17 June 2010 – The fact that Sydney wasn’t listed first or second on the KPMG audit of major cities’ planning systems probably says as much as you need to know about whether or not some action is urgently needed, the audience at the Built Environment Meets Parliament summit in Canberra this week heard.

Melbourne, by contrast, came out at the top of the league tables, as befits Australia’s second major city.

However, even the top results in the survey bring no room for complacency.

The report, entitled Spotlight on Australian Cities, was a response by the Built Environment Meets Parliament summit  – comprising the Property Council of Australia, the Australian Institute of Architects, the Planning Institute of Australia, Consult Australia and the Green Building Council Australia – to the “very welcome” move by the Council of Australian Governments to take an interest in capital city strategic planning systems.

In essence the report seeks to “facilitate a constructive public dialogue about capital city planning systems” through the potential to:

  • assess each existing metropolitan strategic planning framework against the COAG criteria;
  • test the performance of each capital city against a range of independent indicators in order to
  • assess if strategic planning objectives are being achieved;
  • identify gaps between the COAG criteria, existing strategic planning objectives and
  • practice;
  • propose solutions for improving performance against individual COAG criteria; and
  • propose systemic reforms that will deliver more liveable, competitive and sustainable capital cities in the future.

KPMG said that overall the planning for Australia’s capital cities is average at best when judged against the external criteria rather than ranked against each other.

“When the scores for all of the jurisdictions are added together, the average score for Australian capital city planning systems is 54 per cent,” the report said.

“It is clear from our assessment that Australia’s capital cities are not yet operating at a level that demonstrates sound performance in relation to the nine COAG criteria. “

The report makes several recommendations including:
•    An expanded role for the Federal Government in urban policy
•    Releasing a national urban policy with performance targets
•    Launching a refreshed Better Cities program to target infrastructure investment
•    Appointing a Cabinet Minister for Urban Affairs,
•    Establishing a centre for design excellence
•    Establishing metropolitan authorities in capital cities to improve decision- making and delivery
•    Streamlining planning by adopting the Development Assessment Forum model for local development assessment processes
•    Ensuring that metro strategies take precedence over other planning laws and have clear targets
•    Adopting priority activity plans for land release and infrastructure priorities
•    Adopting innovative and modern public funding mechanisms such as bonds and reforming developer contributions
•    Setting city based performance targets and national reporting on progress against these targets

Table 1.
Relative Capital City Performance
Rank Capital City Score
1 Melbourne 69
2 Brisbane 64
3 Adelaide 61
4 Perth 56
5 Canberra 54
6 Sydney 47
7 Darwin 44
8 Hobart 38

Table 2.
Performance Against External Indicators
Rank Capital City Score
1 Adelaide 73
2 Canberra 68
3 Hobart 58
4 Brisbane 55
5 Darwin 53
6 Melbourne 48
7 Perth 45
8 Sydney 40

For the full report go here