THE Australian Government last week said that investment in urban and regional infrastructure will be better informed following the release of the State of Australian Cities 2014-15 and Progress in Australian Region: State of Regional Australia 2015.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss said the release of both reports provides a deeper, more complete picture of the population, employment, economic and transport trends that are occurring across Australia.
"Building the infrastructure Australia needs for the future is best informed by a thorough understanding of the challenges ahead, and these publications will provide vital information for infrastructure planners and communities," Mr Truss said.
"The Australian Government released both the State of Australian Cities and State of Regional Australia reports concurrently to provide a nationwide view of Australia's progress."
Mr Truss said the release of the publications recognised the interrelated nature of cities and their surrounding regions.
"State of Australian Cities 2014-15 is an important tool for all levels of government in understanding where our cities are performing well and where there are opportunities for improvement," he said.
"While there is no doubt our cities are vitally important for the nation's prosperity they cannot be considered in isolation from their surrounding regions.
"The Progress in Australia's Regions—State of Regional Australia 2015 report illustrates the different ways that regions change and takes into account aspects like population growth, economic wellbeing and social progress.
"This report shows that infrastructure continues to support the economies of regional Australian by promoting the efficient flow of people and resources while also providing regional Australians with access to essential services such as education and health.
"In December 2014, my Department released the Progress in Australian Regions—Yearbook 2014 to provide a statistical resource that can help answer the question of how regions are progressing against economic, social, environmental and governance indicators.
"This publication will enable governments, private investors and the community to identify trends that are important for policy development and investment decisions.
"The Government will continue to provide detailed analysis of the challenges facing the nation—inclusive of regional Australia."
Solid statistical base is vital to proper planning: Property Council
The release of the State of Australian Cities 2014-15 report was welcomed by the Property Council of Australia, with Executive Director of the Council's Residential Development division, Nick Proud, saying the 2014-15 report underscores the challenges Australia faces in managing the growth of its cities.
"Most Australians live in our major cities and the majority of our economic activity is generated there, so it is important that policy makers have access to factual data," Mr Proud said.
"This report highlights the demands on Australia's transport networks and analyses the interaction between jobs, infrastructure and housing in optimising productivity.
"A more strategic, long-term approach to infrastructure delivery will maximise economic activity, workforce participation and the value of human capital in our cities.
"As the report notes: 'Major transport infrastructure can play a critical role in shaping the growth of cities, and if properly planned, can direct future housing and employment growth to areas that improve productivity and equality of access to jobs and services.'
"A concerted policy focus is needed to ensure affordable housing is located within fast-growing population centres and is efficiently connected to the economic intensity of our city centres.
"Land use planning, including that for housing, should be done in partnership with infrastructure planning and economic development policies.
"Coordinating land and housing supply, along with the provision of appropriate infrastructure that allows better access to employment opportunities and minimises commute times, would significantly lift national productivity.
"Growth projections make this task an urgent one, with the impetus on governments to press ahead with the task of infrastructure delivery," Mr Proud said.
SOAC report reiterates the critical Importance of Australia's cities: UDIA
The Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) said the 2014-15 State of Australian Cities Report outlines the critical role of cities in driving the Australian economy, and ensuring Australia's high quality of life.
UDIA National President Cameron Shephard said that creating economically productive and liveable cities would be essential for ensuring Australia's future prosperity.
"Cities are the engine rooms of the Australian economy. They are the drivers of national productivity, are home to most of Australia's jobs, and generate the majority of Australia's economic output," he said.
"Given the growing economic challenges facing Australia, it will be essential for governments to do what they can to ensure that Australia's cities are attractive and competitive places to live, work, and do business."
The report notes that in addition to a strong economy, cities are also essential to the standard of living and quality of life of most Australians, with over 75 per cent of the country's population residing in the country's 20 largest cities.
"Unfortunately, as many Australians would have experienced first-hand, investment in key city infrastructure has struggled to keep up with growth in recent years, creating congestion and resulting in inadequate access to services, housing, and other opportunities," Mr Shephard said.
"Together with burdensome red tape and inefficient and dysfunctional planning systems, the productivity and quality of life in our cities is being put at risk.
"The 2014-15 State of Australian Cities report makes a valuable contribution by bringing cities back into the policy spotlight, and highlighting to governments where our cities can be improved to secure Australia's economic prosperity, and the quality of life for most Australians."
The State of Australian Cities 2014-15 report is available from <https://infrastructure.gov.au/infrastructure/pab/soac/index.aspx>.
The Progress in Australian Regions: State of Regional Australia 2015 report is available from <http://regional.gov.au/regional/publications/sora/index.aspx>.