Capitals plagued by poor infrastructure

A NEW report has found Australia’s capital cities are plagued by infrastructure deficits and deserve more government attention.

The finding is contained in a study entitled The Capital Cities and Australia’s Future which has been released by the Property Council of Australia and the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors.

Property Council President Carol Schwartz said there was a danger that government policy could become side-tracked by regional pressures and ignore the fundamental connection between cities and the bush.

“The ‘city versus the bush’ debate is divisive and ignores the fact that economic and social problems exist in all corners of Australia,” Ms Schwartz said.

Perth Lord Mayor Peter Nattrass said: “It is important that we recognise the vital role capital cities play in the health of our States’ economies, particularly in WA where Perth dominates the population base.”

The report calls on the Commonwealth to fund an Australian capital cities plan and on the Prime Minister to convene an annual capital cities forum similar to last year’s regional summit in Canberra.

Council of Capital City Lord Mayors chairman and Melbourne Lord Mayor Peter Costigan said a national policy on capital cities was crucial.

“A coordinated partnership with the Commonwealth would contribute significantly to positioning all Australia’s capital cities and the regions they serve for future growth,” Mr Costigan said.

The report said urban regions were the “new engines of prosperity”, citing evidence that city-based sectors such as IT and communications had been largely responsible for Australia’s recent economic growth.

Despite this, the Federal Government had ‘downgraded’ urban policies in recent years, the report says.

It says cities had the potential to become Australia’s key export earners if governments, working cooperatively, pay greater attention to urban issues such as infra-

structure, education and the environment.

“We need a vibrant and buoyant city economy which plans for the needs of a new generation of businesses, provides the drawcard for inward investment and the incentive for existing business to remain. Our cities must compete globally in the twenty-first century,” Dr Nattrass said.

Ms Schwartz said governments must recognise Australia’s prosperity was a partnership between city and the bush.

“Governments need to forge integrated solutions to global, regional and neighborhood issues rather than tackle problems in isolation,” she said.

“A ‘one Australia’ strategy would capitalise on the horizon sectors such as multimedia, tourism and bio-technology as well as provide a much needed stimulus to our traditional industries.

“You only have to look at the major trends of the world’s most successful countries to see that the big wealth creators are based around technology, excellence in education, good transport networks and a high quality of environment and lifestyle.”

Mr Costigan said that, without a coherent national strategy on the role of cities coupled with rural programs, Australia stood to lose more ground to its international competitors.

“The Council of Capital City Lord Mayors works in partnerships at the local, State and national level to optimise the sources of competitive advantage identified in the report – commercial connectivity, cost competitiveness, innovation and cultural tourism,” Mr Costigan said.

He said he looked forward to working closely with the Commonwealth Govern-ment and the other capital cities to implement the report’s findings.

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