Dealing with growing pains in Greater Western Sydney – why resilience must encompass justice

Paul Van Bergen, Partner R&D Tax
Paul Van Bergen, Special Council, KPMG Western Sydney

In the three years as an active partner in our Parramatta office I enjoyed opportunities to interact with vibrant, forward looking, profitable and growing businesses. The increased economic activity has driven a growing number and variety of cultural experiences and an influx of professional digitally savvy and creative workforce.

The expected growth in Western Sydney as it applies Smart City technologies, develops the stock of quality higher density living and digital connectivity will stimulate knowledge employment and new opportunities for business. Sitting in gridlocked traffic or on a hot, crowded train highlights to me that growth gain comes with some pain.

These environmental impacts were noted by the Productivity Commission in its 2016 report Migrant Intake into Australia. It said, “New immigrants tend to cluster in the major cities, notably Sydney and Melbourne, adding to congestion and pressure on the built and natural environment.”

The reality is that recent and projected growth is concentrated in the suburbs of Western Sydney.

The Commission then goes on to say, “Population pressures on the built and natural environment arising from immigration make sound policy and planning decisions, and their effective implementation imperative.”

Congested roads, crowded public transport, rationed scarce resources (water, energy, green space) are exacerbated by upward pressure on housing costs. A challenge at all levels of government to create policy settings in a time of massive growth and unprecedented rate of change will enable existing and new residents to be more resilient to the growth and change that faces us all.

Western Sydney University have recently issued Green Papers on the challenges of health, transport, work and resilience the region faces. Associate Professor Juan Francisco Salazar puts the challenge of the impact of this change “World Vision… defines resilience as ‘the ability of a community to adapt to living with uncertainty’. However, resilience can also be a reductive form of describing cities and communities under stress – one that places the responsibility for dealing with stress solely on those who experience it, rather than the systems that cause it.

What infrastructure investment and innovations will be required to enable the influx of an extra two plus million people over the next decade?

This is why, particularly in Western Sydney, resilience must encompass justice. For people living in Western Sydney, climate change and heatwave events, obesity, loss of biodiversity, rapid urbanisation and population growth, housing affordability, automation of the labour force, and massive infrastructural change add to the uncertainties of living in an already complex region.

Our success as a firm relies on helping our clients prosper.  For our clients that means in the long run they need access to an engaged and resilient workforce including entrepreneurs and those in the gig economy.

Next Wednesday 28 February, the KPMG team and I are excited about starting a reaction for better policy making to improve people’s lives and create prosperity.

Western Sydney University Catalyst West is an interactive forum, developed by the University and its partners to guide change in Western Sydney. KPMG is working with Western Sydney University and other sponsors to experiment with transformational ideas.  The event aims to kick start informed policy development through the preparation of White Papers informed by business, community and all levels of government. 

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