The Strategic Week (no. 2, Thursday 10 December 2015) – the week in governance, planning, infrastructure and transport

Before we begin, a thank-you to all the people who read, liked, shared and commented on the inaugural edition of The Strategic Week – and especially to those who gave me detailed and instructive feedback. Your responses are all greatly appreciated.


Government  confirms Turnbull to lead Greater Sydney Commission

The NSW Government has confirmed the appointment of Lucy Turnbull AO as Chief Commissioner of the new Greater Sydney Commission. As noted previously Ms Turnbull was the first female Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney. She also chairs the Committee for Sydney as well as BioMed Limited, an ASX- listed biomedical company.

The government also appointed three other commissioners:

  • Heather Nesbitt as Social Commissioner. Ms Nesbitt has extensive experience in social sustainability, social housing, community infrastructure planning and social impact assessment
  • Rod Simpson as Environment Commissioner. Mr Simpson is Director of the Urban Design and Master of Urbanism Programs in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney and Principal of simpson+wilson whose work ranges across architecture, urban design and strategic planning.
  • Geoff Roberts as Economic Commissioner. Mr Roberts is a specialist in city strategy, governance and leadership and currently holds an Adjunct Professor position in the City Futures Research Centre at the University of NSW
  • The Commission will also comprise the heads of the Departments of Planning and Environment, Transport for NSW and NSW Treasury and six District Commissioners (who are yet to be nominated) to represent the needs of Sydney Councils.

Council amalgamations impact on Liberal vote in North Sydney by-election

Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades has claimed that “community outrage at NSW Government moves to force council amalgamations” had helped drive down the Liberal party primary vote in the recent by-election for the Federal seat of North Sydney.

“The take-out from Saturday’s by-election is that people power works,” Cr Rhoades said. “I’m urging all communities and councils opposed to forced amalgamations to contact their local MPs, MLCs and Senators to remind them of the likely political cost that will be extracted if the Baird Government acts contrary to the wishes of residents and ratepayers.”

The incoming member for North Sydney, Mr Trent Zimmerman, also conceded the prospect of forced council amalgamations contributed to the swing against the Liberal Party in the poll. Mr Zimmerman, a former North Sydney councillor, was quoted as saying, “on amalgamations, I suspect there was some impact.”

UN climate change conference – Sydney City leads the way

Sydney’s lord mayor Clover Moore has stressed the role of cities in taking action on climate change because the 80% of emissions occur in cities and that over 50% of the world’s population – and 75% of the Australian population – live in cities. Making a keynote speech at a C40 Cities Climate Change function at the Paris climate change talks,  she noted that Sydney’s top commercial landlords had cut their carbon dioxide emissions by 45% since 2006, saving more than $30 million annually.

Sydney city leads the Better Buildings Partnership which includes the major landlords and property managers of more than half of the Sydney city centre’s commercial office floor space. The lord mayor said the group was “more than halfway to reaching their 70 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030″.

SA Government and Adelaide Council join forces for carbon neutrality and to limit global warming

Adelaide City Council’s aim to make its operations carbon neutral by 2020 and Adelaide the world’s first carbon neutral city, has been formally endorsed in the council’s Carbon Neutral Strategy 2015-2025.

Lord mayor Martin Haase noted that by “decarbonising the city’s electricity supply through sourcing green energy; taking advantage of roof-top solar photovoltaic systems; and significant energy efficiency improvements” council had reduced its energy consumption by more than 15% and  intended to “capture the full benefits of a carbon neutral operation by 2020”

Earlier in the year, the lord mayor signed the international Compact of Mayors, while the SA Premier signed the Compact of States and Regions – the first union of its type in the world. In Paris thbis week for events connected to the climate change conference, Mr Weatherill  co-chaired an international climate change assembly of global states and regions, representing 325 million people and 11 per cent of global GDP.

The Premier also signed South Australia up as the first Australian state to an international agreement to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius, noting that “while national Governments are working towards an agreement on limiting global emissions, it will be the cities and states that will need to do the heavy lifting”. The “Under2MOU” agreement was signed by eight states, regions and cities during a ceremony hosted by Governor of California Jerry Brown.

South Australia is also expected to pass its 50 per cent renewable energy target next year, a decade ahead of schedule, and is aiming to get close to 100% within two decades.


