Draft submission of National Urban Policy discussion paper: Our Cities-building a productive,
sustainable and liveable future
This submission has been prepared in response to a series of questions outlined in the Our Cities
1: What is your vision for Australian cities? What should our cities look like in 2030 or even 2050?
Australian cities will be environmentally, socially and economically sustainable, they will be resilient
and adaptive – open to change and challenges. They will be dynamic and participatory, creative and
innovative thus attracting and retaining national and international talent. They will cater to the
needs of the young and old, foreign and indigenous and be full of equal opportunities. They will all
have a unique story to tell, and foster creative milieus.
More specifically, they will be well connected and compact rather than spread out;
transit/pedestrian/green orientated development focused, and possess high-quality, integrated
public transport systems affordable to all. Their economies will be multi-dimensional/ diverse and
focus more on sustainable growth and well-being as opposed to purely GDP. They will be inclusive;
celebrating diversity and accommodating people from all backgrounds. As urban areas get bigger
they will also need to be more distinctly local-supported by strong and dynamic Local Governments.
2. What do you think may be the differing challenges and opportunities faced by regional cities or
cities of different sizes and stages of development?
Loss of talent to the city/attracting people to regional areas
Climate change/natural disasters and extreme weather conditions
Effective leadership, recognising constraints and turning them into assets
Employment opportunities, or lack thereof
Exodus of major corporations/organisations from one city to another
Developing a niche to be distinguished/original compared to other cities
Infrastructure and sprawl associated problems
Changing to a more sustainable transport paradigm
Regional/smaller cities are wellsprings for community support
Small cities provide the opportunity to help ease population pressures from large cities
Opportunity for young cities to learn from older cities
3. What would you consider to be the biggest productivity challenges for our cities and what
approaches would you encourage governments and businesses to pursue?
Attracting and retaining talent
Asset management and aging infrastructure
Business and economic diversity
The challenge of changing demographics and aging building stock
The need to create multi-central locations that support more local jobs and services
Regional Innovation Systems (RIS): the importance of the regional scale and regional
resources in stimulating the innovation capability and competitiveness of firms and regions.
This requires visionary leadership and institutional thickness (associations, forums for
exchange), trust and supportive network building.
Urban clusters/hubs to stimulate knowledge transfer, networks and competition within
particular industries or fields to spur innovative solutions.
Increased multi-sector research and development.
Become well-networked nationally and internationally, thus enabling cities to import
knowledge and best practice from other places.
Enhancing education and training and encouraging skilled migration to bring ideas and
energy to our cities.
Creating a financial environment conducive to venture capital and foreign investment.
4. To what extent can infrastructure planning and investment guide more efficient use of existing
infrastructure and resources?
Cities are shaped by their infrastructure, particularly transport and water systems. Most of our cities
are highly car dependent; they are becoming more and more spread out and less efficient and less
liveable. Further, most of our urban water systems are highly centralised linear systems. It is clear
that if any cities are going to be more efficient and environmentally sensitive a massive investment
in new ‘greener’ infrastructure will be a feature.
Similarly, investment in smart technology can assist in enhancing productivity and existing transport
infrastructure. For example live, interactive bus routes/wait times at existing bus stops may make
buses a more user friendly transport option.
5. How do we better plan for and protect the infrastructure corridors, strategic sites and buffers
we need for the future operation of our cities?
Integrated and coordinated governance.
Good, integrated, long-term land use and planning that effectively foresees and deals with
incompatible and encroaching land uses.
Metropolitan scale physical planning and infrastructure provisions with mechanisms and
funding to deliver.
6. What do you consider to be the most significant transport issues affecting our cities, and what
approaches would you encourage governments to pursue?
Lack of serious commitments to public transport as a transformative tool.
Behaviour change: Encouraging more sustainable modes of transport use; overcoming high
car dependency and single passenger car use.
Accessibility – people in outer suburbs/ low socio-economic areas who can least afford to
own and run cars are forced to drive due to poor public transport infrastructure and poor
Accessibility – safety levels and accessibility for minority groups e.g elderly/disabled.
Freight and transport opportunities – addressing the conflict of freight and other users i.e.
