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Reimagining Cities Policy

10 March 2021

Australia needs to reinvigorate national cities policy and implement new ways of planning our cities and infrastructure, according to Leader of the Federal Opposition, Anthony Albanese. The National Growth Areas Alliance is pleased that cities policy is once more on the national agenda. It is a critical issue impacting the lives of 5 million people living in outer metropolitan growth areas, not a dry academic subject. The population pressure on Australia’s growing outer suburbs has not eased during the pandemic - it has boomed. Development and building approvals are 20% higher than in 2019 in many growth areas across the country.  National cities policy and infrastructure decisions have a direct bearing on how our newest suburbs will evolve, and whether or not they will become thriving neighbourhoods for future communities.

Mr Albanese said that we have “a once in a lifetime opportunity to use these accelerated trends [like working from home] to move towards cities that are more productive, sustainable, and liveable”. He spoke about suburban precincts that serve local populations and offer skilled and secure jobs, with technology reducing the need for the daily commute and relieving congestion. Other measures he suggests to reinvigorate cities policy include involving local government in National Cabinet, reinstating a Cities and Suburbs Unit to advise on urban policy design and refreshing City Deals.

In the outer suburbs, we already know that doing things differently can work. Outer urban growth areas are innovative by nature – we’re here because we have turned paddocks into postcodes and built thriving communities. Embracing the shift to working from home is a recent example. Our research into working from home in growth areas during the pandemic highlighted positive outcomes including increased productivity, massive transport cost-savings and increased spending in local economies. The mass experience of working from home was a game-changer  for  quality of life in the outer suburbs and the impact of commuting on the environment and infrastructure.

Inclusive and forward-thinking cities policy, along with the necessary infrastructure investment, will further transform the outer suburbs, matching their vitality and pace of growth. With a vast, young and culturally diverse workforce and ample space for industry to grow, outer metropolitan growth areas should be an integral part of our economic recovery. Growth areas are where Australia’s neighbourhoods and communities of the future are being created - right now. Let’s make sure that all levels of government have a clear idea of what we want that future to be, and what we need to do to make it a reality.

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