Deloitte Western Sydney blueprint highlights worsening jobs deficit, while the Premier pledges to move jobs west

Deloitte designing western sydney report coverDeloitte Access Economics has launched an ambitious plan for the “economic transformation of Western Sydney” which involved the creation of 200,000 new jobs in the region by 2020. Noting that despite the size of the region’s population and the fact that it is Australia’s third-largest economy, “issues around employment access, labour force skills and social disadvantage persist”, Deloitte worked with regional stakeholders to develop the plan, Shaping Future Cities: Designing Western Sydney.

The plan claims the most critical issue is the region’s “worsening jobs deficit”; 300,000 workers leave each morning to work while 100,000 arrive, meaning Western Sydney has a jobs deficit of 200,000. This could grow to 340,000 by 2014, while eastern Sydney’s jobs surplus could grow to more than 280,000.

Report author Theo Psychogis has also identified “five key ways policy makers are going to have their thinking disrupted” by the plan. These include:

  • “A hand up not a hand out”
  • “Increased certainty to de-risk investments”
  • “Designing policy around one global city”
  • “Putting skin in the game” i.e., recognising that business and industry have responsibility as the “primary job creators for the region”
  • “Enabling a Narrative Driven by People, Place and Purpose”.

Speaking at the launch the NSW Premier Mike Baird announced that all 1,800 Department of Education staff employed in the CBD will be shifted to offices in Parramatta. The move will commence in 2018 and be completed by mid-2020.

Mr Psychogis also stressed the importance of transport. The report’s recommendations include a proposal for the creation of a 15-minute express train service between Parramatta and Sydney.

The Deloitte plan will reviewed in more detail in a future StrategicMatters post.

Sydney Urban Living Index launched

The Urban Taskforce has launched a new Sydney Urban Living Index. The Taskforce commissioned McCrindle Research to develop the index, which uses 20 measures based on ABS Census data grouped into five categories – affordability, community, employability, amenity and accessibility – to measure the livability of 228 Sydney suburbs.

Sydney Urban Living Index graphic (source: Urban Taskforce)

Sydney Urban Living Index graphic (source: Urban Taskforce)

Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson noted that while the trend towards apartment living was gathering pace in Sydney this was only partly due to affordability and that “there is a cultural shift at play”. Mark McCrindle, Principal of McCrindle Research said, that the challenge the city faces “is to ensure that it responds to population growth yet maintains its world-beating lifestyle and that its liveability rises to match its increasing density”. The Index is available at

Changing policies underpin Sydney’s high density urban renewal

A new paper from City Futures at the University of NSW, The changing political economy of the compact city and higher density urban renewal in Sydney, examines the policies and politics shaping redevelopment in Sydney in the 21st century.

The paper, by Dr Raymond Bunker is part of an ARC Discovery Project entitled Planning in a Market Economy: The Case of the Compact City. It traces how the emerging neoliberal political economy helped to reconfigure the powers and relationships underpinning Sydney’s development. The report notes:

“Many of the policies developed to bring a more compact form to Sydney have been opportunistic, particularly those concerned with the formulation and operation of measures to encourage higher density urban renewal. Where they have tried to be long-term or systemic they have suffered in their implementation from a lack of realism about urban conditions or a lack of consistency of political commitment. Progress has been patchy, and aspiration often compromised in outcome.”

New era for Sydney’s industrial buildings

The City of Sydney has announced that some of the city’s “last remnants” of the city’s industrial era warehouses and factories will receive a heritage listing to help preserve them and to provide guidance to owners on how to “adapt and incorporate interesting heritage elements on their properties for future use”. The listings will allow redevelopment but also protect the buildings “and their valuable contribution to the local area”.

“With few undeveloped areas of the city remaining, these buildings are being converted into sought-after residential or commercial properties. The proposed listings will ensure the heritage value of these buildings remains, while retaining the current zonings for height limits and floor-space ratios,” lord mayor Clover Moore said.


Truss delivers second annual Infrastructure Statement

The Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss, has delivered the second Annual Ministerial Infrastructure Statement to Parliament . The Deputy Prime Minister said he was “particularly proud of the significant progress that has been made over the past twelve months delivering the critical infrastructure needed in every state and territory”.