Utilising sustainable transport technologies.
Utilising green transport options: light rail, bus rapid transit (BRT), natural gas buses, trams,
Improving existing public transport frequency and modal interconnections.
Improving hard infrastructure: weather protected bus stops, increased kilometres of bike
paths, increased number of bike stations.
Improving soft infrastructure: Clarifying traffic rules/regulations for cyclists and motorists
sharing roads. Increased funding for programs such as Travelsmart, encouraging ‘walking
buses’ for primary school children.
National Marketing/Branding transport options. For example in Europe subways are easily
identifiable due to the universally recognised M for metro or in London the red circle with
“Underground” in the middle. Whereas station signage throughout Australian states differs
significantly and is not always conspicuous to those unfamiliar with the area. Advertising
health and environmental benefits and holding promotions to increase patronage. For
example discounts for three month/six month passes to encourage commitment to use.
Planning Transit Oriented Developments and Pedestrian Oriented Developments- this will
encourage both public transport use and active transport.
Employment of BRT measures at highly frequented bus stops: physically segregated
exclusive bus lanes, prioritising buses at intersections, enclosed bus stops where passengers
pay to enter the station through a turnstile rather than paying the bus driver, enabling high
speed boarding and reducing transfer delay.
Improving pedestrian access facilities to existing public transport systems.
7. How do we best integrate and leverage continuing investment in infrastructure by all levels of
government, especially for transport, water, sewerage, and energy supply?
- Understand cities as ecosystems and economic systems and establish government, business and
community leadership processes to drive change.
- Promote holistic, long term benefits of sustainable infrastructure, planning and delivery e.g. Job
creation, economic benefits associated with resilience and dealing with extreme weather conditions.
- Use creative investment mechanisms and provide the leadership needed to guide private
8. What is the role for pricing reform (such as water, roads, or carbon pricing) in meeting the
challenges of Australian cities?
Pricing is one part of the equation. We know the cost of these services is going up for residents but it
is important to recognise that planning policy and infrastructure are equally important as pricing.
9. How do we best promote and harness private investment in the infrastructure needs of our
Making the importance of infrastructure’s role in creating more sustainable, liveable cities more
explicit to the wider community so the community is supportive of the changes that will need to
Experience has shown that many private sector investments are under written by governments and
tax payers. Often private sector investment ideas have driven the decisions by government rather
than being government driven. The private sector has a valuable role to play in delivering
infrastructure but it must be made sure that the wider economic and environmental benefits of
infrastructure are understood before falling into the trap of thinking private investment is the
10. What opportunities do you see for governments to achieve better outcomes for urban
communities, by leveraging their investments in other activities such as health and education?
These types of institutions play a significant role in contributing to the shaping of our cities. They are
often large activity centres and need to be located to enhance overall accessibility of services rather
than becoming isolated destinations in their own right.
11. What performance targets should governments set for our public transport systems? How
would these be applied, and what would their effect be?
Performance Target and Application:
Density: Creating viable population centres that support enhanced public transport systems:
there is a strong correlation between increased public transport use and urban density - this
means increasing the population density and mixed uses in parts of the city, in particular,
highly serviced zones.
Service Levels: Increasing public transport frequency and integration – To bring about
behaviour change in citizens, there needs to be a good reason for people to switch from
their cars to public transport. Public transport needs to be as convenient, if not more so,
than driving. As such, frequency, accessibility and interconnections between different modes
(e.g. train and bus) need to make catching public transport easy, fast, enjoyable and
Security: Increasing safety both in and around public transport hubs – If people do not feel
safe getting to or using public transport, they will not use it. Ways of increasing safety in
reality and perception:
o Placing residential and mixed uses, with active frontages around stations creates an
environment of informal community surveillance; this is best achieved by the
presence of diverse functions: housing, offices, shops, lights in windows.
o Complimented with urban design characteristics including good lighting and
providing safe crossings at places convenient to pedestrians, traffic calming around
stations and providing shelter from the elements.
o Increased security guards at night time on public transport to help improve safety
levels for people.
o Another way is to provide places for young people to congregate and socialise (e.g.
skate parks) without being asked to move on rather than loitering around stations.
