Posted: 02 May 2019 15 min. read

Forecasting Sydney’s future

A part of the ImagineSydney series

Collaboration is also central to the analysis behind our ImagineSydney series. Looking at the $25 billion potential of more innovation amongst Sydney businesses last year, we worked with Sydney Business Chamber and the UTS Business School.

This time, we’ve collaborated with Westpac which shares our passion for making our cities more accessible, and more liveable.

We spoke to Lyn Cobley, Chief Executive of Westpac Institutional Bank to find out her vision for a more liveable, future Sydney.

Australia has often succumbed to a reactionary approach to change. Things almost need to break before enough attention is given to fix them.

Nowhere is this more overt than in infrastructure. You only need to commute during peak hour to feel the strain, as I’ve done many times growing up in the south west Sydney. Anyone with kids playing Saturday sport knows the traffic can be worse than the weekday peak hour. The urban strain also creates issues of housing affordability. But this isn’t criticism. Australia is far from alone in cities such as Sydney struggle to accommodate a growing population across existing and complex networks of roads, rail and ferries. Also, building new infrastructure or expanding what already exists is expensive, it can take a long time and often involves community considerations and debate among many groups across the population.

In fact, Australia has one of the fastest growing populations of any developed nation, and many reside or immigrate to our largest city of Sydney. Over the next 20 years, Infrastructure Australia predicts that an extra 2.7 million people will call Sydney home, raising the city’s total population to about 7.3 million by 2046.

That is going to amplify the issues of congestion and housing, unless we plan.

Sydney’s strategy to create three thriving ‘30-minute’ cities is a visionary solution delivered by the NSW Government and Greater Sydney Commission. Instead of jamming more people into the current eastern corridor, Sydney is poised to expand around Parramatta and further west around the new Western Sydney airport.

But many parties have a role to play and we will need greater collaboration between the public sector, private sector and individuals.

With responsibility for Westpac’s relationships with Australia’s largest corporates, state governments and institutions, it’s clear the speed of disruption from new technologies provides opportunities to rethink how the challenges are addressed. So too does leveraging best practice from ‘smart cities’ around the world.

If we get it right the opportunity is enormous.

Through our new research in collaboration with Deloitte, Westpac is committed to helping realise this concept, where people live 30 minutes from the jobs, public transport, schools and hospitals. It is in sync with higher quality of life expectations, new transport technologies and the rise of flexible working.

Many sectors are leading from the front. For example, in education where the NSW Education Department is relocating from the Sydney CBD to Parramatta to accommodate a shift in demand. As new schools are constructed, there are opportunities to rethink design as multi-purpose spaces that benefit the local community at the weekend or outside of school terms. Even the structure of school hours might evolve with the rise of flexible working and in areas that centre on around the clock operations, such as the new airport in Badgerys Creek.

In the healthcare sector, one of the major job engines across the nation, there have been investments in hospital redevelopments across Liverpool, Westmead, Blacktown, Nepean and Campbelltown, while planning for a new hospital at Rouse Hill is underway. And technology is rapidly transforming the way we think of healthcare and enabling better ways of helping people live a healthy life.

Cognitive technologies, software robots, artificial intelligence and sophisticated data analytics can provide new insights into patterns of healthcare utilisation. For example, St Vincent’s Hospital is developing a virtual care centre to monitor remote patients using wearable technology.

Transport NSW’s Future Transport 2056 Strategy has a clear vision that reflects the state’s future growth, demographic challenges and the impact of technology. This includes last mile, on-demand public transport services that can be booked through an app, online or by phone. Across Sydney, the NSW government is piloting a program whereby individuals are picked up from home or a convenient nearby location and taken to local transport hubs, shopping centres, business parks or hospitals.

In the energy sector, a major driver of coming disruption over the next 10 years is the lower cost of renewable sources such as wind, solar and battery storage. Businesses and consumers are becoming more proactive and we are seeing rapid growth in home and commercial solar with one in five Australian households now having some form of rooftop solar power. Data from NSW’s Department of Planning and Environment shows that Western Sydney is driving this revolution. Blacktown has by far the most solar installed of any suburb, and other major players in the West are Penrith, the Hills Shire and Liverpool.

As a major financier to the housing sector and lead funder of infrastructure projects, Westpac clearly has a role to play in assisting Sydney and other cities transform over time. But we know it’s about more than just lending money, and we are committed to playing a broader role – supporting the social sector, forming innovative partnerships across industries, listening to customers and working with government to assist Sydney’s long-term potential.

How can we create greater liveability for Sydneysiders? Visit our ImagineSydney: Live webpage.
This blog was authored by Lyn Cobley.