The areas of expenditure outlined in the Infrastructure Statement relate mainly to a range of road projects, including in NSW WestConnex, the Pacific Highway upgrade and the Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan. The Statement does note however that the federal government is “working closely with NSW to determine the rail needs of the Western Sydney Airport and surrounding suburbs” and that the it has also made a commitment to contribute to stage 2 of the Gold Coast Light Rail project. It also notes that government is “progressing” the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project and will decide on funding and delivery in the 2016 budget.

Transport: Sydney Metro

Higher densities follow metro to Sydney’s northwest

The NSW Government is asking for feedback on the draft proposals for Showground, Bella Vista and Kellyville stations which have been identified as “priority precincts” on the northwest section of the Sydney metro currently under construction.

The precinct proposals support a number of features for each station. In the case of Showground station for example, a new, 5,000 to 10,000 square metre shopping centre, a range of housing types including apartment buildings up to 20 storeys near Carrington Road, the provision of employment lands, increased areas for open space, facilities and schools and the retention of Castle Hill Showground are all proposed. The draft proposals are on exhibition until 28 February 2016.

Unstraightened legacy for Sydney Metro

Around 500 people attended an industry briefing on the construction of Stage 2 of the Sydney Metro, the city and southwest section. The briefing document released provides “a general overview of the nature and scope of Sydney Metro City & Southwest and the role that industry can play in helping to deliver the Project,” and outlines an initial outline for the next stages, including procurement.

The briefing also revealed that one of the project challenges is the need to straighten out the curved platforms at 11 existing stations from Sydenham to Bankstown to cater for the single-deck driverless trains which will need to stop at precise positions to match the platform doors. This will reduce the gaps for passengers entering or exiting trains.

Sydney Metro program development director Luke Franzmann told the briefing that the platforms are “significantly curved” which “we want to test with industry”.

Transport: Light Rail

Strathfield and Carlingford – the long and the short of the Western Sydney light rail plan

The NSW Government has released its long-awaited plans for the Parramatta Light Rail Network. The plan for the 22-kilometre link was unveiled by NSW Premier Mike Baird, Transport Minister Andrew Constance and Planning Minister Rob Stokes. It comprises a line from Westmead servicing the hospital precinct then linking North Parramatta to the Parramatta CBD before heading east through Camillia to Sydney Olympic Park and then to Strathfield, A second line will branch at Camillia and run north along the current heavy rail line corridor to Carlingford.

Parramatta light rail network indicative map (Source Transport for NSW)

Parramatta light rail network indicative map (Source Transport for NSW)

Work will now begin on preparing the final business case and assessment of the preferred network. This will include planning, design and consultation with key stakeholders along the network to “develop the staging of the project, the exact light rail route and stops, and the final project cost”.

The NSW Government has set aside $1 billion for the project and “is actively looking at ways to share in the value generated along the new light rail corridor to raise additional funding”. Media reports indicate that a “special infrastructure contribution” from the private sector will be established with a levy of about $200 per square metre for new residential developments along the corridor. This funding will also be used for infrastructure, such as new schools and road upgrades as well as the light rail.

This approach attracted criticism from the Urban Taskforce as well as NSW Opposition leader Luke Foley, who noted that no one in the eastern suburbs would need to pay “an additional $20,000 per apartment for their light rail project” (the CBD and South East Light Rail currently under construction. Ryde Council mayor Jerome Laxale also criticised the decision to not to extend the northern branch of the line from Carlingford to Epping and Macquarie Park.

See Transport Sydney’s excellent summary of the history of this project and the comment at the end of this post.

Engineers provide input on Newcastle while Premier defends proposed PPP

Engineers Australia has met with the office of NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance to provide input into Newcastle’s transport planning. The association clained that the city needs “a multi-modal, fully integrated transport system” which connects all major activity centres and which can accommodate the city’s future expansion. Engineers Australia also “sees a need to ensure future light rail stages can continue west fron the Wickham rail terminus”.

Meanwhile NSW Premier Mike Baird used a visit to Newcastle to defend the use of private-public partnerships for key projects in the region including the Hunter Street Mall redevelopment and The Store development in Newcastle west. There have also been calls for private sector investment in the city’s light rail project.

Transport: Rail

Maldon-Dombarton off-line but councils support Sydney-Canberra electrification

The future of the partially-constructed Maldon-Dombarton freight rail line is again uncertain after the NSW Government’s registration of interest (RoI) approach failed to fund a private backer, according to media reports.

