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Save Our Sydney Suburbs (NSW) Inc.
News Release June 2005

Please don't confuse me with the facts

Hi SOS Members

Today the Sydney Morning Herald has unambiguously joined the brigade of mass irrationality. The paper now openly advocates high density.

The article, "The Sydney we deserve" by Tim Dick of 4 June (part reproduced below) states:

"Forcing Ku-ring-gai Council to increase density along the North Shore Line may not be popular with locals, or lobby groups like Save Our Suburbs, but it is far more sensible than the disaster of urban sprawl, most latterly seen in the north-west suburbs.

Increasing density doesn't have to increase ugliness. Many rightly gripe about poorly designed apartment buildings; hearing the neighbours through the walls quietly talking isn't pleasant when you realise they can hear you. Better designs and well-planned villages - and they are coming - need to help convert sceptical Sydneysiders that dense suburbs can be pleasant to live in, just as in Europe."

Never mind that high density advocates can point to nowhere in the world where a high-density city does not suffer from the ills they claim their schemes will alleviate - traffic congestion, air pollution, noise, lack of open space. It is only in the relatively small central sections of the European cities where walking and public transport is practical. These parts were built before the advent of transport - people had to walk. They were high density because they had to be. And, because populations were much lower, they could house the population.

Today's European cities suffer from traffic congestion and declining public transport usage. Public transport use in Sydney is not much different. Note the following table:

Urban Density Table

Only if we have densities like Tokyo, Manila or Hong Kong, where congestion is so severe that travelling by car is no longer an option for most people, does the share of public transport become significant. Anything less will not work. And do we, in Australia really want to live like that? If so, why?

What is the point of putting more high-density around railway stations? The system is already at capacity. And in spite of all the high-density we have suffered over the last 10 years the proportion of journeys by public transport has decreased by over 10% during that period.

The SOS website demolishes the claims of the high-density advocates - see www.sos.org.au. We show that if Sydney were to be turned into a high-density city there would be little change to its dimensions. But for irrational people it is a case of "PLEASE DONT CONFUSE ME WITH THE FACTS. MY MIND IS MADE UP."


The Sydney we deserve
June 4, 2005

By Tim Dick
Doing just enough to cope with Sydney's growth is not working. On the surface, many Sydneysiders think the city's reputation for self-obsession is justified, while its 10 million annual visitors can be forgiven for assuming all is well if they stick to the Opera House, where all usually is well.

But talk to the experts, read the flood of letters and emails on the subject and it is clear swift and decisive action is needed to guide the city through the next two decades without destroying the city fiercely guarded by its residents.

It seems Sydney increasingly relies on its good looks and wit to get by, hoping the charm of the destination will outweigh the trauma of getting there. But keeping up appearances is becoming difficult, because much is not working and much more isn't working well.

Sydney needs a transformation, a generational change. It needs a transport system capable of moving people quickly, safely and reliably; it needs to collect at least as much water as it sensibly uses; it needs to curb its obsessions with polluting cars and energy-hungry appliances; and it needs to provide homes that are pleasant to live in, easy to get to, and possible to pay for.

This week, the Herald has documented crises in Sydney's transport, water and planning systems. Today, we start offering solutions.

As Peter Newman, the State Government's sustainability commissioner, has consistently said, Sydney is long past the time for incremental improvements.

<SNIP>

Density Increasing the number of people who live in an area does not mean turning Killara into Kings Cross. It doesn't mean killing some iconic Australian tradition of living on a quarter-acre block (questionable in any event; count the number of them in Sydney's oldest suburbs, like Surry Hills and Paddington).

What it does mean is accepting that Sydney is a very big city. It is not Wollongong nor Orange nor Eurobodalla. City living tends to be crowded.

The question is where to put more people. In suburbs with good transport links for a start, and railway stations in particular (like Killara), in those with jobs, schools and parks (like Parramatta), and along main roads needing renovation (like Canterbury Road). And leave suburbs with poor facilities alone for the time being.

Forcing Ku-ring-gai Council to increase density along the North Shore Line may not be popular with locals, or lobby groups like Save Our Suburbs, but it is far more sensible than the disaster of urban sprawl, most latterly seen in the north-west suburbs.

Increasing density doesn't have to increase ugliness. Many rightly gripe about poorly designed apartment buildings; hearing the neighbours through the walls quietly talking isn't pleasant when you realise they can hear you. Better designs and well-planned villages - and they are coming - need to help convert sceptical Sydneysiders that dense suburbs can be pleasant to live in, just as in Europe.


 

Tony Recsei

President, Save Our Suburbs

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