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District Plans: An opportunity to deliver positive long term change to Sydney

Sydney is currently in a period of significant growth, change and opportunity. The private sector is delivering new housing and development at unprecedented rates, the State Government has pledged $73.3 billion for new public infrastructure over the next four years and the Federal Government has committed to delivering the “single largest infrastructure catalyst for employment growth in the history of Western Sydney” – the Western Sydney airport.

Such substantial investment places a sharp focus on the need for the NSW Government to show strong leadership in directing and shaping the future of Australia’s largest city.  To ensure current and future challenges are successfully addressed, we need a robust and integrated planning strategy that connects state and local government, is forward thinking, grounded in evidence, and which plans for the future of Sydney as a world class global city.

The release of A Plan for Growing Sydney in late 2014, the ongoing Council amalgamation process and the appointment of the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) are signs that the NSW Government is seeking to improve the planning and governance system to better manage the challenges that come with Sydney’s rapid growth.

Among its many responsibilities, the GSC has been tasked with preparing District Plans for the six districts that make up the Greater Sydney Region. The release of these District Plans provides a great opportunity for the Government to promote and facilitate positive, meaningful and comprehensive long term change to Sydney’s social, economic and environmental fabric.

GSC Sydneys Six Districts
Source: The six districts in the Greater Sydney Region. Source: A Plan for Growing Sydney, 2014

The District Plans have the potential to set the foundations of new planning framework that will help deliver jobs in the right locations, respond to Sydney’s housing needs, grow strategic economic centres and maximise the benefits provided by the Government’s investment in infrastructure. These new plans should set the course for continuing Sydney’s growth as a world class global city, if however, they fail to meet this challenge, Sydney could be at risk of falling behind its international competitors. 



We anticipate that the District Plans will address the following themes relevant to housing, the economy, Western Sydney, integrated land use-transport planning and liveability.


Much of the discussion on Sydney’s economy has focused on the jobs concentrated in the east being inaccessible to the west. To drive Sydney’s economy in the future the District Plans will need address issues such as the changing structure of the economy, the unique competitive advantages of each district and leveraging growth drivers of industry and business to address the current imbalance of economic opportunities between the east and west.


Housing that meets the needs of our current and future population is fundamental to Sydney’s social and economic success. Planning for the delivery of an adequate supply of housing, the right types of housing in the right locations and at the right price is critical to ensuring the residents of Sydney residents are given every opportunity to own their own home. Density done well is at the core of this issue– the District Plans will need to provide guidance on where, when and how to evolve Sydney into a more compact, dense city while retaining high amenity and liveability for residents and workers.


Western Sydney will play a major role in shaping the future of Sydney. Major infrastructure investment (roads, rail and airport), the emergence of a highly skilled workforce and the planned growth of Parramatta, Liverpool and Penrith will see Western Sydney completely transform its identify and role in the Greater Sydney Region. The District Plans will need drive and direct this change if they are to achieve the goal of creating a more well connected and balanced international city.


 A strong, resilient and vibrant Sydney requires effective land use and public infrastructure integration, particularly with regards to transport, health and education. The District Plans provide the opportunity to guide growth and development so that it maximises the benefits on offer from the significant infrastructure investment by the State and Federal Governments.


Creating a vibrant, engaged and active society is perhaps one of the more complex challenges of any planning strategy. The District Plans should ensure that subsequent policies and strategies promote and contribute to an urban lifestyle that resonates with Sydney’s identity and which fosters a sense of community belonging. The community will play a key role in defining Sydney’s future and should therefore be involved in meaningful ways during the strategic planning stage.


Following the 60-year influence of the Cumberland Plan upon metropolitan Sydney the increasingly complicated, often unpredictable issues of consequence to human lives and environments are addressed with District Plans for three cities of distinct identity. The Plans carry transformative, interdisciplinary solutions to the major challenges of metropolitan Sydney. They comprise a contemporary way to think about how cities are made and understood, what should be the conduct of council, how cities may be co-created, and what is meant by design-led planning.


To download a copy of this article please click here. For further information, or to discuss how the District Plans may affect your site, please contact Ben Craig on 02 9956 6962.