Greater Sydney Commission gears up to drive city growthThe number of homes in Sydney is anticipated to double in the next 40 to 50 years.

Greater Sydney Commission gears up to drive city growth

Chris Johnson

The NSW government has released the details of the Greater Sydney Commission and followed up with advertisements for key lead roles.

With the right people filling these positions, we could have a truly metropolitan-wide approach to planning for Sydney’s growth for the first time. And we need it. The number of homes in Sydney is anticipated to double in the next 40 to 50 years.

Clearly, the city can’t spread outwards to double the current urban footprint with low density suburban housing. The commission must champion a new way to double the number of homes, as well as provide land for employment-generating uses and retail outlets to service this growth.

The only way to double our size within the existing urban footprint is by building upward, and this will be the greatest challenge for the new organisation.

The Greater Sydney Commission will have a board of 13, composed of six district commissioners, three commissioners representing the key components of sustainable development – social, environmental and economic issues – and three heads of state government departments (Planning, Transport and Treasury), along with a chairman or chairwoman.

Large advertisements have appeared in Sydney newspapers, seeking top-quality candidates.

To ensure local representation, the district commissioners will each represent one of the six districts (previously called subregions) outlined in the metropolitan strategy, A Plan for Growing Sydney.

Interestingly, these local representatives must apply to the state government, which will presumably pass on the names to the relevant councils in each district to develop a shortlist.

As each district commissioner will also be the chairman or chairwoman of the Joint Regional Planning Panel when considering planning applications in their district, the Planning Minister is likely to be involved in the final selection.

A chief executive and a chairman or chairwoman will be appointed, along with the three specialist commissioners representing the environment (presumably a fairly “green” person), the community (a local activist type) and financial (from the development industry).

If we get top-quality people in the commissioner positions, then the commission could really drive Sydney’s growth as well as manage the need for infrastructure in the right places at the right time.

Our concern is that with about a dozen staff, the commission may not have the resources to be able to take on the critical work required.

Hopefully, the resources and the personalities will be able to drive Sydney’s growth through good strategic planning, timely and efficient infrastructure provision and the approval of regionally significant projects.

Chris Johnson is the chief executive of Urban Taskforce Australia.

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