The federal government has reversed its decision to pulp the long-awaited State of Australian Cities 2014-2015 report and on Monday released the report to the public at last. It also released the Progress in Australian Regions – State of Regional Australia 2015 report. But there’s no mention of climate change in the documents. Not a word. And no mention of resilience, or sustainability.
The move follows our story last week on the government’s refusal to release the report, Government refuses to distribute 2014 State of Australian Cities report.
The 2014-2015 State of Australian Cities report includes capital cities and regional cities with populations of more than 85,000 people based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics Significant Urban Area geographic classification. Two new cities qualified, Bendigo and Ballarat.
A notable omission from the report is consideration of how cities are being impacted by climate change, or building resilience to climate change. The words are not mentioned once, nor is sustainability mentioned anywhere in the report.
The strong focus of this edition is around transport, as well as the relationship between employment and where people live.
“This year’s report considers the ‘self-containment’ of areas – the proportion of employed people residing in an area whose employment is in that area,” the report says. “A high self-containment rate indicates that there is a sufficient range and number of jobs in an area that employs local people.
“Measuring self-containment is important, as it directly impacts on transport demand (both distance and type of travel) and because it reminds policy makers that to simply increase job numbers in an area is not necessarily sufficient to increase the employment of residents of that area. Such jobs could be filled by people travelling from elsewhere, particularly if the jobs require qualifications or skills not held by local residents.”
A whole chapter is dedicated to infrastructure and transport. The report finds there are parts of Sydney where public transport is being used by up to 50 per cent of commuters.
“In 2011, the share of Sydney residents who used public transport to commute to the city and inner south area and the North Sydney and Hornsby area were 50 per cent and 26 per cent respectively, indicating better public transport access to these workplaces and reflecting limited and costly parking options in those areas. “
The report finds that the rest of Sydney, particularly in the outer suburbs such as Blacktown and South West areas, travel mostly by private car (up to 80 per cent). “In Parramatta, out of over 183,600 people working there, 72 per cent of workers commuted by private vehicle.”
Active travel is also gaining ground in the inner-city where high value, high-knowledge jobs are increasingly concentrated. Cycling and walking accounted for 31 per cent for the city and inner south areas, along with a similar share using public transport (32 per cent).
Public transport commuting shares to the city and inner south work areas varied from 41 per cent for Sutherland residents to 70 per cent for Blacktown residents.
“Private vehicle commuting share tended to be lower when the corresponding public transport share was relatively high,” the report said. “The private vehicle shares were between 21 per cent for Blacktown commuters and 47 per cent for Sutherland commuters.
The pattern was repeated in Melbourne’s inner city, but with comparatively higher shares than other geographic areas of active travel (20 per cent) for people who live and work in the area.
However fewer people used public transport for access the city and inner suburbs for work compared with Sydney, (35 per cent compared with 50 per cent).
High value moves to the centre
The report identifies that as high-value jobs shift inwards, there is an “outward movement of disadvantage and population”.
“Housing density will continue to trend upwards as the value of land close to the inner city parallels the concentration of high-wage employment in the CBD and central city.”
However, there are clear social and economic challenges in outlying areas that are not as well-resourced in terms of accessible jobs, transport, facilities and services. Opportunities inherent in proximity to city centres are increasingly likely to be out of reach for people on the outer fringes of cities.”
The last State of Australian cities report has achieved famously huge numbers of hits and downloads. According to shadow minister for cities Anthony Albanese the previous State of Australian Cities in 2013 was downloaded three million times.
Deputy prime minister Warren Truss said the latest publication would “enable governments, private investors and the community to identify trends that are important for policy development and investment decisions”.
He said that the cities report and the Progress in Australian Regions – State of Regional Australia 2015 recognised the interrelated nature of cities and their surrounding regions.
The Planning Institute of Australia welcomed the release of both reports.
“At a time when our cities are under increasing pressure from urban growth, congestion and shifting economic bases, the release of the State of Australian Cities report provides a much need injection of evidence,” PIA chief executive Kirsty Kelly said.
“While the release of the State of Australian Cities report has been significantly delayed, it remains a very important contribution to the knowledge base for how we need to develop our cities for the future.
“The introduction of the new State of Regional Australia will also better inform the debate around regional Australia and the role it can play in accommodating Australia’s population and economic growth.
“Both reports highlight the significant task ahead for planning for Australia’s growth and the important role that infrastructure plays.”
The reports are available here.