Media Release

High Density is a Planning Con Job that may Help Coronavirus Spread

The New South Wales Government introduced high density policies in the mid 1990's with the promise that apartment living would be more environmentally sustainable, provide cheaper housing and reduce traffic congestion because people would live close to their work. They also promised a variety of housing, but the focus was clearly on high density apartment complexes.

In an article in Newgeography, (an international web-based journal focussed on places and the relationships between people and their environments) Dr Tony Recsei lifts the lid on this false claim.

"Through the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC), the NSW Government asserts that its policies produce a more productive, liveable and sustainable Greater Sydney," said Dr Recsei. "This claim is patently false, a confidence trick on the community. The portrayal of Sydney as a metropolis of three cities is a propaganda cloak to obscure the reality of imposing high-density polices on unwilling communities. The government's mythmaking is shattered by the evidence contained in the article," says Dr Recsei.


"The GSC's hope that a metropolis of three cities will distribute jobs among three cities is a complete mirage," says Dr Recsei. "Jobs in Sydney are already decentralised with only 14.5% of jobs currently in the CBD and the rest distributed in other centres, large and small. There is very little productivity to be gained here."

Dr Recsei also points out that productivity has already suffered with congestion from higher density increasing the concentration of people and traffic. "We have longer commute times, leaving less time for useful and productive activity."


A key indicator of liveable cities is affordable housing. "High-density policy has had a devastatingly negative effect because Government restricted land release for housing. The resulting shortage boosted housing prices so far that most people now cannot afford to buy their own home. Since the policy was introduced home ownership among the poorest twenty per cent of Sydney households, has fallen from the 63% to 23%. The number of years of average household income needed to buy a house has increased from three years to twelve years," says Dr Recsei.

A liveable city should promote the health and wellbeing of its citizens. Analysis of the SARS pandemic of 2002 found that population density was an explanatory factor for the spread of this deadly virus. "Should we be concerned that increasing density in cities like Sydney could aid an outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus that has now been diagnosed in the city?" Dr Recsei asked.


"Studies have demolished the belief that high density living emits fewer greenhouse gases than single dwelling houses," says Dr Recsei. The Newgeography article cites one study that allocated emissions to direct consumption (fuel, power, etc) and indirect consumption (use of goods and services) by households. "Operational energy to power lifts, air condition public spaces and light indoor and outdoor areas is considerable in high-density buildings. They have much greater embodied energy than single dwelling houses, due to steel and concrete components and construction methods," notes Dr Recsei.

The net result is that average emissions for people living in Australian capital city postcodes with high density is 27.9 tonnes a year, while those in low density are responsible for only 17.5 tonnes. "High density living is in fact much less sustainable than low density," concludes Dr Recsei. "The Newgeography article demolishes the claim that high-density creates a 'more productive, liveable and sustainable Sydney.' Further, the Government cannot point to any example in the world where such a policy has been successfully implemented."

"It is a disgrace that the NSW Government is imposing this deception on the people of Sydney. One can only hope that people will begin to see through the smokescreen of government spin and demand policies of proven benefit."

For more information phone Tony Recsei on 02 9487 2061 or 0424 243 493