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

The Planning Institute of Australia

Hi SOS Members

The following letter published in the Australian Financial Review, Thursday 12 August under the biggest headline on the letters page made our blood boil. The name "Planning Institute of Australia" may sound impartial and innocous but the organisation is actually an initiative of developers.

Cities next wave for reform

If the head of the federal Treasury, Ken Henry, is looking for the next wave of micro-economic reform to drive our prosperity (August 10), the obvious places to start are our cities. Road pricing and decent investment in public transport in our cities would enable commuters to shave minutes off their journey to work and allow businesses to reach a much broader and deeper pool of skills. Reining in sprawl would contain infrastructure costs and release millions of dollars each year for investments elsewhere. Introducing more efficient and transparent development approval systems would similarly save millions each year and cut the risk premium on construction capital.

The Planning Institute of Australia estimates that putting Sydney on a more sustainable footing would boost GDP by $1.7 billion. Scaling this up nationally, more sustainable cities and regions could deliver a GDP boost approaching $9 billion

This productivity dividend is comparable to competition policy and deserves similar national leadership.

Marcus Spiller
National President, Planning Institute of Australia
St Kilda, Vic.

This letter uses emotive buzz-words and cliches that are currently fashionable. We keyed a reply, with wording perhaps sailing a little close to the wind. This reply was not published in Friday's edition so we thought that it was not considered suitable or else the pull of property advertisers had prevailed. To our pleasant surprise it appeared today, somewhat improved by the AFR editorial staff, under the second biggest headline on the letters page:

Benefits of city developments questioned

Marcus Speller, National President of the Planning Institute of Australia, makes some predictable suggestions for the redevelopment of our cities ("Cities next wave of reform", August 12) .

Reining in "sprawl", a euphemism for increasing density, may result in huge profits for developers who tear down attractive houses, bulldoze charming gardens and replace them with energy-hungry unit blocks. However the resulting land shortage and escalating cost of housing are not proving to be advantageous to the community or the economy.

The "more efficient" development approval systems he requests fail to take into account that every development application has the potential to create an adversarial situation.

In a democracy persons affected should be able to voice valid objections.

Furthermore there is no proof that high densities reduce infrastructure costs. It is usually more cost-efficient to provide new infrastructure on a clean slate than to upgrade existing infrastructure, with all the obstructions, legal constraints and problems of obsolescent engineering which that entails. In most localities these services are already overloaded.

Significantly, it has been shown beyond any doubt worldwide that higher densities increase traffic congestion, irrespective of the availability of public transport.

The "reforms" the Planning Institute advocate may well drive the prosperity of its members. Whether they will benefit Australia is less certain.

Tony Recsei
President Save Our Suburbs
Warrawee NSW 2074

Tony Recsei
Save Our Suburbs (SOS)

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