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Saturday, 18 February 2017 20:12

Greater Sydney Strategy

It's important that as many people as possible comment on the Greater Sydney Strategy and the North District Plan by 31 March 2017.

Towards Our Greater Sydney 2056 is a 40 year vision that spells out the anticipated rate of growth and framework for employment and population distribution. How this is done will ultimately determine the long-term impacts on our natural areas, STEP’s chief focus.

For a city the size of Sydney, strategic planning over a 40 year period is important. However as outlined below there are matters of serious concern.

High Rate of Growth

On p8 there is this statement:

Greater Sydney is experiencing a step change in its growth with natural increases (that is an increase in the number of births) a major contributor. We need to recognise that the current and significant levels of growth, and the forecast higher rates of growth are the new norm rather than a one-off peak or boom.

Given the clear impacts of high growth rates on our urban amenity this statement needs closer scrutiny.

Refer to the table below for the projected growth rates and the figure below for the net overseas migration component.

Region Population 2011 Projected population
2036 Change 201136 % change 201136
Greater Sydney 4,286,350 6,421,950 2,135,650 49.8%
Rest of NSW 2,932,200 3,503,600 571,400 19.5%

Figure 1. Net overseas migration (estimated and assumed) in NSW from 2004-5 to 2036 onwards

From the figures the total projected increase in population in NSW from 2011–36 is around 2.7 million. Of this, for the same period, the total from net overseas migration is around 1.7 million, leaving the natural growth at around 1 million.

A recent report by the Planning Institute of Australia on population trends, Through the Lens: Megatrends Shaping our Future (p12) concluded:

Overseas migration continues to be the biggest contributor to population growth.

Net overseas migration for Australia since 1976 is shown in the lower figure. On p12 it says that:

Of the three basic factors determining population growth (fertility/births, mortality/deaths and migration) the net migration rate is most subject to policy intervention, and thus the most uncertain in future projections.

Net overseas migration for Australia since 1976 Since the net migration rate is the primary determinant of Australia’s population growth and is controlled by government policy, it is clearly possible to regulate the overall population growth rates of Australia to ensure they are at acceptable levels and anticipated benefits are broadly realised.

The regulation of inflation by the Reserve Bank has proved beneficial relative to an unregulated economy. Regulation of Australia’s overall population level and age structure through adjustment of net migration targets by a Federal government agency could prove beneficial to planning within Australia. This agency has to work in concert with state governments that bear the brunt of the implementation consequences.

High growth rates are resource intensive, difficult to manage and can lead to significant long-term environmental impacts. In the past these have included a higher proportion of defective buildings, lags in required new infrastructure with traffic congestion increasing and damage to bushland and watercourses from greater urban stormwater run-off.

The current proposed annual growth rates of around 1.6% are too high and need to be reduced to the more manageable levels in the previous three decades of around 1%. The Mercer World’s Most Liveable Cities ranking indicates that beyond a population of around 6 million liveability declines. Sydney has to recognise that growth cannot be infinite and ultimately must plan for a zero net growth future.

The Greater Sydney Commission may not have a say in the growth projections but we think people should be able to express their views through the current consultations process and local federal and state MPs.

Urban Renewal

On p8 it states that the shorter term need for additional new housing capacity is greatest in the North and Central Districts. While this will lead to more high-rise development along the railway line it is important that urban conservation corridors are retained.

For example it is possible to walk from Gordon, Killara and Roseville Stations through high quality urban conservation areas to the bushland that leads to Garigal National Park. The value of these conservation corridor links from railway stations to our national parks can only increase with time.

Medium Density Infill Development

On p9 it states:

Many parts of suburban Greater Sydney that are not within walking distance of regional transport (rail, light rail and regional bus routes) contain older housing stock. These areas present local opportunities to renew older housing with medium density housing. Medium density housing is ideally located in transition areas between urban renewal precincts and existing suburbs, particularly around local centres and within the 1 to 5 km catchment of regional transport.

A 1 to 5 km catchment from the railway stations and regional bus routes would include virtually all of the North Shore. Future medium density in these areas is likely to be fast-tracked by developers using the NSW government’s proposed Complying Medium Density Housing Code (CMDHC).

Provided prescribed standards are met this could allow building density increases by as much as a factor of two without the need for consent. Because of its indiscriminate nature, for those areas impacted by the code, it could lead to increases in dwelling numbers significantly in excess of those planned for.

The CMDHC is proposed in extensive single dwelling R2 zones for those councils where multi-dwelling housing or dual occupancy is permissible in this zone. If one council allows multiple dwellings it will flow through to all the original member councils when they amalgamate.

Examination of the relevant LEPs indicates all the amalgamated councils in the North District will be impacted with the exception of Hornsby–Ku-ring-gai. STEP strongly opposes application of CDMH in any residential zone other than the medium density R3 zone.

Economic Priorities

On p7 there is a focus on the economic growth from inbound tourism. This would be a serious concern if our bushland and national parks are treated as assets for commercialisation. Sensitive natural bushland areas can easily be damaged from overuse and need protection. Private leasehold of areas with existing bushland and clearance for accommodation should not be supported.