Make most of your magic me­trop­o­lis

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Prime Space -

WHEN­EVER the world’s cities are ranked in a new live­abil­ity sur­vey you can usu­ally bet on a cou­ple of things: Melbourne and Syd­ney will ap­pear in the top 20, and Melbourne will rate higher than Syd­ney.

That means, of course, Melbourne’s burghers have long gone on end­lessly about how live­able the south­ern cap­i­tal is ( sub­text: Syd­ney might be brash, beau­ti­ful and a great place to visit, but Melbourne is a su­pe­rior place to call home).

In fair­ness, Vic­to­ria’s cap­i­tal does boast a park- filled open­ness and el­e­gance, and ev­ery­thing is rel­a­tively ac­ces­si­ble.

It does have lib­eral li­cens­ing laws, it does have cen­tral mar­kets that are world- class, the roads are free- flow­ing and wide and the city’s pub­lic trans­port sys­tem ac­tu­ally works in ways that many Syd­neysiders can only dream about.

In­deed, so many are the city’s as­sets that in 2004 Melbourne was crowned the world’s most live­able city in a sur­vey by The Econ­o­mist .

Since then, though, the city has slipped in sur­veys.

For in­stance, in Mercer Hu­man Re­source Con­sult­ing’s 2007 world­wide qual­ity- of- liv­ing sur­vey, Melbourne comes in 17th, while Syd­ney ties for ninth with Switzer­land’s Berne.

Perth was 21st, with Ade­laide 30th and Bris­bane 32nd ( for the record: Zurich topped the sur­vey and Bagh­dad, not sur­pris­ingly, was bot­tom of the list).

Mercer’s rank­ings are based on 39 liv­ing cri­te­ria, in­clud­ing po­lit­i­cal, so­cial, eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors, per­sonal safety and health, ed­u­ca­tion, trans­port and other pub­lic ser­vices.

The com­pany com­piles the fig­ures as a bench­mark for gov­ern­ments and cor­po­ra­tions aiming to place em­ploy­ees on over­seas as­sign­ments.

‘‘ Or­gan­i­sa­tions can strug­gle to find suit­ably qual­i­fied lo­cal staff when op­er­at­ing over­seas,’’ Mercer prin­ci­pal Yvonne Son­sino says, so they ‘‘ rely on bench­mark data to en­sure the re­wards they of­fer en­cour­age em­ploy­ees with trans­fer­able skills to ac­cept in­ter­na­tional as­sign­ments’’.

In other words, Mercer’s rank­ings take into ac­count what an ex­pa­tri­ate ex­ec­u­tive might look for in a place to re­lo­cate to.

It’s a snap­shot of the sort of lifestyle the priv­i­leged and well- paid can ex­pect to ac­cess, but do they re­ally get to the nub of what is a truly live­able city?

Tyler Brule, a colum­nist for the In­ter­na­tional Her­ald Tri­bune , the cre­ator of the style bi­ble Wall­pa­per mag­a­zine and now the brains be­hind the Euro­pean- based Mon­o­cle mag­a­zine, doesn’t think so.

In his pub­li­ca­tion’s live­abil­ity sur­vey, in the cur­rent is­sue, ‘‘ tol­er­ance, punc­tual tran­sit, plenty of sun­shine and the abil­ity to get a drink in the wee hours all count for some­thing’’, he says.

‘‘ It’s about a com­bi­na­tion of all of things that make life in the city bet­ter and who’s do­ing it best.’’

Per­sonal safety fea­tures highly in the Mon­o­cle sur­vey — as in­deed it does in Mercer’s and The Econ­o­mist ’ s — so US cities scored par­tic­u­larly poorly on this cri­te­rion.

An­other im­por­tant quo­tient, ac­cord­ing to Mon­o­cle , are the hours of sun­shine and av­er­age tem­per­a­tures — which means Lon­don and Paris do poorly.

Yet more cri­te­ria in­clude the cost and qual­ity of pub­lic trans­port and taxis, the qual­ity of lo­cal me­dia, ac­cess to na­ture, the amount of green spa­ces to stretch out in, not to men­tion the ease with which you can find a drink af­ter 1am.

So it was that Mon­o­cle came up with a short­list of the 20 most live­able cities.

At num­ber- one is Mu­nich, cho­sen for its ‘‘ win­ning of in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture, high- qual­ity hous­ing, low crime, lib­eral pol­i­tics and strong me­dia’’, writes the mag­a­zine’s William Bos­ton.

Sec­ond is Copen­hagen, fol­lowed by Zurich, Tokyo and Vi­enna.

Melbourne just missed out on the top 10 ( slot­ting in at num­ber 11) and Syd­ney man­aged a cred­itable nineth on the list.

That re­ally makes you won­der about the mag­a­zine’s re­search ef­forts when it so clearly pro­fesses that ‘‘ punc­tual tran­sit’’ re­ally counts for some­thing.

They clearly haven’t rid­den on a Syd­ney bus or train.

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