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How To Make Sydney A More Liveable City

Let's borough some ideas from London and New York.

21/03/2017 6:31 AM AEDT | Updated 21/03/2017 6:34 AM AEDT
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In the wake of her recent rise to power, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced that she will make solving Sydney's housing affordability crisis her number one priority. Of course, Sydney's obscene house prices have been the topic of much hot debate -- one cannot forget the smashed avocado fiasco caused by Bernard Salt in 2016.

While we wait to hear about Premier Berejiklian's plan to solve Sydney's housing crisis, it is worth pausing to think on a broader scale about how we can make Sydney a more liveable city.

There are undoubtedly a multitude of answers to this question. One long-term objective that might really change the way Sydneysiders live is the creation of boroughs throughout the metropolitan area. When one looks at major cities abroad such as London and New York, it's easy to see how boroughs work to develop a sense of personality, identity and, most importantly, community, in a particular area. Each borough has something to offer which inspires the growth of business and recreational activities in that area to attract like-minded people.

Perhaps Sydney ought to rethink its fast-moving, myopic strategy of mass development and take a more considered approach to growing its cityscape.

In Sydney, a borough-type model might be seen in inner city areas such as Surry Hills and the inner west region, but that's as far as it tends to go. The unfortunate consequence of this is that people from across Sydney are found converging in a small area for a particular activity, for example on Kings Cross for a night out.

However, a system of boroughs across the city would divert people in different directions to small microcosms of activity without the overcrowding and tension on resources. Each borough will function as its own self-contained ecosystem of residential, business and recreational activity. Developing these standalone hubs of employment and recreation in outer Sydney might not only ease the pressure on housing in central parts of Sydney but also encourage the spread of our metropolis.

How can Sydney embark on the creation of boroughs?

Sydney's current strategy of blindly throwing cash at the development of overpriced high-density housing is unlikely to be the answer. While the housing boom which has been driven by the construction of high-rise apartments and gated villages across Sydney might be beneficial for some, in the long term it does no favours to building a city with cultural depth and a diverse flavour. Just as it's important to have restaurants, cafes and parks, buildings themselves lend so much character to an area.

Perhaps Sydney ought to rethink its fast-moving, myopic strategy of mass development and take a more considered approach to growing its cityscape. We should dedicate our resources to architecture that will add personality to an area and develop its character in a way that might inspire these small boroughs in Sydney.

Of course, architecture alone won't suffice to build boroughs. The development of commerce and public utilities is essential. Perhaps this is the perfect opportunity for Sydney to capitalise on the Council amalgamations occurring across the State. These larger local government areas should be empowered to build and encourage the growth of business in their area to suit the demographic as well as developing public facilities such as parks, pools and tennis courts.

By giving local government more power over business regulation, the city can develop pockets of employment as well as nightlife and recreation that don't require people from across the city to converge on a central place.

Through strategic town planning, improved transport links between suburbs and an increase in restaurants and recreational businesses, areas such as the bayside south of the airport or the Hills district could easily develop into self-sufficient boroughs. By giving local government more power over business regulation, the city can develop pockets of employment as well as nightlife and recreation that don't require people from across the city to converge on a central place. This will encourage people to work and play in their local area and hopefully spread the urban centre of Sydney.

With campaigns such as Keep Sydney Open lobbying to change the lockout laws which have for some time affected Sydney's nightlife, major changes to transport infrastructure across the city, and a newly shuffled NSW cabinet in place, it seems that Sydney might finally be in for some long overdue transformation.

With the council amalgamations of her predecessor and the housing crisis both at the top of Premier Berejiklian's to-do list, this could be a fantastic way for our new premier to make her mark. Most importantly, the development of these boroughs will add a depth of character to Sydney's suburbs that will help to foster our position as a truly global and diverse city.

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