The line would have offered a direct link between Port Kembla and coalfields at Lithgow and Picton as well as to Western Sydney, also removing rail freight from much of the passenger rail network. Construction commenced in 1983 but the project was abandoned in 1988. Only two groups expressed interest in completing the project but NSW Roads and Freight Minister Duncan Gay said they had not been accepted “as neither RoI met all the published evaluation criteria”.

Initially the private sector was expected to foot all the project costs, but the Minister did however hint that government funding might now be an option. Shellhabour MP Anna Watson criticised the government’s approach, saying that “seed funding” must be part of the project in future.

Meanwhile a meeting of Wingecarribee, Goulburn Mulwaree, Palering Shire and Queanbeyan Councils have agreed to support electrification of the Sydney to Canberra corridor after a meeting with the Southern Tablelands Rail Users group (STRUG). The group’s president Greg Price said that electicification combined with tilt train technology could reduce journey times and boost population growth.

Rebuild for Sydney CBD station

Access to Sydney’s CBD Museum Station entrance in Hyde Park South will be improved with the installation by Transport for NSW of lifts linking the entry, concourse and platforms, according to the City of Sydney. The project will require the demolition of the existing cafe at the rear of the station and a new open-plan cafe will be constructed by the council to replace it.

 Record PT use recorded in Adelaide

The South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure has reported a large increase in the number of people using public transport in Adelaide, with an extra three million trips recorded in the last financial year. The largest increase was experienced on the train network in the first full year since the electrification of the Seaford line. More than 4.45 million passengers used the line, an increase of 78%. There were increases across the other rail lines and a slight increase in use of the bus network, which carries the bulk of Adelaide Metro passengers.

The Strategic Week no. 2. Comment: the long and the short of the Western Sydney light rail plan

The NSW Government’s announcement of the Parramatta to Olympic Park route as its preferred option is no great surprise, especially as even some of its ministers were giving the game away. The decision to incorporate the link to Carlingford but not to extend this to Epping or Macquarie Park is more unexpected, but taken together the preferred routes reveal a lot about both the extent and limits of the government’s ambition.

While the concept of a light rail network within Western Sydney dates back at least to the 1970s, the decision by the previous Labor government to cancel the Parramatta to Epping section of the Parramatta to Chatswood heavy rail link led to the concept being revived, especially after the decision to incorporate the Epping to Chatswood section into the Northwest Metro.

In acknowledgment that a heavy rail link from Parramatta to Epping was an increasingly unlikely option, Parramatta Council put a lot of work into developing and reshaping the regional light rail concept. Council’s initial proposal involved an ambitious intra-regional network connecting all the major centres in the region. Out of this a feasibility study commissioned by council identified four priority corridors, all centred on Parramatta. These included routes to Castle Hill, Macquarie Park via Eastwood, Bankstown and to Sydney Olympic Park.

As well as improving access to Parramatta from surrounding suburbs and increasing connectivity with the Parramatta CBD, these routes provided the basis for orbital connections between the existing western and southwestern lines and the planned northwest rail link, thus filling in some critical missing gaps in Sydney’s public transport network. Out of these four lines, the feasibility study identified the link to Macquarie Park as the highest priority, along with the route to Castle Hill.

Parramatta City Council preferred light rail options as identified in the feasibility study (Source Parramatta City Council Feasibility Report volume 2)

Parramatta City Council preferred light rail options as identified in the feasibility study (Source: Parramatta City Council Feasibility Report volume 2)

The light rail concept attracted political support, with both major parties promising up to $1 billion for the project prior to the state election. The government also announced it would undertake its own assessment of the routes and priorities. This is where something odd happened; the route to Macquarie Park via Eastwood was suddenly transformed into a Epping via Carlingford proposal which involved taking over the current Carlingford rail line, while the Olympic Park route was shifted to terminate at Strathfield rather than Rhodes. There was little explanation for these changes and the two-volume feasibility report which explained the route choices and provided a rationale for prioritising the Macquarie Park disappeared from Council’s website.

