Australia: A tale of three cities: a vision for a connected state in New South Wales

A unified vision for the future of land use, transport and infrastructure is at the heart of the much anticipated draft Greater Sydney Region Plan, prepared by the Greater Sydney Commission, and draft Future Transport Strategy 2056, prepared by Transport for NSW.

With the population of New South Wales expected to grow from its current 7.5 million to 11.2 million by 2056, the draft Greater Sydney Region Plan (Draft Plan) and the Future Transport Strategy 2056 (Transport Strategy) set out a 40-year framework for delivering infrastructure and services to cope with the State's booming population.

The Draft Plan contains a vision for Sydney as three distinct, yet interconnected cities:

  • an Eastern Harbour City, around the existing Sydney CBD;
  • a Central River City, around Parramatta; and
  • a Western Parkland City, around the new Western Sydney Airport.

If it is successfully delivered over the proposed 40 year timeframe, the majority of Sydneysiders will live within 30 minutes of one of these three city centres.

The Transport Strategy, prepared by Transport for NSW, is an update of the NSW Government's 2012 Long Term Transport Master Plan. It details the transport improvements needed to ensure the connectivity within and between the three cities of Greater Sydney, as well as considering the transport requirements of regional NSW and the future role of technology in the State's transport network.


The GSC estimates that 725,000 dwellings and 817,000 jobs will need to be created over the next 20 years, with a coordinated effort required to plan for and maintain adequate services to respond to the growth.

To ensure the economic viability of the Draft Plan, projects are divided into four sequential categories:

  1. Committed programs;
  2. Programs for investigation over the next 10 years;
  3. Programs for investigation and implementation over the next 10-20 years; and
  4. Visionary initiatives for consideration over the long-term (20+ years).

Three Cities

The GSC's polycentric planning approach envisages three individual cities within the Greater Sydney Region:

  • Western Parkland City

    The new Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek will be the catalyst for the Western Parkland City. A new trade gateway connected to the airport and major land releases represent the beginning of a period of strong growth for the region.

  • Central River City

    Under the Draft Plan, Greater Parramatta will continue to evolve as its importance as a transport hub at the centre of the metropolitan region increases. Parramatta has been identified as a growth area for education and research institutions as well as finance and business services. As the city matures, the GSC hopes to see top 100 businesses relocating away from the Sydney CBD to the Central River City.

  • Eastern Harbour City

    Despite a push to encourage new growth west of the CBD, Sydney's Central Business District will continue to experience strong growth as Sydney's main finance and business hub. The Eastern Harbour City is the heart of an economic corridor running from Macquarie Park through to Sydney Airport and Port Botany, which is expected to continue to experience strong growth over the coming decades.

Beyond Sydney

Improved connectivity between Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong is encouraged in the Draft Plan.

These areas will have a combined population of around 10 million people by 2056.

The Draft Plan focuses on the economic opportunities of planned and committed transport projects connecting Newcastle and Wollongong with the Western Parkland City to create the Outer Sydney Orbital corridor.

A draft Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan and Greater Newcastle Future Transport Plan have been released and are on exhibition until 28 and 18 February 2018 respectively.

Collaboration is key

Key 'Collaboration Areas', such as the Greater Parramatta and Olympic Peninsula (GPOP), will require support and input from all levels of Government to achieve development outcomes.

The GSC recommends the creation of 'growth infrastructure compacts', which would identify key infrastructure needs for growth areas and the development of a preferred sequencing model for the implementation of projects. The Draft Plan acknowledges the need for input from the planning agencies and the co-planning and co-implementation of major infrastructure projects by State and local governments.

Housing targets

Local governments will have 0-5 year housing targets under relevant District Plans. The GSC has committed to working with councils to create 6-10 year targets to keep pace with growing demand. The Draft Plan also outlines strategic 20-year targets at the District level to cater for the 725,000 homes that will need to be built by 2036.

