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ImagineSydney: a more accessible, more liveable 30-minute city could deliver around $10 billion in economic benefits

27 March, 2018

A more accessible 30-minute Sydney could deliver up to a $10 billion annual economic dividend for the NSW economy according to a new analysis by Deloitte Access Economics (PDF 4MB) and supported by Westpac.

ImagineSydney, Live looks at what reducing daily commuting times and the productivity gains from bringing people closer to jobs and services could mean for the city and features a new 30-Minute City Index that measures the number of jobs, shops, hospitals, and schools that can be accessed across metropolitan Sydney by area within 30 minutes as well as traditional liveability measures such open space and safety.


According to Deloitte Sydney Manager Partner Niki Alcorn: “So many things contribute to Sydney being one of the most liveable cities in the world.


“People and economic activity are drawn to Sydney precisely because of its liveability, but it’s a delicate balance. We also need to manage our environmental impact, congestion levels and city density to maintain the liveability we all want for ourselves, our families and our communities.


“A city cannot be truly liveable if people cannot readily access the things they need to do and the places they want to be, so we’ve undertaken some detailed analysis to add to what is such an important debate around where Sydney is heading.


“We’ve asked; just how liveable is Sydney right now? And what are the most valuable changes, tangible or otherwise, that all of of us, across governments, businesses and communities, can make to positively affect quality of life for everyone?


“The focus is on accessibility, and the 30-minute city concept, as a key enabler of liveability, and we’ve quantified the huge untapped dividend for the NSW economy, which could be up to $10 billion a year.”


Westpac Institutional Bank Chief Executive, Lyn Cobley, said: “Sydney’s growth forecasts put a focus on infrastructure provision, housing affordability, congestion and access to work and services.


“The long-term strategy to create three thriving cities is a visionary solution to a major challenge.


“Through this collaboration with Deloitte, Westpac is committed to helping to realise the potential of 30-minute cities and the lifestyle and economic dividends they can deliver for New South Wales.


“As one of Australia’s largest employers, serving 13 million customers, Westpac is a major financier to the housing sector and lead funder of infrastructure projects. We are committed to supporting innovative partnerships with industry, the social sector and governments to create more affordable long-term housing options.”


With the 30-Minute City Index, Deloitte has measured the accessibility of jobs, shops, hospitals, and schools across the Sydney metropolitan area from each area, within 30 minutes. The most accessible and liveable areas – Sydney’s 30-minute neighbourhoods – are currently clustered in and around the job hub that is Sydney’s CBD and harbour.


“At present, Sydney is still a largely monocentric city, and for most, we have have a fair way to go to be a true 30-minute city,” Alcorn said. “But with the right commitment, planning and investment, it’s an achievable goal.


“Creating a 30-minute city through having a greater number of ‘hubs’ and clustering of business activity holds productivity and innovation benefits, as well as giving people back some of the time they currently spend commuting every day.


“The Greater Sydney Commission’s three cities vision – built around the Sydney CBD, Parramatta and Badgerys Creek – is certainly a big step in the right direction. There can be productivity and innovation benefits from clustering, with higher business earnings and individual incomes relative to work outside of CBD areas. And then there are social benefits – for individuals and families as well more broadly.


“30-minute cities are denser and more compact. People who can’t afford to, no longer have to concentrate in inner urban areas to avoid long and congested commuting distances. Wealth and human capital are more evenly dispersed and this can act to improve social cohesion, health, crime and education outcomes.


“These cities are also likely to be associated with increased female labour force participation. When most jobs are centralised in the city, women with younger families who live further away have fewer employment options, making it harder for them to participate in the workforce.


“Of course, any economic and employment hub requires infrastructure to support activity and an innovative approach to transport will be the key to unlocking 30-minute city potential. These infrastructure investments will be costly, but they will also result in significant and sustainable economic growth benefits for Sydney.”


As with any fundamantal societal change, improving liveability in Sydney, creating a 30-minute city, and giving people more  choice in, and autonomy over, their lives, requires a truly collaborative effort involving government, business and communities:

  • Governments at all levels clearly have an important role to play in ensuring the right incentives exist for individuals and businesses to distribute throughout the city, and in supporting a policyenvironment where urban and transport planners can adapt flexibly to changing needs.
  • Businesses can contribute to the public discussion and lead by example, highlighting what is needed to support business investment and operations and establish healthy, thriving business districts.
  • Individuals and comunities will be the ones driving the change they want to see from governments and businesses and, and this will come through demand for flexible working and clearly articulating the culture and facilities they would like to see in an area that would attract them to live there.


“It will take a combined effort to make this a reality. And one that will require a shift in mindset so that we’re living smarter and better connected lives,” Alcorn said.


“There’s clearly much to be gained through an increase in accessibility. But to achieve a 30-minute reality, we must maintain momentum and do so across government, in the private sector and in our communities.”


The first report in Deloitte’s four-part ImagineSydney series – ImagineSydney, Create – presented an economic heat map identifying Sydney’s innovation hotspots, offered new solutions to unlocking the city’s future growth potential, and concluded that if just 10% of Sydney’s businesses did something new and innovative every year, the city’s gross regional product could increase by $25 billion. Play and Workreports are to follow.