Sydney Business Forum

(Town Hall Vestibule)

Hello, everyone, welcome to this important forum. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land, and I pay my respects to the Elders, both past and present.

I'm very pleased to welcome the Minister for Transport, Gladys Berejiklian to our Business Forum today.

A strong and effective relationship with our business communities is a high priority for me and for the City. We promote business diversity, growth and sustainability.

This week I opened the latest in our series of forums, "Let's Talk Business". It was another packed session, with a panel of inspiring business leaders sharing how they transformed their business in response to technological change and an increasingly complex business landscape.

And I'm pleased to say that we have more applicants that ever before for our 2011 business awards. There has been an unprecedented level of social media activity this year, with many businesses making the most of this opportunity to celebrate their achievements and gain valuable exposure.

While just last month the City signed a historic partnership with the 13 major property owners who collectively own nearly 60 per cent of Sydney's CBD office space. It's the first time major property owners in Australia have come together to cut carbon emissions and improve environmental performance on a precinct-wide basis. They have collectively committed to the City's 2030 target of reducing emissions by 70% by 2030.

Over recent years, I have met regularly with the Minister—as opposition spokesperson and since the election of the O'Farrell Government—as part of the city's commitment to work with all sides of politics for the benefit of our city.

We briefed the Minister on Sustainable Sydney 2030, reported on our implementation work and continued to press the case for transport reform. We made the City's research and staff available for briefings and advice.

Minister Berejiklian now faces the exciting and daunting challenge of transforming public transport in New South Wales if we are to secure Sydney's economic, social and environmental performance.

Transport is one of the major issues facing our city - and the problem is rapidly becoming worse.

It affects businesses of all sizes, residents and visitors. It affects our cultural and educational institutions; our sporting events; especially Sydney's liveability.

We must rapidly develop new transport options if Sydney is to maintain and build on its global city status and compete effectively with other cities in the Asia-Pacific region such as Singapore and Shanghai.

Already we're struggling to keep up with other States and we can't risk lagging at a global level.

As Infrastructure Australia noted in its annual report released at the beginning of the month, Australia's productivity has slowed "as a direct result of infrastructure shortfalls".

A better transport system, including light rail, and a wider range of transport modes - notably walking and cycling - are integral to our Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategy.

Providing transport alternatives is a necessary response to growing problems with congestion and an ageing and inadequate transport infrastructure. It also promotes better health and a cleaner, calmer, less polluted city with fewer frustrated motorists succumbing to road rage.

Already, traffic congestion is having severe economic consequences for the city, with last year's State of Australian Cities report projecting an avoidable congestion cost for Sydney of $4.8 billion dollars - up from $3.5 billion in 2005. The projection for Sydney in 2020 is closer to $8 billion.

The City wants to provide as many transport options to our residents and visitors as possible in order to avoid the congestion problem becoming even worse.

Our streets need to be used efficiently, we need to ensure that business can operate effectively, and that public transport can move easily and reliably.

Without that focus, there is a real threat to the economic growth of Sydney and we must work closely with the NSW Government to deliver efficient, up-to-date transport choices.

The City has long advocated a light-rail link to connect the Barangaroo development to Central and the city centre and we have recently committed $180 million to upgrade George Street to complement the light-rail project.

We are putting our money on the table to help make it a reality and so Sydney residents, workers, visitors, businesses and tourists get the maximum benefit.

It is clear that light rail is the solution to the gridlock in the city. Light rail systems operate in over 400 cities worldwide, with more being added each year.

Across the US alone, around 100 cities are looking into light rail, with Portland, New Orleans, Houston and Seattle actively expanding their networks, particularly to provide workers and shoppers with easy access around their central business districts. Other cities, such as Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Cincinnati and Los Angeles are due to begin construction soon.

Light rail can be the stimulus to transform the way people use our City, providing stronger pedestrian connections, a greater range of recreational and retail options, and a lot less noise and pollution along that important central City spine.

The effects will also spill into adjacent streets, bringing new life and vitality. Research projects in the UK, and also in Germany and in Melbourne have shown that pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users tend to spend more than car users in city centres.

Research in Lygon Street last year found each square metre of space allocated to cars contributed $6 an hour in expenditure, whereas each square metre of space allocated to bicycles contributed $31 per hour - five times as much.

