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Join the dots: How to make better cities through precincts and connectivity

published by PricewaterhouseCoopers

Cities are fundamental to Australia’s prosperity. Not only do most of us call cities home, but cities also contribute over 80% of national income.

Yet our major cities are at a crossroads. Most are struggling with congestion, housing affordability, and inequitable access to infrastructure, amenity and services. And the situation appears destined to get worse, with Australia reporting one of the highest rates of population growth of medium to large OECD countries.

Australia has the opportunity to make our cities great urban environments that thrive on the growing influx of people and ideas. If we get it wrong, however, we could end up with massive, sprawling cities that are congested, fragmented and unable to meet the needs of all parts of the community.

Unfortunately, urban planning has tended to deal with population growth simplistically, by seeking to curb the densification of our cities by developing the urban fringes. From a political perspective, planning policy has tended to follow ‘the path of least resistance’ because urban densification if often contested by communities.

But the cost of sprawling growth is disconnection – a disconnection of people to jobs, city centres, nodes of activity, services and amenity. Sprawl also leads to a lack of infrastructure because investment cannot keep up with the rapidly expanding urban footprint, as well potentially devastating impacts on the natural environment.

But there is another way to make sure the future of Australian cities is bright. We can create places of vibrancy, diversity and productivity. We can create places that attract talent and investment, where people want to live, work and play.

Rather than continuing to push outwards, we should fix our sights on creating great cities that benefit from density. We believe that the secret to creating such cities is to strengthen connectivity.

This is an excerpt from the PricewaterhouseCoopers Connected Cities report.

View the full report here.

Towards a ‘connected’ mindset

People innately crave connection – to each other, to culture, and to a sense of home. Human interaction has and will always be an essential piece of our DNA. While we are developing and utilising ways to be productive remotely, we still naturally gravitate towards and thrive on interaction. This is why communities exist. This is why we live and work in dense environments and why often the most highly desired locations are in our cities.

A city is defined primarily by this concentration of opportunities to connect and share experiences with other people. Connected cities are ones that turn opportunities to connect into real connections. They leverage connections between people, connections to place, mobility connections, communication connections, technological connections and connections between government and people. They are about human-centred urban design, about place-led solutions that help build stronger networks within our cities.