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Save Our Sydney Suburbs (NSW) Inc.
News Release April 2004

Major Planning Announcements

Hi SOS Members

Yesterday I attended a forum organised by the Planning Research Centre of Sydney University in the Powerhouse Museum theatre at which Premier Bob Carr and Planning Minister Craig Knowles made major announcements on our city's future planning.

Some good things emerged from these announcements. There will be better coordination between government departments. The Planning department (DIPNR) will review the planning budgets of other departments (such as Transport) to ensure the necessary coordination can take place. The new areas to be developed out in the West will have adequate infrastructure. Workable methods of funding this infrastructure were announced. It certainly appears that Sydney's planning will be less ad hoc than in the past.

However there were negatives as well. Developer profits and political contributions have not been left out. Urban Densification (under the euphemism of "Urban Consolidation") will continue along transport corridors. That means more of the evils of this policy are in store for us. Urban densification advocate Professor Peter Newman (of Murdoch University in Perth) was named as one of three commissioners who will drive Sydney's metropolitan strategy.

Prior to this forum, on Tuesday, I attended a symposium in the City Hall on Sydney's Public Transport Future. The speakers were Professor Peter Newman and Hank Dittmar, President of Reconnecting America. Unfortunately much of these two presentations was misleading and inaccurate. They gave examples of initiatives to reduce car dependency in the United States that we are supposed to follow. These initiatives are merely large amounts of public money (pork-barrelling) being poured into populist initiatives which will largely fail. During question time I asked Peter Newman to what extent sustainability will be increased by his proposals. In my question I quoted figures that illustrate the resulting inconsequential gains in public transport use in the cities the speakers had used as examples. My question struck a raw nerve and Peter Newman exploded but my question remained unanswered. For those who are interested, some examples of the presentation inaccuracies are given at the end of this newsletter.

At a Department of Planning seminar back in 2000 Professor Peter Newman had made a similar presentation. At this occasion I had requested him to point to any large city in the world that features the characteristics he advocates that does not suffer from the problems he implies his suggestions will alleviate. The characteristics he advocates include high density and lack of arterial roads. Four years on he has still failed to provide such an example.
It will be a tragedy if the trusting and enthusiastic people of Sydney are to be let down by yet more failed initiatives.

Misleading and Inaccurate Statements from the Transport Forum (from memory)

The statement was made that preference for private transport is not influenced by wealth. This was "proved" by a bar chart showing that comparatively wealthy Europe uses public transport to a greater extent than poorer societies. However one cannot just look at two variables in a complex situation involving many factors. The facts are that multivariate analysis shows that wealth is the most significant factor in the choice of travel mode and that it is the high price of petrol in Europe that is the main factor in limiting car use.

A bar chart showing a correlation between higher densities and increased use of public transport when viewing the inner, middle and outer ring of Sydney was used as proof that higher densities result in increased use of public transport. In fact the major reason for this apparent relationship is that people who live in the inner ring tend to work in the city, a destination to which it is often too inconvenient and expensive to use one's car.

Zurich and Copenhagen were illustrated as examples to follow. This is misleading; these are old cities built before the advent of the motor car and in which the number of car journeys is increasing rapidly at the expense of public transport journeys. Other large European cities are instructive. The central city of Paris has severe congestion, the average vehicle speed is only 20 km per hour. It has more congested streets than Los Angeles. Yet Paris has high density living, no freeways and one of the world's most intensive rail transit systems. The post WW2 high-rise housing estates built around Paris are as dense as any city anywhere but are notorious for poor public transport use and high car usage. Moscow is high density (no single residential houses are allowed), has no arterial roads and reputedly has the best public transport system in the world. Yet traffic congestion in Moscow is now so severe that traffic flow comes to a complete standstill for long periods. The characteristics illustrated in the Forum are only applicable to small precincts in which cars can be limited or excluded.

Melbourne was compared with Toronto in the context of the better public transport usage in Toronto. While much mention was made of the desirability of having higher densities around railway stations, it was not revealed that Melbourne has high densities around railway stations while Toronto does not. Toronto has good interconnectivity between bus and train - that is the key to greater use of public transport, not high density around railway stations.

80% of journeys are not work related and all units built around railway stations in Sydney have car spaces provided. While the proportion of public transport use does go up in higher densities, this is more than outweighed by the increased number of people in the area who still use their cars for all sorts of reasons. Congestion therefore increases, as does the resulting pollution, especially the small particles emitted in exhausts that the CSIRO advises kill more people than do traffic accidents.

ADI Site

The amazing publicity about the ADI site in the Daily Telegraph goes on and on, thanks to all those who responded to the paper's invitation for readers' reactions. Please read the paper or look at an editorial opinion on the website::


for the reasons scientists advocate on why the site should remain undeveloped.

Another letter from Gordon Hocking published this week in the Sydney Morning Herald

Gordon is on the National Executive of Sustainable Population Australia. His letter reads:

The Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW report A framework for whole of state development, dated July 2000, concluded that, Programs to place newly arrived migrants in rural centres are naive. However, the Report argued that an overall population increase of 75,000 in rural NSW was desirable and achievable by 2021.

Mark Latham recognises that, the costs of congestion are just as big as the costs of distance' (Herald, 21 April). But a rural growth program must be informed by soundly based studies, like the 'whole of state' report.

By my reckoning, an immigration intake that was limited by Labor's 45 per cent rural location objective, while satisfying the Report's 20-year NSW rural population growth target, would be an immigration program of about 75,000 per annum about the level in the early years of the Howard Government.

Gordon reminds us that a free talk by Dr Paul Collins on "The Churches and Population" has been organised by Sustainable Population Australia on Sunday 2 May at 11 am to 12 am. Bookings can be made by phoning 02 9337 5246.


Tony Recsei
Save Our Suburbs (SOS)

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