the capabilities of our cities to avoid the pitfalls that we have seen before.

Finally, this week marks the final week of campaigning in the Tasmanian election. In recent years, Tasmania has been going from strength to strength and in this issue of Property Australia we look at the issues facing the industry in Tasmania and the choices before it in this election.