With the outcome of the New South Wales state election now clear, we look forward to unpacking the opportunities ahead.
A Labor win in Monaro, a Labor Government in Sydney, a Labor-led Government in the Australian Capital Territory and a Labor federal government present a unique synergy for the Greater Canberra region represented by the ACT and its surrounding NSW local government areas.
To their credit the ACT Government, our federal representatives and senators, along with various industry peak bodies have been pursuing a city deal for the Greater Canberra region some years – and now might be our time.
What is a City Deal? It’s an agreement where all levels of government work together to achieve a shared purpose for a metropolis.
In its highest form, its driven by public investment in catalytic infrastructure like Western Sydney’s Airport (we may have a stadium or a light-rail line or two on our wish list) and aligns priorities across government toward maximising the region’s social and economic return from the investment in public infrastructure.
Additionally, a City Deal can weave in opportunities for governments to get their act together and make it easier for people to do business and invest.
There are so many nonsensical “border barriers” in our region that a harmonisation roadmap could begin to untangle.
Diversifying the economic and employment base is a critical need for the region and much of this needs to begin with rethinking our approach to the border.
The property industry (which employs one in seven Canberrans) has experienced this recently as we’ve explored the issue of developer regulation.
The ACT Government is pursuing a first-of-its-kind developer licensing scheme while over the border NSW is four years into a successful reform journey.
The lack of alignment means that a good builder doing work across both Canberra and Queanbeyan can have a stellar iCIRT rating from projects delivered in Queanbeyan but can’t have its portfolio from across the railway tracks at Canberra Avenue incorporated into the same rating – this isn’t an ideal situation for either for consumers or industry.
More than anything though, a City Deal needs to address the issue of housing: We simply don’t have enough of it.
Canberra is set to be home to a population of 784,043 by 2060, and our existing housing stock is both insufficient and poorly suited to accommodating this change.
Canberra’s future urban living environment will need to adapt to accommodate a larger, younger population with dwellings to tailored to reflect the increased take-up of public transport and smaller household sizes.
Canberra cannot afford to let NIMBYs and policy ditherers to prevail on our next wave of housing supply.
Burying our heads in the sand and yearning for a return to the metropolitan mix of the 1970s will only lead to a stagnation in housing supply, worsening affordability and ultimately our city will wind up driving away the very people we need to remain vibrant and productive.
The alternative path is to look to a shared vision across government, where the next wave of public sector jobs is rolled-out in locations closer to where people live, delivering development opportunities that boost our public transport corridors – all while giving careful consideration given to Canberra’s role at the strategic heart of a surrounding economic megaregion.
With the federal government committing to revamping city deals into a “City Partnership” model, Greater Canberra can be the first cab off the rank.
Now is our time to shine.
Ross Grove is the Property Council of Australia’s Acting ACT Executive Director.
Media contact: Aidan Green | M 0491 030 028 | E [email protected]