PROPERTY and development industry groups have welcomed the appointment of a Minister for Cities and the Built Environment, describing it as a move that will help to place a renewed focus on policy issues such as tax reform, and driving economic growth and productivity in Australia's cities.
Responsibility for the new portfolio has been given to Jamie Briggs, who was previously Assistant for Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. Warren Truss retains his role as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development.
In other changes introduced by new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Paul Fletcher has been appointed Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects. Greg Hunt retains responsibility for the Environment portfolio.
National President of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA), Cameron Shephard, said that the appointment of a Minister for Cities was a particularly welcome change, given the critical importance of cities to the Australian economy and quality of life.
"Cities are the engine rooms of the Australian economy, and are home to the vast majority of Australians. They are the drivers of national productivity, employment, and generate the majority of Australia's economic output," Mr Shephard said.
"UDIA has long advocated for a specific cities portfolio, so it's great to see cities given the prominence they deserve within the Government's policy agenda, and we look forward to working with Minister Jamie Briggs in this area."
Chief Executive of the Property Council of Australia, Ken Morrison, described the appointment of Jamie Briggs as Minister for Cities and the Built Environment as a key economic appointment that recognises the role of cities in meeting Australia's productivity challenges.
"Malcolm Turnbull is perhaps our most urbanist Prime Minister ever and has lost no time in placing cities firmly on the federal agenda," Mr Morrison said.
"With the property industry accounting for one ninth of Australia's GDP and employing 1.1 million people - more than mining and manufacturing combined - there is an increasing urban dimension to the economy.
"Jamie Briggs is a smart appointment as the new Cities Minister given his record in securing the government's $50 billion infrastructure commitment in last year's budget.
"The move mirrors one already made by the Opposition last year in appointing Anthony Albanese as shadow cities minister, and it is very pleasing to now see a bipartisan approach to the importance of this issue."
Chief Executive of the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA), Romilly Madew, said the appointment recognises not only the importance of cities as the engine room of the nation's productivity and prosperity, but also the central role the built environment plays in tackling many of Australia's greatest challenges.
"Around 80 per cent of Australians live in our capital cities – and this is expected to grow as an additional 10 million people call our cities home over the next 40 years," Ms Madew said.
"Prime Minister Turnbull has been actively engaged in the cities space for many years and acknowledges that cities, long overlooked by federal governments, are home to our most valuable economic assets – our people.
"Minister Briggs' long-awaited appointment will enable us to better tackle the challenges we face – challenges such as climate change, population growth, ageing demographics, congestion, housing affordability, liveability and social inclusion."