Doubt in the suburbs

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A “specific commitment” to fast-growing outer suburbs is needed under the Federal Government’s Smart Cities Plan, according to a key advocacy group.

The National Growth Areas Alliance (NGAA) has welcomed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement of a Smart Cities Plan but was not convinced as to how outer suburbs would benefit under the new approach.

“This is a reasonable direction which is in line with our research and our approach, but it is hard to see yet how the outer suburbs will be better off,” NGAA chair Glenn Docherty said.

“A dedicated response for outer suburbs is still needed. We need a national fund to address the growing disadvantage in fast-growing outer areas.”

Recent PwC research, which drew on the United Kingdom’s City Deals approach, shows there is an opportunity for Australia to capitalise on the growth in these areas that could be competitive globally with the right investment, he said.

“Five million Australians who currently call these areas home lack access to adequate roads, public transport and health facilities. The population in outer areas is expected to reach 7.5 million in just 15 years,“ Mr Docherty said.

“If a significant investment is not made now, we risk dividing Australian cities along social and economic lines; those in the inner city who have good access to transport, jobs and health facilities as well as those in the fast-growing outer suburbs who do not.

“Already kids are spending too much time in the backseat of the car, instead of the backyard. The right infrastructure opens the door to opportunity, so a dedicated infrastructure fund for fast-growing outer suburbs is also about equal access to good roads, public transport and health facilities, no matter where you live.”

Assistant Minister for Cities Angus Taylor said City Deals was an “ enormous opportunity“ for outer suburban local councils.

“It’s an opportunity to present a strong case, backed by local business and community leaders, for Federal infrastructure investment,“ Mr Taylor said.

“City Deals will be considered where there is strong economic potential within the city or city region, and a collaborative approach between all levels of government and the private sector.

“It signals a new approach by the Federal Government to be an active investor in infrastructure, rather than always handing over government grants for little return. There’s a strong incentive here for everyone to work together.”

The NGAA launched the Fund our Future campaign earlier this year which has called for a dedicated fund to fix road, public transport and health infrastructure problems in the fast-growing outer suburbs.

Sign up for the campaign at http://www.fundourfuture.info/act-now/

Originally published at Pakenham Gazette.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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