Sydney is open for business

As we know statistics can be interpreted many ways. So it is not a surprise that over 66 percent of the Sydney population in a poll on the question of whether Sydney is full would say yes. The question invites the answer.

If the question however had been’ “Should the NSW Government keep going on its infrastructure program or should NSW remain the centre of national economic activity and job creation”, there is every chance that many of that 66 percent would also say yes.

The major infrastructure projects require highly skilled workers such as engineers and project managers and without the welcome mat for skilled labour there are many options in other places. Sydney is now in hot competition for such skills with Brisbane and Melbourne which like Sydney has put metro rail projects on their infrastructure “to do” list. In fact in the long term it is the drive for skilled labour to take up the slack as the baby boomer generation retires that will be critical to our capacity to remain an economic power-house. 

The message from the Greater Sydney Commission has never been just about housing growth, it always puts growth in the context of jobs as well. That is because the demographic shift requires an ongoing focus on attracting labour.

It is an inarguable fact that growth brings jobs, whether it is in construction which is the demonstrable impact or in the flow on effect to jobs including teachers and nurses or chefs and baristas for example. 

Without a growth strategy attracting talent will be hard. Sydney already has a shortage of chefs that runs into the hundreds.

 Achieving the vision which we all have of a liveable, sustainable city requires a remix of housing types and the creation of stronger job centres away from the traditional centre. Higher density does not have to mean a reduction in liveability if the location of higher density precincts is tied to transport hubs and we all accept that the old car-dependency approach is not sustainable. 

It is disappointing that some elected officials see everything through the lens of their own survival rather than having the courage to give leadership to their local communities on why change is occurring. 

Sydney is a global city and we must remain a magnet for global talent we cannot do that if we pull up the draw-bridge and invite people to go elsewhere.  We cannot remain a strong city of enterprise without a capacity to attract skilled workers and that requires addressing those barriers that give people a reason to go somewhere else including housing affordability.

More development and a remix of housing types are all elements in the decisions people make in deciding whether it is Sydney or somewhere else. It would be tragic if ‘Sydney is full’ became the mantra that guided our future. At the same time the mantra cannot be one of ‘any development”. Rather the best chance for Sydney is collaboration of business, government including local government, and the community working with the Greater Sydney Commission to ensure we shape a liveable and sustainable Sydney that is capable of being competitive on the world-stage. We owe that to the next generation.

Patricia Forsythe

Executive Director

Patricia represents the Chamber on the City of Sydney Retail Advisory Panel and the Sydney Airport Planning Coordination Forum. Patricia has represented the Chamber on a number of NSW government committees including the Light Rail Delivery Phase Roundtable, Sydney’s Competitive Positioning Steering Committee and the Retail Expert Advisory Committee for the Department of Planning and the Environment.