There are some surprises in the recently released National Cities Performance Framework.

For example, it appears Canberra might just be the best capital city to live in, with factors such as green space, jobs within 30 minutes of home, rent and mortgage stress, per capita greenhouse gas emissions, unemployment, affordable housing and levels of business innovation.

Hobart, Darwin and many regional cities measure up well across indices such as mortgage to income ratio, housing affordability and short travel times between home and work. Sydney and Melbourne, meanwhile, are not looking so good on many of those fronts, but they do very well in terms of other factors such as life expectancy.

The framework has been released to track the performance and progress of cities across a number of indicators such as housing, infrastructure, liveability, planning and governance.

“It’s not a matter of one city being better than another, this dashboard tells us about the differences in our biggest cities,” assistant minister for cities and digital transformation Angus Taylor said.

“It tells us that we need policies that customise solutions for individual cities and a national government has to be part of that, just as local governments already are.”

Regions performing well, but smaller cities miss out

Regional Capitals Australia had a mixed response.

RCA chair Shane Van Styn, another reference group participant, said the framework confirmed what most people already know – regional cities are an affordable and liveable alternative to the major capital cities.

Six out of seven of RCA’s member cities rated highly for performance in housing affordability, unemployment rate and jobs available within 30 minutes by car.

“Of course this framework is developed with the major metropolitan cities in mind. In most regional cities you can get to your job, daycare, schools and sporting or cultural activities in about 10 minutes,” Mr Van Styn said.

“It is now clear our member cities –1 Albury-Wodonga, Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Mackay, and Toowoomba – are excellent choices for businesses and families seeking refuge from the growing unaffordability of the metropolitan capitals.”

Mr Van Styn was disappointed, however, that the population benchmark of 80,000 or above left out at least another 25 regional cities that could have been included, such as Wagga Wagga, Broome and Shepparton.

“Promoting and prioritising the development of cities based only on the number of people who live in them is out of step with the fact that cities of all sizes are valuable,” he said.

A recent report released by the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) challenged the view that size was the only way to measure a city’s successful contribution to Australia.

The report highlighted that getting the planning right around mid-sized regional cities in Australia had the potential to produce $378 billion in output from regional cities by 2031.

“Promoting all regional cities should be a no-brainer, not to mention that, not doing so is hardly representative,” Mr Van Styn said.

“According to the framework there is only one city in the whole state of Western Australia – Perth. I am sure that will come as a shock to the almost 700,000 people in the west who don’t rate a mention.”

The initial framework is focused on the nation’s 21 largest cities, and includes Western Sydney as its own distinct city entity.

Warm welcome from industry

The Green Building Council of Australia welcomed the launch of the dashboard and framework.

“For the first time, we can piece together a picture of the factors that influence the liveability and sustainability of our largest cities,” GBCA chief executive Romilly Madew said.

Ms Madew said that as cities grapple with increasing pressure to densify, “we must consider how we are delivering against broader measures of success.”

Consult Australia’s chief executive Megan Motto said:“We have the tools to take city comparisons and public discussion way beyond the best coffee or the biggest sporting events, on to issues like travel-to-work time, housing affordability and opportunities for innovation because this data enable like-for-like comparisons.

“This is hugely significant and will have real policy implications across federal and state government.”

The Property Council of Australia said the framework would lead to more credible and rigorous cities policy.

“This is not a simplistic league table; it’s about better understanding the elements that create great cities and the challenges they face,” PCA chief executive Ken Morrison said.

  • Access the dashboard here

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