Against Melbourne, housing the least of Sydney’s worries
There’s a laundry list of reasons Melbourne could probably already be regarded as Australia’s most prestigious city over Sydney. It hosts the Australian Open, the Melbourne Cup and various other prestige horse races, the AFL Grand Final, and the Formula 1 Grand Prix. The last time Tiger Woods came to Australia, he was in Melbourne.
What has Sydney got to compete as regular international attractions? There are a couple of world-class restaurants with obscenely-priced menus and a rarely-used, difficult-to-get-to Olympic stadium. There is the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, though it should be noted that this features a bunch of people with lots of money and significant business connections getting out of the joint as fast as they possibly can.
If size does matter in the battle for status as the nation’s most prestigious city, it now looks likely Melbourne will be bigger than Sydney in the not-too-distant future. A spokesman for the developer lobby that commissioned the report remarked that Sydney had the hallmarks of “a global city in decline”.
Given this is a report for developers it should surprise no-one the growth problem highlighted is primarily about land release. The BIS Shrapnel report warns of 100% occupancy of rental properties within a few years, and young people being forced to break for the borders in search of affordable housing.
But to borrow a phrase from border control, there are other “push factors” are involved. Penbo’s story today about almost getting run over and then assaulted by a yob in a souped-up car will be a familiar one to most Sydneysiders. Every week The Daily Telegraph runs a column by the head of the city’s main accident and emergency department, which can read like tales from a US military hospital in Iraq.
Ask a Sydneysider what they like about living in the city and one item high on the list is usually the high number of nearby destinations for a weekend break.
It’s a problem when one of the best things about living in a city is getting out of it.
The other thing about getting out of Sydney is the instant relief at arriving in another city as the pace of life slows down and the general level of aggro is reduced. Even the taxi queue at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport is a soothing experience after leaving Sydney, where cab drivers often need directions and spend your trip speeding and talking to someone loudly on a mobile phone.
Get further afield to somewhere like Adelaide or Brisbane and suddenly everyone is smiling at you and disconcertingly asking you how your day is going. Those people fainting getting off the plane aren’t victims of some toxic fumes but Sydneysiders suffering temporary but dramatic reductions in blood pressure.
There were two allegedly major sporting events on in Sydney this weekend: the Waratahs played the Brumbies in the Super 14 and St George Illawarra played the Sydney Roosters in the NRL. Rough attendance at each was roughly 40,000 and 36,000 respectively.
The crowd for the big game in Melbourne this weekend - Essendon versus Collingwood? Just over 90,000.
You can argue the toss over whether this was to do with fragmentation of crowd because of the various codes in Sydney, the weather or Masterchef, but the persistently bigger attendances at the big games in Melbourne are undeniable.
Its sporting grounds are just better equipped and better located than Sydney’s. This is not a matter of lacking passion, but a problem with planning and infrastructure.
Planning and infrastructure problems are behind the BIS Shrapnel warnings that Melbourne is poised to outstrip Sydney, but the NSW capital’s problems run deeper than just a shortage of housing and land for development.
The NSW Opposition under Barry O’Farrell says it plans to make the state “number one again” if elected. This is an attempt to tap into the what the Coalition rightly recognises as voters’ increasing disillusionment with their city and the state, whose government’s only achievement in the past three years has been to introduce a ticket which you can use on both a bus and a ferry.
You will find many Sydneysiders, myself included, who find plenty to be thankful for every day in the city – the glorious Harbour, the choice of great food for day-to-day consumption, and the up-and-at-em attitude of people despite the mounting list of complaints.
But Melbourne has many reasons that it can start to market itself as the nation’s premier city, beyond the predictions of developers that it might be an easier place to find a house.
Follow me on Twitter: @colgo
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