Other studies in Germany and the UK have shown that pedestrianised areas stimulate an increase in footfall for retail services of 20 to 40 per cent which is then reflected in increased property rental values.

In other words, a good physical environment promotes a good economic environment while, conversely, an environment with congested vehicular traffic tends to be less economically successful.

It is also vital that light rail integrate with the broader transport system, making interchanging and multi-modal trips simple. The inclusion of light rail into the MyZone ticket structure is an important step.

I welcome the Government's commitment to starting construction of new light rail in the current term of government, with new routes through the city centre to Barangaroo, and to Moore Park and beyond.

Once a central spine for light-rail is established in the city centre, it can also connect the inner and middle-ring suburbs of Sydney.

We are keen to work with the NSW Government and the City of Randwick on a light-rail extension to the sporting stadia in Moore Park and beyond, and also to the University of Sydney.

We're also discussing with the Government the urgent need for it's preservation of a future mass-transit corridor through Green Square. With the projected influx of new jobs and new residents to Australia's biggest urban renewal site, adequate public transport is essential to ensure the national freight corridor on Botany Road is not choked by local trips.

In the City, we have worked on a number of improvements with government bodies:

  • The City and the RTA are close to agreement on a consistent 40kmph speed limit to make it safer for the one million pedestrians who use the city each day.
  • We've completed numerous minor works with the Department of Transport to improve bus reliability and circulation in the northern end of the CBD and are about to embark on many more in the mid-city area and some to the south.
  • We are providing alternatives to private car use to further relieve congestion. We have now installed almost 300 car-share bays across the City and membership continues to grow with about 7000 members now registered, of which 1500 are business members. Use of this fleet is becoming more intensive, with the 280 vehicles in City-provided spaces being booked over 1100 times in May - that's about 40 bookings per car.

The Liveable Green Network adopted by Council last month will help make walking/cycling easier and more pleasant. This outlines a hierarchical network of major connecting footpaths and cycleways for short trips from the inner areas and across the City.

The network will be supported with more than $100 million of Council investment over the next decade, with the future centrepiece to be George Street.

We have already upgraded Pitt Street Mall, widened footpaths on Market Street and we're about to begin consultation on Castlereagh and Pitt Streets with adjacent property owners who also want footpaths widened.

With 10 km of separated cycleways already built - a little over a kilometre more is all we need to complete the city-centre network - we're beginning to see the benefits. These connections are a boon to the thousands of cyclists using them every day - all without losing a single lane of traffic.

We did extensive research and consultation to develop this network. In fact our consultation was so successful that we received more than 10 times the number of written responses than the State Government received for its entire Metropolitan Transport Plan - over 1600 submissions compared to 135.

We worked closely with the RTA to devise the best possible routes, and we have systematically worked towards delivering infrastructure that is putting us on a par with cities like New York, London and Paris, with their well developed cycling culture. Riding short distances to meetings in a business suit is normal in many cities.

We're also invested in training and support to help people cycle safely and with confidence.

Our cycleways project has also been used to improve local streets, such as at Bourke Street which has been transformed not only for cyclists, but for all residents and businesses.

Since that cycleway was completed, several new businesses have opened and the RTA has recently approached us with a concept to connect commuter cyclists from Centennial Park, by bridge across Anzac Parade and on to the Bourke Street route.

As the north-south city connections near completion, the focus will shift to east-west links to get people across the city and although the network's full potential will be realised only when connectivity is completed, building owners are already aware of strong demand for bike storage and showers and leasing agents tell us such facilities are now expected in A-grade buildings.

The City is doing what it can to support the business community by providing a safe network and a more walkable, more appealing urban environment. These projects encourage investment and contribute to a safe and liveable city for all of the million people in our local government area each day—business operators, workers, visitors, tourists, shoppers and residents.

This doesn't happen overnight. It takes a lot of patience, determination and hard work to change entrenched attitudes, and it takes time to realise the full benefits.

Working in partnership is essential to achieve the vision and that is why I take this opportunity today to reiterate our desire to work with the NSW Government so that we may all enjoy a world-class city centre for Sydney in the 21st century.

Thank you.