Strengthening Cities: Why We Need a National Coordinated Plan

Around the same time that WSP released its 2018 Global Cities Index benchmarking the future readiness of cities around the world, a Federal Parliamentary Committee enquiring into the Australian Government’s role in the development of cities endorsed the call for development of a National Settlement Strategy. WSP’s Adam Cilento, Senior Planner – Environment and Gavin Elphinstone, Technical Executive – Environment & Planning drew similar conclusions from our Index and the recommendation for the National Settlement Strategy, as they both identify the need for a coordinated approach to planning and development of cities and regions at a national level.


A Tale of Our Cities

The 2018 Global Cities Index provides insights about how cities are preparing for a future shaped by the major urban transitions of our day: urbanisation; density and growth; digital disruption; emerging mobility; evolving utilities models and a changing climate. We have assessed a range of cities around the world including Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne in relation to their planning of the built environment against the themes of Places, Mobility, Technology and Urban Systems.


According to Adam and Gavin, “The Index demonstrates that long-term-planning is critical. While Sydney and Melbourne have plans beyond 2035, other cities in Australia don’t. Hence, there is a real need to deploy a nationally coordinated strategy.”


Government Support for Planning

The September 2018 findings of the inquiry into the Australian Government’s role in the development of cities conducted by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities backed all six of the major recommendations from an official submission by the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA):

  1. Development of National Settlement Strategy
  2. Infrastructure funding alignment to National Settlement Strategy
  3. Appointment of National Chief Planner
  4. Spatial review of Commonwealth Policies
  5. COAG recognition of Strategic Planning
  6. City Deal realignment to National Settlement Strategy (including regions)

Specifically, the PIA report advocates for ‘a strategic planning framework stressing collaboration and cooperation and underpinned by an agreed national vision which would allow planners and policy makers to do their jobs more effectively’.


Adam says, “While the 2018 Global Cities Index is focused on the city planning level and the PIA Tipping Point Report looks at the regional level, both point to the need for greater government involvement in long-term planning. In particular, by ensuring that planning and delivery of the built environment within cities is coordinated between multiple levels of government, is consistent with efforts being undertaken in other Australian cities/regions/states, and is future-focused.”


Areas of Synergy

Looking at the 2018 Global Cities Index and the PIA Tipping Point Report, key areas of synergy include:

  • The need for long term planning of our cities to ensure the built environment responds to major shapers such as population growth and forecast megatrends while maintaining and improving livability
  • The need for consistent and coordinated planning for global megatrends/major urban transitions including technology, mobility and climate change
  • Best practice from around the world indicates that overarching planning guidance is needed to ensure connected and consistent planning between different levels of government and different geographies
  • Planning and the implementation of strategic plans for infrastructure is vital to maintaining the livability of Australian cities.


Next Steps?

“This is a great time for us to be assisting our clients to plan and deliver major infrastructure in our capital cities to support population growth, mobility and livability,” says Gavin. “As a firm, we support the recommendations of the PIA about the need for the Commonwealth Government to play a greater role in providing planning guidance, particularly regarding global megatrends.”


“The 2018 Global Cities Index is a valuable tool that can be used to open a conversation with government decision and policy makers, captains of industry, financiers, academia and other professionals. It provides essential information about the planning challenges being faced by our major capital cities. What’s more, it’s aligned to government sentiment, so there are great opportunities for us to change the status quo for our clients and the communities in which we live, work and play.”


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