A TALE OF TWO CITIES

Syd­ney is putting its West foot for­ward but the morn­ing com­mute is still a daily grind

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - News - KYLAR LOUSSIKIAN

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

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