A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Sydney is putting its West foot forward but the morning commute is still a daily grind
SYDNEYSIDERS are better educated, better paid and have access to more green space than almost anywhere else in the nation — but the amount of time we spend in our cars is driving us to distraction.
New research shows that harbour city residents spend the longest time driving to work and they are also more likely to be late paying their mortgage.
The findings are part of the most comprehensive scorecard of Australia’s 22 largest cities, including Western Sydney, to be released by the federal government today.
It shows Sydney and the West had some of the highest numbers of new businesses opening last year, just after the Gold Coast, and some of the lowest rates of youth unemployment.
However, it’s not all beer and skittles, with money a particular bugbear. Nearly 10 per cent of Western Sydney families are forced to spend almost a third of their incomes on paying the mortgage, the worst result in the country.
Cities Minister Angus Taylor told The Daily Telegraph the scorecard, known as the National Cities Performance Dashboard, was “not a matter of one city being better than another, it’s a matter of them having different attributes and therefore different challenges and opportunities that need to be addressed”.
“Households that spend more on mortgage payments have less money to spend on other things — like food, electricity, transport and healthcare,” Mr Taylor said. “They are also more vulnerable to changes in personal financial circumstances and increases in interest rates.
“We know the weaker attribute of Western Sydney is the distance, the time it takes for people to get to work and the cost of housing.
“This dashboard is stark proof, we can see very clearly what it is and we can see it changing over time.”
It is a very different story in country areas.
“The great strength of our regional centres is that people live close to where they work, they’re very easy places and convenient places to live, but the jobs growth, the new business creation, which is an
important metric for regional centres is lower than we would like it to be,” Mr Taylor said.
The new figures throw up some interesting statistics, including what a multicultural region we are, with 35 per cent of households in Sydney and 34.2 per cent in Western Sydney speaking a language other than English, the highest rates in Australia.
And Western Sydney has the highest number of people living in one house, an aver minute age of 3.01 people compared with Sydney, which has 2.77 per dwelling. But only 58.2 per cent of Sydneysiders can get to work by car in less than 30 minutes, the lowest number in the country, and peak-hour traffic increases travel times by more than two-thirds.
That’s despite nearly 23 per cent of Sydneysiders catching public transport to work, significantly higher than secondplaced Melbourne where just over 15 per cent catch the tram, train or bus.
“We can see there is still some way to go to create 30- cities in Australia, particularly in bigger cities,” Mr Taylor said.
The national cities dashboard will be continually updated after its launch today and tracks if the government is meeting its targets in six areas — jobs, infrastructure, livability, innovation, planning and housing.
Across the nation, the scorecard shows Melbourne is the fastest growing of the 22 cities, followed by Geelong, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and Western Sydney.
Western Sydney has one of the lowest median ages, 35, compared to 35.7 for Sydney, and 42.3 for the Sunshine Coast, the oldest city in the country. Cairns has the highest indigenous population — 8.89 per cent — followed by Darwin, Townsville, Mackay and Newcastle.
Crime remains a concern, with the scorecard showing just 41 per cent of people in Western Sydney indicating they felt safe alone after dark in their local area, compared to 51.8 per cent of people in Sydney and 60.6 per cent in the Sunshine Coast.
But Springwood mother Holly Roy, 22, said Western Sydney was an amazing place to raise her on Jenson, 2.
“It’s got everything you need,” she said. “We live in an apartment where we are near people, can walk to the park or bush — it’s a great area.”
(The West’s) got everything we need — it’s a great area. Holly Roy
Natalie Akkari with Ariah Jouni, 4, and Charbel Chahine, 4, at her Montessori Merrylands childcare centre. Picture: Jonathan Ng