In my view the Eastwood/Macquarie Park option is a better choice at least on paper; it links directly to the Macquarie employment area, avoids the congested Epping interchange but still provides a link to the northern line and the northwest metro currently under construction. Nonetheless the Epping option would at least have provided a link between the Northwest Metro, and the northern and western rail lines. There was however increasing support for the Olympic Park option to be selected as the first route, with the private sector and some elements within government identifying the light rail as a potential catalyst for the redevelopment of this old industrial corridor. Ironically this is the only route which does provide an orbital link, especially as it will now terminate at Strathfield rather than Rhodes.

From the government’s perspective however, the Olympic Park route obviously had one thing going for it – in using the light rail to drive redevelopment, there was also the potential to at least partly fund it through development-related value capture mechanisms. While the development sector has expressed concern that a suggested contribution of around $20,000 per apartment is too high and too inequitable (especially as eastern suburbs developments will not be required to contribute to the development of the light rail there), the ability to use value capture to raise additional funds also provided the opportunity to fund a second route, with the most obvious choice being the Epping option.

So it has come to pass – but only in part. The second branch is planned to go only as far as Carlingford and will take over the existing heavy rail corridor. This proposal appears to fall between two stools as it neither provides an orbital link from Parramatta to Epping, nor the opportunity to support redevelopment to anything like the extent potentially available in the Olympic Park corridor. It’s tempting to see the adoption of the truncated route as a repeat of what happened in Newcastle; a convenient opportunity to solve the “problem” of an existing under-utilised heavy rail link, though given the current poor patronage in this case it’s hard to see a strong economic rationale even for a conversion unless the line is eventually extended to Epping.

It is hard to make a definitive assessment at this stage as very little detail such as costings, a business case or even a decent map have been released for the project; it is therefore quite possible that it will change again before a construction contract is signed. Despite this, the tantalising gap between the end of the line at Carlingford and Epping is indicative of the government’s modest ambitions for the project. On the other hand it can be argued that the project will deliver a solid foundation for the future expansion of light rail to become a genuine Western Sydney network.

This entry was posted in Governance, Growth, Infrastructure, Local Government, Planning, Public Transport, ROCs, Sydney metro area, Transport, Western Sydney and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Strategic Week (no. 2, Thursday 10 December 2015) – the week in governance, planning, infrastructure and transport

  1. Ted says:

    Thank you for these comprehensive and informative updates.

    The story below (from the Inner West Courier 15/12/15) doesn’t have much substance, but it’s intriguing nonetheless… The original CBD-Rozelle metro corridor went right through The Bays Precinct, and included a “possible station” at the White Bay Power Station. That was a good idea then, and it remains so – especially as the nearby Rozelle Goods Yards were envisaged as a marshalling facility for Metro rolling stock (since grabbed by WestConnex for a major road interchange). In all the discussion about those sites now, there is no mention of a Metro, zilch… Yet someone in the deep dark corridors of Transport NSW hasn’t forgotten.


    • Alex says:

      Thanks Ted for the feedback and the lead which as you say is intriguing. I was going to run an article about it but I couldn’t track down any other information to verify the Inner West Courier story. I think a Metro via Rozelle may have made some sense as part of the NW Metro (as was once proposed) but given that the metro is now going via North Sydney I’m not sure what one to Rozelle would do apart from serving the Bays Precinct. I suspect the latter could end up with an extension to the light rail line, possibly via Glebe Island.


  2. Pingback: What happened in StrategicMatters in 2015? | StrategicMatters

  3. Ted says:

    That Rozelle/Bays metro crops up again in todays SMH. In a small item (in passing) Jacob Saulwick claims its an agenda item of Urban Growth NSW’s CEO David Pitchford. Its corridor (never abandoned) is shown on the Herald’s map. here:

    The light rail link to the existing station at Rozelle Bay shown is curious – and most likely pure speculation. Hardly likely that they’d built a completely new line ignoring the existing goods rail. A portion of its tracks were torn up a few years ago up near the Cruise Terminal, but most of it is still intact. But as far as a functional mass transit system for an invigorated and densely populated area is concerned, light rail would be far less than ideal. Better than a “shuttle bus” (!!) sure, but not by much. Its a slow, circular, indirect and loopy route route to the city, and a peak hour now – already at capacity.

    The LEC decision on Tigers is scheduled for February. Maybe then we’ll hear more about that “ghost that never dies” (the Rozelle Metro) then…


    • Alex says:

      Thanks for the comment. I’ve downloaded the report Saulwick referred to and will discuss this in this week’s TSW – it won’t take long, as the report is fairly short!


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