10,000 friends say take action on transport

By Kim Powell

The NSW Government needs to make its vision for the future of Sydney more visible in order to stimulate the development industry to come up with appropriate kinds of development, says Robert Mitchell, chief operating officer of the Warren Centre.

“What is really lacking is a visibility for the vision of Sydney,” he says.

“They’ve got to have some idea of where they’re wanting to build this place, [but] if you were someone in industry that sees it as your job to actually develop and build the infrastructure, it’s not so clear.

“If you have a long-term vision of the place [and] clearly enunciate it for all to see, then the development industry is going to see tons of opportunities that will actually build us towards something useful. But if we’re working in a blancmange it’s not possible.”

In May, more than 130 representatives of local government, industry and community groups attended a sustainable transport summit organised by a group called 10,000 Friends of Greater Sydney. Members of this group include Bovis Lend Lease, Caltex Australia, City of Sydney Council, NSW Department of Planning, Federation of P&C Associations of NSW, Landcom, Macquarie Infrastructure Group, Museum of Contemporary Art, Council of Social Service of NSW, Property Council of Australia, Rotary Club of Sydney and Unions NSW.

Two key messages came from this summit: transport solutions are long overdue and people want action now. 10,000 Friends has been urged to apply an “intelligent prodding campaign” to politicians in the lead up to the 2007 March election.

“There appeared to be complete agreement [at the summit] that governments generally were really poor at creating long term plans because at the end of the day governments weren’t set up to do that,” Mr Mitchell says.

“The sustainable transport project the Warren Centre ran a few years ago found that the rate of growth of transport has been double the rate of growth of the population, so that means that each of us is all travelling more than we used to.

“And in a world where there’s relatively constant amount of money being spent on everything – transport, health, schooling, social services, the police and so on – if the amount we’re all travelling is going up more than everything else, then either we’re all going to come to a grinding halt soon or there won’t be any money left over to spend on the other things we need to spend it on.”

He says to combat this Sydney needs to develop into a “city of cities”, so that most people live, work, learn and play within a smaller geographic area and therefore cut the amount of travel they do.

“We’re quite proud that we managed to get ‘city of cities’ into the lingo [of the Metro Strategy], although when you scratch the surface of the metro strategy it doesn’t have the depth that we would have liked to have seen in there,” Mr Mitchell says.

“The public is really clamouring much harder now than they were a few years ago for investments in transport infrastructure and now they’re saying look, borrow money for it.”

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