Accessibility: Addressing accessibility involves understanding social disability and the ways in
which the environment marginalises people with disabilities such that they are considered
an integral part of the design process. If this is done correctly barrier free public transport
and the surrounding environment will perform better for all users. Groups such as women
and low income groups tend to rely on public transport; increased services will enhance
accessibility to these groups and others.
Increased patronage and increased sustainability of our public transport systems with flow on
benefits to the community in terms of well-being.
12. How can government’s best use their leverage to foster more innovation and support the
economy of our cities? How will this enhance our competitive advantage in a global context?
-Because innovation is a place-based social process, city-based leaders must promote social
interactions and shape regional institutions and context to positively affect the innovation process.
City leaders and economic developers should ideally combine their goal of providing a better
business climate with strategies aimed at improving their diversity and tolerance, and adopting
policy approaches that address the broader context in which innovation takes place, rather than
focusing solely on technical and economic components. Addressing creativity in all its facets will
enable cities to respond to urban challenges that will largely determine their success or failure.
Support the economy of cities
- Undertaking cultural planning and place making to create environments where a sense of
community and place evolves and social interactions are enhanced, thus enabling ideas and
innovations to flow.
- Investment and improvement of both hard (buildings, public transport, etc.) and soft (social
networks, institutional connections etc.) infrastructure to develop urban creative milieu: this will
combine to form an environment which provides the platform for the generation of ideas and the
activity base for our cities to develop. The result will be that the ideas bank of possibilities and
potential solutions to any urban problem is broadened. Some of the factors that governments can
employ to foster a creative milieu include: planning physical spaces that foster interaction,
investment in education and training and the creation of local networks or ‘clusters’ of linked
industries, talent and services that foster learning through competing and cooperating affecting
competitiveness within countries as well as across national borders.
- Reducing red tape and implementing policies to support innovation will provide incentives for
innovation and help create a culture of risk taking. This should be coupled with business start-up
assistance, and environments that encourage experiment but provide security in the case of failure.
- Australian building and transport innovations that can contribute global solutions towards
sustainability need to be promoted by the Federal government in partnership with the private
sector. Establish microeconomic rules and incentives governing competition that will encourage
productivity growth. Government can motivate, facilitate, and provide incentives for collective
action by the private sector.
Global Competitive Advantage
- Diverse, inclusive and creative communities that welcome unconventional people is a key to a city’s
success in attracting and retaining talented people, in turn fostering innovation. Governments which
use their resources to foster creative environments, welcoming all kinds of people, will place them in
good stead to attract and retain the world’s talent improving their global competitive advantage.
This is because the enduring competitive advantages in a global economy lie increasingly in local
things – knowledge, relationships, and motivations that distant rivals cannot match.
13. How can we best protect and enhance land and habitats in and around our cities where they
are ecologically sensitive, of heritage value, or highly productive agriculturally?
Fostering a sense of place is one way to protect and enhance important land and habitats
around our cities. By recognising and building on the distinctive characteristics of land and
habitats in and around our cities, including their biological, human and cultural values, we
may be able to ensure their care and protection, which grows out of a sense of worth.
Employing ecologically sustainable urban design can protect ecologically sensitive areas. A
city also needs to recognise its cultural features and this is best done by preserving
important elements and making changes to the urban fabric that complement or enhance
the character and human appeal of a place.
Heritage controls with constant vigilance and creativity is one way to ensure that new
buildings enhance the character of the old. Additionally, emphasising to developers the
importance of heritage and providing incentives for incorporating places of heritage into
developments may help to protect and enhance them and the surrounding environment.
Employing water sensitive urban design (WSUD) that captures and uses stormwater more
sustainably: purifying water in constructed wetlands and other aspects of WSUD will make
natural and cultural places more visible. Wildlife corridors can link sensitive habitats in the
city with the wider bioregion, helping to protect biodiversity, maintain hydrological
patterns, or accommodate infrastructure.