The NSW Government is encouraged to introduce Affordable Rental Housing Targets for very-low and low-income households most vulnerable to housing stress – those on <$42,300 to $67,600 per annum. It is recommended these targets be limited to defined precincts entering the rezoning process, so as not to limit projects already underway with land transactions largely in place.

Planning considerations

The Draft Plan has been developed in accordance with section 75AC of the Environment Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW), which requires it to have regard to economic, social and environmental factors, including existing legislation.

The final Plan will sit under existing State Environmental Planning Policies, and together, both will influence District Plans. The integration of the final Plan with the Future Transport 2056 Strategy and the State Infrastructure Strategy will ensure land use, transport and infrastructure planning is aligned at all levels of government.


The Transport Strategy sets out a vision for a modern transport network that will support the next 40 years of economic and population growth in NSW. The Transport Strategy will be delivered through a series of supporting plans:

  • Draft Regional NSW Services & Infrastructure Plan;
  • Draft Greater Sydney Services & Infrastructure Plan;
  • Draft Greater Newcastle Future Transport Plan;
  • Draft NSW Freight & Ports Plan;
  • Draft Tourism & Transport Plan; and
  • Draft Road Safety Plan.

For the Greater Sydney Region, the Transport Strategy will operate with the Draft Plan to connect each city and the surrounding strategic centres and precincts, creating three key 'economic corridors':

  • The Western economic corridor

    A north-south mass transit system between Campbelltown and Marsden Park is identified as an area for future investigation to help grow the western economic corridor, which is centred on the Western Sydney Airport. A connection between the airport and Parramatta is also identified as an area for future investigation to connect the growth area into the heart of Sydney's transport network.

  • The Greater Parramatta and Olympic Peninsula economic corridor

    The GPOP corridor will span from Westmead to Sydney Olympic Park. Along with Parramatta Light Rail, the Transport Strategy suggests a Sydney Metro West and new north-south connection are essential in establishing the Central River City as "Greater Sydney's connected and unifying heart".

  • The Eastern economic corridor

    Running from Macquarie Park through to Sydney Airport, the eastern economic corridor is well-established and growing, but existing pressures on the corridor mean more investment is required to sustain growth. Committed projects include Sydney Metro Northwest, NorthConnex and CBD and Southeast Light Rail.

The Transport Strategy also outlines improvements for bus services from the Northern Beaches to Chatswood and a mass transit link from Parramatta to Epping.

How will technology change the network?

Innovative technology and Big Data have been identified as areas for further investigation to improve the transport network's safety and efficiency. This includes planning for products and solutions already in the development, such as autonomous vehicles, and integrated multimodal transport solutions.

The Transport Strategy envisions customers will be able to plan and undertake trips through innovative applications – known as Mobility as a Service (MaaS) providers. MaaS would be able to organise multi-modal journeys for customers, offer payment methods and tailor journeys to the customer's preferences in real time based on live traffic data.

It also suggests greater adoption of new technologies to better manage and respond to growing demands for existing infrastructure. Smart traffic management and real time energy and water metering systems have been marked as areas for further evaluation. Drones have also been identified as an area for further investigation to streamline first and last miles of freight delivery and as emergency response transport.

How will the Transport Strategy be paid for?

The NSW Government is investigating a number of financial arrangements to pay for future transport infrastructure. The aim is to strike an equitable balance between taxpayer and user contributions, and to leverage third party funding sources.

Financing areas identified for further investigation include:

  • balanced beneficiary models, which include value sharing and developer contributions;
  • new opportunities to exploit revenue across the transport portfolio through advertising and airspace use;
  • improved capital investment and upgrading practices to reduce whole of life costs; and
  • a continued transition to partnering and service commissioning models of service delivery.


The Draft Plan and draft District Plans were exhibited until 15 December 2017. Once submissions have been considered, the final Plan will be submitted to the NSW Government for consideration. The final Plan will be subject to review every five years. The Draft Plan envisages that the Region Plans and District Plans will be implemented by local councils over a two-year or three-year timeframe following their finalisation.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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