It was not so much a reveal than a reiteration when Greater Sydney Commission head Lucy Turnbull announced Sydney would become a tale of three “30-minute” cities by 2056 – we heard that last year when the city’s draft district plans were released.

Nonetheless Ms Turnbull said the release of the draft Greater Sydney Region Plan was “pivotal” to managing the growth of the city over the next 40 years.

“The vision for a global metropolis of three cities, enabling the majority of people to commute to their nearest city within 30 minutes, will transform Greater Sydney,” Ms Turnbull said.

The three cities are the Western Parkland City, west of the M7; the Central River City, based around Parramatta; and the Eastern Harbour City.

The rationale behind the move is that currently only 39 per cent of Sydneysiders can get to their jobs and other services within 30 minutes. Decentralising the city into three aims to boost that figure to 70 per cent by 2056.

The plan is based around four key planks: infrastructure and collaboration, liveability, productivity and sustainability.

“Its strategies will foster jobs, services, cycling and walking paths and quality public spaces within easier reach of people’s homes, which will ease congestion, take the pressure off housing affordability and maintain and enhance our natural resources,” Ms Turnbull said.

The strategy was released alongside a draft Future Transport Strategy by transport minister Andrew Constance that he said would help align two traditionally siloed government areas, which we’ve seen lead to whole areas built without the necessary supporting infrastructure.

“Never before has planning and transport come together to actually map out a 40-year vision to make sure we grow properly in the future,” Mr Constance said.

Within the sustainability section of the report, there’s a focus on green infrastructure, which mentions a Government Architect NSW framework currently in development. Part of bringing the greenery to the Western Parklands was the South Creek Corridor Plan, being led by Infrastructure NSW.

“South Creek flows through one of the flattest, hottest and driest parts of Greater Sydney. South Creek and its tributaries can form the basis for cool, green and attractive urban communities by retaining more water in the landscape and integrating waterways in the design of new neighbourhoods,” the plan says.

Other objectives on sustainability include increasing tree canopy, supporting precinct energy and water systems, supporting innovative waste strategies, protecting open space, protecting coasts and waterways from pollution, protecting biodiversity, and limiting urban development to within the urban area, “except for the investigation areas at Horsley Park, Orchard Hills, and east of The Northern Road, Luddenham”.

Support from industry

The plan was welcomed by development bodies, think tanks and affordable housing advocates alike, but has had a more cool reception from community planning advocates, particularly around a short 60-day comment period.

Committee for Sydney head Tim Williams said it was a “thorough and detailed blueprint”.

“As a city we are growing at an express pace and this growth can be beneficial so long as it is managed properly,” he said. “Today’s plans do exactly that. They are an example of exemplary cross-government coordination that should be the benchmark for other Australian cities.”

He praised the promotion of value capture, as well ideas about the 30-minute city and autonomous vehicles.

The Property Council said the plan reflected “a more nuanced approach to future planning”.

“The draft Region Plan highlights the importance of new housing, jobs and economic development to our state’s future and underlines the fact that economic development and social development need to go hand in hand,” Property Council NSW executive director Jane Fitzgerald said on Tuesday.

“Diverse housing supply is critical, yet it is also important that this new housing is matched with more infrastructure and good social services including schools and hospitals; new medium density housing is important in this regard as is build-to-rent, both of which are supported by the GSC.”

Developer lobby Urban Taskforce also said it was a good plan.

“It is good that the NSW government has released an integrated regional plan for Sydney as well as a transport and infrastructure plan,” Urban Taskforce chief executive Chris Johnson said.

“The 20 year plans along with the 40 year visions signal big changes for Sydney and it will be important that political parties and community groups embrace these changes as they underpin the economic and cultural framework for Sydney as a global city.”

He said the move from a suburban city to an urban city required embracing “cosmopolitan density” linked to metro transports.

The community has reservations

Though if this “cosmopolitan density” is the same proffered by the government’s priority precinct policy, then community support might be a little hard to come by. Even Liberal Party MPs are said to be revolting against the densities proposed in their local areas, which many are afraid could claim their scalps – and has led to rumours that NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian now wants current planning minister Anthony Roberts out.

Affordable housing contributions welcomed

The plan was also welcomed by affordable housing bodies.

NSW Federation of Housing Associations chief executive Wendy Hayhurst said mandating 5-10 per cent affordable housing on rezoned land was an important step in addressing a housing crisis.

“If we develop more great quality affordable housing and build it close to transport routes, jobs and services, then not only do we provide safe and secure places for people to live we also cut their weekly expenditure on energy, transport and rent. That leaves more to spend in other Sydney businesses,” Ms Hayhurst said.

“This vital step by the GSC is recognition that the planning system can play a central role in delivering affordable housing, as it already does in other successful global cities such as New York, San Francisco and Vancouver.”

While she would have liked to see additional targets to address the needs of moderate income earners, “the important thing is that the principle is established.”

Though the plan isn’t official government policy – a point reiterated by Ms Turnbull – Ms Hayhurst said she was confident the government would adopt the targets.

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  1. While this plan is better than no plan, it fails to show how these jobs are going to be created in the “airport city”. One other major factor not mentioned is that the West can be 10 degrees hotter on a summers day.

    While it’s great that the plan has been put forward, it should really include a high-speed rail link with high frequencies to each city centre to truly make this viable.

    Another important note is that this doesn’t exactly address the low socio-economic factors, meaning the lower end of society yet again gets the short end of the stick, here’s hoping that this does not happen.

  2. Densification & optimisation of existing urbanised areas is an imperative, before destroying more arable land tracts & natural landscapes & resources.

    Where is the dedicated super fast rail transportation system linking outer hubs & Sydney CBD, KS airport, in lieu of another totally disruptive & misplaced new airport? Have any global transport & urban innovators been consulted across ‘futurism’, ‘Hyperloop’, IoT, 4IR & next technologies?

    Seems to be the same choir, singing from old music sheets promoting their particular beliefs based on past teachings. We need new compositions to ensure new sounds & interactions. NBN originally conceived as ‘worlds best’ would have enabled, optimised & apmlified this massive urban plan.

  3. hmmm – let’s see – new city at Badgery’s Creek for the new airport – looks like developer salivation city !

    this pro-privatisation pro-developer NSW Gov’t is all about giving the nod to developers – I can’t wait for the next Panama Papers to show who got secret commissions in their offshore tax haven Cayman Islands trust funds.