Employment of integrated, decentralised, sustainable water systems may help mitigate the
effects of urbanisation, which have major consequences for productivity. Technologies
such as managed aquifer recharge, rain water tanks, storm water management and waste
management can all vastly increase the water available for irrigation, and reduce the
amount of nutrient run-off into our waterways.
Greenfield development tends to encourage sprawl and encroachment into the urban rural
fringe and bushland. Developing significant incentives (such as tax breaks) for infill and
brownfield development will assist in reducing the disadvantages of expanding greenfield
developments on ecologically sensitive and productive agricultural areas.
14. How do you think we can best support more efficient use of resources (such as water, energy
and food) in our cities?
Require all new development to meet numerically-based targets for water, CO2 equivalent
rather than the less measurbale star systems.
Overcoming common misconceptions that energy efficiencies are small, costly, and take too
long to realise. This can be approached by undertaking a Whole System Design (WSD)
approach to identifying energy efficiency opportunities, thus enabling engineers, planners,
industrial designers, architects etc. to realise that they can achieve larger efficiency
improvements with reasonable rates of return on investment. Applying a WSD approach to
the design of new infrastructure, industry, built environment, transportation vehicles and
new appliances/products can help to identify and achieve large energy efficiency savings.
Greater capacity building among business and technical professionals concerning energy
Overcoming market, informational and institutional barriers to the uptake of energy
efficiency; market failures, such as split incentives can lead to energy efficiency
opportunities being ignored.
Greater use of consumption based star tariffs to provide financial incentives for people
switching to renewable resources.
Regulatory Shifts: Federal and State Governments committing to significant renewable
R&D and adoption of sustainable technologies.
Incentives/penalties and emphasising best practice – moving to the point where best
practice is business as usual.
15. How can we best plan and build our cities and infrastructure to achieve a lower ecological
Provide real incentives for developers to invest in urban renewal rather than greenfields.
Enhance public transport systems and less car-dependent urban design. This means
increasing the population density of parts of the cities and providing transport options which
are faster and which encourage walking and cycling for short journeys. Supporting this is the
development of Pedestrian and Transit Oriented Developments around activity centres and
along main corridors.
There needs to be funding and policies in support of sustainable technologies and both
industry and the community need to be involved in ownership for achieving a lower
ecological footprint. Education and information dissemination to community members will
assist to create a new consumer paradigm – a conserver lifestyle. This is necessary to
mitigate the Jevons affect whereby increasing efficiency leads to increased use.
Encouraging green technologies – creating a control system that can be applied to all new
developments and re-developments including: energy, water, site ecology, building
materials, waste management.
16. What are the best steps that could be taken to encourage a concerted effort by communities,
businesses and all levels of government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions cities?
Introduce a carbon tax and trading system
Encouraging green technologies
Sustainable planning and urban design
Taxes and prices
Research and development
17. How can we ensure that climate change risk is taken into consideration in the design,
construction and operation of cities, infrastructure and buildings?
For the built environment, aspects of risk relate to how well our planning systems constrain
development in high-risk areas; the requirement of all construction to accord with design,
engineering, construction and maintenance codes and standards; and the effectiveness of
approaches to prepare for and recover after natural disasters (Department of Climate Change,
2009). Governments will play a major role in planning, setting benchmarks, creating adaption plans
and overall risk management. Specific planning actions will require constraints on certain land-use
decisions (e.g in low lying areas). Most of Australia’s cities and industry are in the coastal zone, so
the construction or refurbishment of long lived infrastructure is highly concentrated in the region.
Ensuring critical and regionally significant infrastructure is built or remodelled to withstand future
climate will be important (Department of Climate Change, 2009). Land use planning frameworks and
building codes will be fundamental in reducing future exposure.
18. What do you think of the concept of more compact development using a variety of building
types (such as townhouses and apartments) rather than primarily expanding on the urban fringes?
Finding ways to support the increase in urban infill and urban regeneration should be highest priority
however, it needs to respect place and focus on Transit Oriented Development, corridors etc.
19. What is the best way to balance density with urban amenity and renewal?
Providing housing diversity and choice to meet demographics. For example, higher density,
small dwellings located in mixed use nodes/ corridors.
Character – new compact, adaptable mixed use along nodes/ corridors that are sensitive to
place and character.
