New urban plan to deal with Australia's liveability problems

The Urban Coalition has also called for the creation of a Federal Government Department for Cities and Urban Development, which would incorporate the Major Cities Unit, to co-ordinate, develop and implement policies

A new plan has been announced by the Urban Coalition to improve infrastructure funding and planning in Australia.

The Urban Coalition is comprises built environment groups and its ‘New deal for urban Australia’ plan seeks to address liveability problems. These include congestion, inadequate planning and a lack of funding investment in community infrastructure to address the more than $500 billion backlog in infrastructure needs for Australian cities.

“Investment in critical urban infrastructure is failing to meet demand in most Australian cities, especially those affected by areas of high population growth,” Julie Katz, the Urban Development Institute of Australia’s national president, said in a statement.

“Without new investment, we are putting national productivity and our quality of life at risk.”

The Urban Coalition has called for an Urban Infrastructure Fund to be established to raise funding for infrastructure projects by issuing infrastructure investment products to retail and institutional investors.

The fund could potentially raise billions of dollars at minimal cost for the government and provide a low risk return for investors, Ms Katz said.

“It’s a win-win for investors, the government and Australian cities,” she said.

The Urban Coalition has also called for a new Federal Government Department for Cities and Urban Development, which would incorporate the Major Cities Unit, to co-ordinate, develop and implement policies.

It would cover a range of infrastructure projects, such as public transport, schools, hospitals and affordable housing.

“We must embrace innovative models to fund infrastructure in order to meet the challenges of demographic change, population growth and the effects of a changing climate,” Katy Dean, federal advocacy manager at the Green Building Council of Australia, said.

“City policy must be prioritised by the Australian Government to ensure more strategic planning of our cities and regions. Innovative models that drive infrastructure investment based on positive outcomes can help our communities to reach high benchmarks for liveability, prosperity, sustainability and resilience.”

The Urban Coalition has also called for strengthening the role of Infrastructure Australia.

Guided by COAG, Infrastructure Australia would establish investment categories to ensure an optimum spread of project priorities, according to the report. This could include regional towns, outer metro growth areas, rejuvenation corridors, new master planned communities, low carbon/eco-efficient networks and coastal adaptation zones.

It would also regularly publish a list of long-term investment projects in the pipeline.

“In the past five years, Infrastructure Australia has provided independent advice to governments, investors and owners of infrastructure and there is now an opportunity to build on that success,” Kirsty Kelly, chief executive officer at the Planning Institute of Australia, said.

“If we strengthen the roles of Infrastructure Australia and the Major Cities Unit we can ensure taxpayers and investors get the best possible return on every dollar invested in infrastructure.

“The governance overseeing Infrastructure Australia should be refined to better align with National Urban Policy and improve coordination with state and territory governments.”

The Urban Coalition is made up of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, Australian Conservation Foundation, Association of Building Sustainability Assessors, Consult Australia, Green Building Council of Australia, Australian Institute of Architects, National Growth Areas Alliance, Planning Institute of Australia, Property Council of Australia and the Urban Development Institute of Australia.