Syd­ney’s sub­ur­ban grow­ing pains

How Syd­ney is be­com­ing a mini- Tokyo

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - FRONT PAGE - BEN PIKE UR­BAN AF­FAIRS RE­PORTER

SYD­NEY is on the verge of be­com­ing a mini-Tokyo, with pop­u­la­tion den­sity in at least 23 sub­urbs now nearly as high as the CBD.

A Sun­day Tele­graph spe­cial re­port has found those sub­urbs feel­ing the big squeeze in­clude Hurstville, Can­ter­bury, Auburn, Rock­dale, Chatswood and Dee Why — al­ready es­tab­lished ar­eas un­der­go­ing what ex­perts call the “sub­ur­ban­i­sa­tion of den­sity”. Ryde, Strath­field, Liver­pool, Pen­rith and Par­ra­matta are other sub­urbs also fac­ing the same pop­u­la­tion pres­sures.

The den­sity drive means the dis­tinc­tion be­tween city and sub­ur­ban liv­ing is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly blurred as lo­cals deal with more con­ges­tion, in­creas­ing com­pe­ti­tion for green space, greater pres­sure on schools and fa­cil­i­ties, and a creak­ing pub­lic trans­port net­work, as part of ev­ery­day life.

Ex­perts warn the sit­u­a­tion is only go­ing to get worse as Syd­ney’s im­mi­gra­tion-fu­elled pop­u­la­tion growth boosts the need for hous­ing and fu­els a boom in in­va­sive tower blocks, which is lead­ing to the demise of tra­di­tional sub­ur­ban liv­ing ar­range­ments such as the back­yard pool.

City Fu­tures Re­search Di­rec­tor and Univer­sity of NSW Pro­fes­sor Bill Ran­dolph said the boom in devel­op­ment — and the in­crease in den­sity — is fun­da­men­tally chang­ing the fab­ric of af­fected sub­urbs for­ever.

“No­body no­tices if you put a 20storey tower in cen­tral Syd­ney but if you put it out in Liver­pool then peo­ple will,” Pro­fes­sor Ran­dolph told The Sun­day Tele­graph. “These sub­urbs are never go­ing to be the same again.”

The pace of change has been as­tound­ing. Syd­ney has built al­most 628,000 new dwellings since 1991 — more than two-thirds the en­tire city of Bris­bane. Be­tween 2005 and 2017 Greater Syd­ney had a 25 per cent in­crease in ur­ban den­sity, ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Bu­reau of Statis­tics (ABS).

Last year, the CBD’s ur­ban den­sity was 7212 peo­ple per square kilo­me­tre. At the same time, 18 sub­urbs had a greater pop­u­la­tion den­sity than the CBD, while an­other 23 were trail­ing by up to just 2000 peo­ple per square kilo­me­tre. Those with a greater pop­u­la­tion den­sity in­clude Potts Point-Wool­loomooloo (16,229.9), Bondi Beach-North Bondi (9453.8), Lakemba (8297.8) and Peter­sham-Stan­more (7221.7).

Those within reach in­clude the in­ner-west sub­urbs of Ash­field (7119.5), Camp­sie (6883), and Dul­wich Hill-Lewisham (6619), as well as Dee Why-North Curl Curl (6566.8), Hurstville (7062.7) and Dou­ble Bay-Belle­vue Hill (5692.8).

The den­sity boom has been driven by Syd­ney’s pop­u­la­tion hit­ting 5.1 mil­lion in June 2017, an in­crease of 101,600 peo­ple — or 2 per cent — since June 2016. This was the first time on record Syd­ney’s pop­u­la­tion grew by more than 100,000 peo­ple in a year, ac­cord­ing to the ABS.

While much of the pop­u­la­tion in­crease has been in green­field ar­eas that were once pad­docks, some sub­ur­ban re- gions within 15km of the CBD have had pop­u­la­tion den­sity more than dou­ble in that time.

The big­gest squeeze has been in Home­bush-Sil­ver­wa­ter, with a mas­sive 145 per cent in­crease, fol­lowed by Wa­ter­loo-Bea­cons­field (123pc), Con­cord West-North Strath­field (115pc), Home­bush (90pc) and Arn­cliffe-Bard­well Val­ley (77pc).

Also cop­ping in­creases of be­tween 41 and 69 per cent are Par­ra­matta-Rose­hill, Red­fern-Chip­pen­dale, North­mead, Lid­combe, Mas­cot, Kens­ing­ton and Ryde. And it’s our “ob­ses­sion” with high-rise apart­ments that has led to a con­cen­tra­tion of the den­sity in fewer ar­eas.

