Business Events Sydney CEO Luncheon

(12pm, 100 William Street)

Thank you, Lyn, [Lewis-Smith], and hello, everyone.

I'm pleased to have this opportunity to talk with you today.

A STRONG CITY ECONOMY

The City of Sydney is booming.

Our long term action plan, Sustainable Sydney 2030, recognises that exceptional liveability is the driver for prosperity and economic growth for our global city - the place where people want to live is the place where they want to work and to set up business.

Our city generates around $108 billion worth of economic activity. It contributes eight per cent of Australia's GDP and almost one quarter of the NSW economy.

In the five years to 2012, 2000 new business opened and 50,000 jobs were created.

That job growth represented 40 per cent of the entire growth in employment of metropolitan Sydney - and a rate double that of the rest of Sydney.

It's remarkable that this growth occurred during the constraints imposed by the global financial crisis.

You don't need to look far for the causes of this growth: it comes from the knowledge sector; from innovation, the creative industries, the education sector and the digital economy.

15 per cent of all Australia's information, communication and technology jobs, and 13 per cent of all creative and performing arts jobs are located in the City of Sydney. The concentration is even higher in the digital sector, with, for example, 57 per cent of Australia's internet publishing jobs are based here. Thanks largely to the digital economy, jobs in Ultimo-Pyrmont have grown by 46 per cent.

It's significant that Sydney is beginning to be recognised as an innovative city. In a recent ranking of over 200 international cities by the consultancy 2ThinkNow, Sydney jumped several places, out-ranking Melbourne for the first time to be placed 17th in the top 20 innovative cities.

HOW THE CITY ENCOURAGES GROWTH

The City sets conducive planning controls for business. We also provide amenities, community facilities, parks and open spaces.

We stage events, instigate strategic planning, and we advocate - as we did for light-rail, for example - and work together with business and residents to find new opportunities, to expand existing ones and address challenges.

We can be a facilitator of global connections and continue to attract skilled global labour, encourage clusters and innovation.

The key to a successful global city is to be a city that offers a rich variety of choices and activities, that has a lively social and cultural life, and a safe and diverse night-time culture. In other words, the sort of city which works for its residents is also the city which can attract the best global talent.

Businesses locate here in the City because of amenity, infrastructure and also because of the success of clusters of linked or even competitive activities taking advantage of an expanding pool of skilled global talent. Half our residents, and two-thirds of our workforce, have a post-school qualification or university degree.

We recognise the commonality of interest between residents, the workforce and business. Our Economic Development Strategy is continuously expanding to look at new opportunities and challenges.

We've developed action plans for retail, tourism, visitor accommodation and tech start ups. We're now investigating international education and how to strengthen connections with Asia and locally, how to support our village businesses.

We've established our Retail Advisory Panel and are working closely with the NSW Government and Business Events Sydney on tourism and business events.

We've upgraded 57 unused laneways with a network of plazas where shops and bars thrive and fostered new business sectors leading to 90 small bars, 20 food trucks and 24,000 car share members.

Since 2004, we've completed over 250 major projects including playgrounds, childcare, pools, libraries, theatres, community and cultural spaces - more than any other NSW council. We're now working on 370 projects as part of our ten-year plan.

We've upgraded 105 parks; almost all of the City's 13 sports fields and 29 sports facilities renewed and improved and we've won over 85 awards for the design excellence and sustainability of our projects.

Our work has resulted in the City of Sydney becoming one of the fastest-growing residential areas in Australia.

In 2014, the City processed $3.95 billion worth of development, more than four times greater than the nearest council. There is currently approximately $12 billion in City development applications in the pipeline.

In the next few years, as Green Square takes shape, the City's residential population is set to exceed 230,000 by 2018.

Importantly for business, these residents are highly educated and cosmopolitan in experience, listing among them 184 different countries of birth.

They are moving here for the amenity and life-style that we have created, and also, of course, for the employment opportunities available.

SYDNEY'S GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS

Underpinning this "boom time" are Sydney's global competitiveness and the City's own role in international engagement.

Sydney is blessed by its time-zone location and by historic cultural links to the growth economies of East Asia - notably China, Korea and Japan.

The global economy is moving closer. Over the past 50 years, the percentage of the world's GDP produced within 10,000 km of Sydney has more than doubled to a third of global output. And that share is predicted to rise to half by 2030.

Over half of all visitors from East Asia to Australia come to Sydney - even more if you focus on only business visitors.

China's trade with the Sydney area is estimated at about $10 billion a year and growing. People of Chinese ancestry make up almost 10 per cent of residents and over half of all Australians born in China live in Sydney.

Last year, Sydney was ranked as the world's most popular city for international students by the A.T. Kearney Global Cities Index. Of the roughly 100,000 international students studying here, 35,000 are attending campuses with the City of Sydney, generating more than $1.6 billion in local economic activity.

For thousands of these students, their time here will mark the start of a lifelong connection with the city, and expand our global connections. And so we work closely with our university partners to develop programs to enhance their live-learn-study experience and support them in developing their professional careers through work experience opportunities and Student Ambassadorship programs.

The challenge for us now is to take these opportunities to connect Sydney and the Sydney business community to commercial opportunities in Asia.

Those opportunities should further expand following the signing of Free Trade Agreements with Japan, China and Korea. Professional and business services and the financial sectors will benefit especially. And in future, the benefits should also extend to our environmental, innovative and digital economy sectors.

We will only reap the full benefits of these opportunities through partnership - especially with Business Events Sydney and with the business sectors.

We already have some successful examples - for instance, by working together the City's contribution helped secure 10 international business events in 2013-14, bringing a $42 million boost to the local economy - and this at a time when the Darling Harbour Convention Centre was out of commission.

FUTURE PROSPERITY AT RISK

Sydney is enjoying a period of unprecedented investment, with an estimated $30-$40 billion investment in private development expected over the next decade.

But that investment and our city's continued economic success is at real risk from the State Government's proposal to amalgamate the City of Sydney.

The assertion that "bigger is better" is unproven. What is certain, from past experience of amalgamations, is that they take three to five years to complete, they entail a loss of expertise and corporate knowledge, they carry no guarantee of cost efficiencies or improved services, and they entail an inescapable period of uncertainty while the process is being completed.

After the City was amalgamated in 2004 we had multiples of everything - two General Managers and other staff performing the same roles, we had three sets of planning controls, different categories of rates and 20 IT systems.

A decline in construction activity of just one per cent due to disruption or delays from an amalgamation would have a negative economic impact on the state in excess of $300 million.

The risks are particularly serious for the Green Square Town Centre, where $8 billion in development is reliant on the efficient assessment and timely delivery of critical roads, stormwater and community infrastructure; and for the Sydney CBD, where significant business and development investment is occurring in anticipation of the physical and economic transformation of George Street through light rail and high quality public domain.

Sydney cannot afford the disruption and uncertainty of a forced City amalgamation.

What we need is better collaboration with government and partnerships with business - not only on events but also on the economic fundamentals that will ensure the resilience and adaptability of our economy.

Together we can make Sydney's recent economic successes on-going and sustainable, and set the path for its continuous success well into this century - to the benefit of metropolitan Sydney, of NSW and Australia.

With our growing services economy, our highly-skilled workforce, and our city's physical attractions, Sydney is one of the world's most compelling global destinations.

Our collaborations with groups such as your own, and with government, have put the City in a strong position to deliver on our ambitions and to develop further initiatives to boost our reputation as Australia's leading commercial and cultural centre.