Improve quality and quantity of urban amenity and public realm. Make existing places
available to people for longer – convert single-purpose spaces to multi-purpose space
through additional activities. Create a green web of interconnected public space, connecting
all public spaces and destinations in the network via nature corridors and linkages, set a
target for residents to be no more than 400m from open space.
20. What do you think about the suggestion that transport, housing and social infrastructure
should be concentrated in and around activity centres and along transport corridors so that jobs
and services are located near where people live? How could this be done most effectively?
It could be done more effectively by focusing on existing activity centres and undertaking brownfield
development. Identifying possible activity centres with potential and ensuring a smooth transition
between centres/corridors and the outer regions so that amenities are accessible to them as well.
21. How do we achieve a greater diversity of dwelling types and range of affordable, appropriate
housing to meet the needs of occupants across their life stages?
Incentives for developers to invest in diversity of dwelling types – e.g. developer bonuses for
providing a certain percentage of social housing.
There is need to revitalise the construction sector to develop more affordable but high
quality urban infill.
On the matter of affordability, it is a fact that as cities become larger and more attractive,
they become more expensive – government support and intervention to support local
housing sector will be increasingly needed.
22. What actions, incentives and disincentives do we need to reduce people’s dependency on
private motor vehicles in urban areas?
Enough high quality, safe public transport.
Cheaper fares for long term public transport patronage i.e discounts for 3, 6, 12 months
Workplaces or government subsidising of public transport usage
Providing fast and convenient public transport options
Creating aesthetically pleasing and safe urban environments conducive to walking and
Disincentives (can only be implemented when there are sufficient, efficient and accessible
alternatives of transport)
Increased parking prices in city centres, less car bays in shopping centres and workplaces
23. How can active transport and public transport be most effectively used to meet the transport
challenges of our cities?
Compete with driving in terms of time/convenience
24. What characteristic of the urban environment can encourage people to walk or cycle more?
See answers to previous questions
25. How could the planning arrangements (across all three levels of government) operate
differently to improve outcomes for Australia’s cities?
The Commonwealth level should establish an ongoing framework of urban indicators based around
efficiency, liveability and environment. Further, the Commonwealth should use the various
incentives and levers at its disposal to encourage better city building and provide funding support for
initiatives that illustrate “joined up government.”
26. Do you think that COAG’s current review of capital city planning systems should be expanded
to incorporate more of Australia’s major cities?
It will be increasingly important to support regional Australia as the potential exists to relieve some
of the pressures from capital cities; therefore an integrated approach should be adopted to make
sure that this occurs in a systematic and sustainable manner. However, global trends continue to
illustrate that investment and population congregate towards major centres.
27. What could governments do to improve planning and management of our major cities?
Federal: develop and promote urban indicators framework to monitor urban systems from a
sustainability perspective (including asset management).
Federal: funding of specific urban regeneration programs (modelled off programs such as
English Partnerships), and urban public transport to enhance the level of funding going into
All Federal government programs be considered in the context of their impact and benefit to
sustainable urban outcomes i.e. the current simplistic model of home owners grant which
stimulates urban sprawl rather than urban renewal.
Federal: Promote quality of urban places through programs similar to CABE in England.
State: being actively involved in working with the investment community to shape cities for
There is currently a mismatch of policies between levels of governments/business: providing
adequate planning frameworks and incentives and working with the private sector to shift
the systems from predicated on ‘urban expansion is good’ to ‘urban renewal is good.’
Work on policy initiatives to encourage local authorities involved in facilitating urban
28. How can we better coordinate and plan across local government boundaries?
State agencies should work with City sub-regional groups of local government to develop co-
ordinated physical planning and infrastructure planning frameworks that give direction to the local
government planning and investment frameworks.
It is known that the Federal government is encouraging all government authorities, including Local
Government, to understand the financial implications of their assets. It is critical that questions
about asset replacement and renewal are part of the urban policy agenda.
Australian Government: Department of Climate Change. (2009). Climate Change Risks to Australia’s
Coasts: A First Pass National Assessment. Department of Climate Change: Canberra.