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What we need to know

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A city supported by infrastructureInfrastructure
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A city for peoplePeople
Housing the cityHousing
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Jobs and skills for the cityJobs
A city in its landscapeLandscape
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A resilient cityResilience

Elizabeth Mildwater

The original Region Plan reimagined Greater Sydney. Its core ideas - the powerful concepts of the Metropolis of Three Cities and the 30-minute city - are now ubiquitous and have helped bring a clear focus on how we can better address the needs of all communities.

With unprecedented global disruption irrevocably altering how we live, work, play and learn, it's time to build on those strong foundations. This review is every bit as significant as the creation of the original Plan.

We start with two key strengths of the Greater Sydney Commission: an inquiring mindset and the spirit of collaboration.

And we start with questions: has the Region Plan achieved what it set out to do? What did we get right? What did we miss? What needs to be improved? What has changed?

We do all this at a time of considerable uncertainty. As this paper is released, multiple questions are being asked about changes in the way we live and work in Greater Sydney. Our city has experienced significant shocks over recent years and the full impacts are not yet known. What will happen to Sydney's population? What is happening with Sydney's housing market? Is hybrid working here to stay? What will happen to our CBDs? And our local centres, creative industries and arts and entertainment? What are the implications for transport?

The Greater Sydney Commission's role is not to respond to short-term issues but to assess the longer-term impacts, and plan for those. So we will be watching closely over the next two years to see which shifts endure in the long term. For each question we must consider whether we are seeing an acceleration of an existing trend, a wholly new trend or just a temporary disruption. We need to ensure we don't miss the opportunity inherent in disruption, but that we also don't let this particular moment in time loom larger than it should.


We have identified some key issues we believe warrant deeper analysis:

  • Global City Responses to COVID-19 - How has COVID-19 affected the long-term strategic thinking of our international city-region peers, and what lessons might Greater Sydney learn? In particular, how are other cities responding to structural changes in their CBDs, including consideration of the right balance between commercial and residential uses?
  • Net Zero Sydney - How quickly does Greater Sydney need to reduce its carbon emissions to support NSW's net zero target and what opportunities does this present?
  • Industrial lands - What is the role and function of the existing industrial and urban services land in Greater Sydney? The Region Plan emphasises the importance of industrial uses to how the city functions and, in some areas, limits the introduction of other uses. Would other approaches to their management provide more benefit to the State?
  • Jobs for the Future - How will our economy develop over the next 40 years and what are the implications of this for industries and the future workforce? What kinds of skills will be necessary for the jobs of the future and what will give way to automation? What kinds of jobs will create more jobs? How can we best plan the city-region to encourage future businesses, jobs and investment to locate in Greater Sydney?
  • Future of Centres - What is the future function of CBDs in a post-Covid environment? How do we work to create a city of thriving centres of different scales? Will local centres have a different role in Greater Sydney over the next 40 years?
  • Heat Resilience - How do we ensure that Greater Sydney's neighbourhoods remain liveable over the next 100 years given the anticipated temperature increases? What options might we explore, and what are the costs and benefits?

We are also thinking about other topics that would benefit from further focus for Greater Sydney. And we are interested in hearing from you. Where do you think we need to dive deeper? What warrants closer attention as we review our plans?

We already are thinking about the digital transformation of our lives and the need to ensure digital infrastructure is supported and accessible. As the population of Greater Sydney grows, is this the right time to reconsider the future relationship of the Metropolis to the regions that surround it, extending from Newcastle to Wollongong, and including the Central Coast, Bathurst, Southern Highlands and Illawarra? How could we ensure that all of Greater Sydney's future population has equitable access to current or planned public transport and that our travel is more sustainable?

And, of course, you can't live in Sydney without knowing housing affordability is a challenge facing many residents. We are following the current trends affecting housing affordability closely and will be looking at how the review of the Region Plan and District Plans can help meet Sydney's housing needs for the longer term.

The future is the product of the decisions we make today. Planning the future of a city you love is a wonderful opportunity and a great responsibility. I hope you feel as inspired as I do to make Greater Sydney an even better place to live.

Elizabeth Mildwater
Chief Executive Officer