“Syd­ney is ob­sessed with achiev­ing in­creased den­sity through high-rise apart­ments only,” Univer­sity of South­ern Queens­land ur­ban re­searcher Michael Grosvenor said. He ex­plained Syd­ney was one of a hand­ful of global cities, such as the nine-mil­lion strong Tokyo, cre­at­ing high­den­sity sub­ur­ban satel­lite cities such as Par­ra­matta, Liver­pool, Chatswood, Bur­wood and Hornsby.

“When it comes to our ap­proach to plan­ning, Tokyo and Syd­ney are in a league of their own,” Mr Grosvenor said.

“In Tokyo they have a lot of cen­tres around outer ur­ban ar­eas. We are do­ing some­thing sim­i­lar.”

He said bet­ter plan­ning could have al­lowed for the in­crease in pop­u­la­tion to be shared evenly among sub­urbs, with more less-in­va­sive, low-rise apart­ment blocks and town­houses.

“The older-style three-storey apart­ment blocks could have achieved higher den­sity with­out hav­ing the im­pact on com­mu­nity that high-rise apart­ments have had out­side the CBD,” Mr Grosvenor said.

Prof Ran­dolph said this sort of devel­op­ment had changed sub­urbs for­ever. “Places like Auburn and Strath­field are where ur­ban den­si­fi­ca­tion is go­ing in, but there is al­ready a fair bit of den­sity there al­ready,” he said. “In the fu­ture, it is these ar­eas where the crunch is go­ing to come.”

Prof Ran­dolph said the north shore has largely avoided overde­vel­op­ment and, com­pared to other coun­cils, will con­tinue to avoid the squeeze. This means de­vel­op­ers will

turn to ar­eas where they are least likely to en­counter re­sis­tance.

“If the prop­erty mar­ket picks up again there will be pres­sure to carry on with the devel­op­ment that has al­ready hap­pened in those places. The mar­ket will go where it can find op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Prof Ran­dolph said.

“I can’t see where else it is go­ing to go un­less the Depart­ment of Plan­ning widens those zoom­ing ar­eas.”

Over­seas mi­gra­tion ac­counted for more than 70 per cent of Syd­ney’s pop­u­la­tion in­crease, with both Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son and Premier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian in­di­cat­ing they want a re­duc­tion in the num­ber of mi­grants com­ing to Syd­ney.

NSW La­bor Party polling has shown overde­vel­op­ment, con­ges­tion and im­mi­gra­tion con­sis­tently make it into the top five hot-but­ton is­sues for vot­ers. Ms Bere­jik­lian this week an­nounced an in­quiry into Ryde, which has seen a 41 per cent in­crease in peo­ple per square kilo­me­tre be­tween 2005 and 2017.

The north­west Syd­ney coun­cil’s pop­u­la­tion is set to surge fur­ther with an es­ti­mated 9500 new dwellings go­ing in be­tween 2017 and 2022.

Dave John­ston, 48, drives through West Ryde on his way to work in the CBD as a corrections of­fi­cer. He wor­ries for the fu­ture for him­self and his 11-year-old daugh­ter, Jess.

He is thank­ful that the area be­tween Vic­to­ria Rd and the Par­ra­matta River has largely dodged ma­jor devel­op­ment and doesn’t want to see Syd­ney be­come un­recog­nis­able.

“There is no doubt that the traf­fic is twice as bad as what it was five years ago,” the Ry­dalmere res­i­dent said. “I can un­der­stand big de­vel­op­ments in Par­ra­matta but it should not be out­side that area.

“I don’t want to see traf­fic get even worse than what it is al­ready.”

While devel­op­ment in Syd­ney’s mid­dle-ring and in­ner sub­urbs has gone up, sub­ur­ban sprawl has also con­tin­ued on Syd­ney’s fringe.

An In­fra­struc­ture Aus­tralia re­port re­leased in Oc­to­ber found that 88 per cent of peo­ple in outer sub­ur­ban com­mute by car, adding sub­stan­tial travel costs to fam­ily bud­gets and pro­duc­tiv­ity-sap­ping con­ges­tion to city roads.

Pic­ture: Sam Rut­tyn Pic­tures: Nearmap

David John­stone, with daugh­ter Jess, doesn’t want to see Syd­ney be­come un­recog­nis­able. Satel­lite im­agery from Den­ham Court near Camp­bell­town il­lus­trates the rate of growth in our sub­urbs.

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