Mixed results for Australia in the 2016 Sustainable Cities Index

Arcadis Pty Ltd

Wednesday, 14 September, 2016

The 2016 Sustainable Cities Index, released by design and consultancy firm Arcadis in partnership with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), has found that Australian cities have a way to go to become sustainable leaders.

The index explores three pillars of sustainability — people, planet and profit — to develop an indicative ranking of 100 of the world’s leading cities. Four Australian cities made it into the top 100 list, with Canberra ranking highest at 18th — ahead of Sydney (21st), Brisbane (30th) and Melbourne (32nd).

The list comes four months after the release of the 2016 Sustainable Cities Water Index, in which Sydney and Melbourne ranked eighth and 11th respectively.

Greg Steele, CEO Australia Pacific, Arcadis, said Australia “performed relatively well overall, but further examination of our city’s rankings across the three pillars shows there is room for improvement”.

“Cities like Seoul, Zurich and Singapore [seventh, first and second on the list respectively] reveal areas Australia can develop in order to build a sustainable future for its cities,” he said. “True sustainability is about more than just environmental footprint; issues such as an ageing population and geographically large cities require long-range, integrated planning in order to keep pace with international sustainability standards.

“One of the things that sets Zurich apart is a highly coordinated network of public transport options. By comparison, Australian cities are characterised by ‘radial’ networks, meaning people need to go to the city centre to go back out to adjacent communities. Combined with fewer, less frequent transport options, it’s no wonder a significant number of the population still choose to drive.”

Steele said Australians have a traditional preference for low-density living, which can inhibit housing affordability, access to services and even work-life balance. Indeed, the index showed that Australian cities averaged 67% for work-life balance, 44% for affordability and 71% for transport infrastructure.

“Finding a comfortable ‘livable density’ makes factors such as transport, waste management and connectivity easier to improve, increasing the overall quality of life in cities,” Steele said. “Importantly, though, planning for the quality of infrastructure is critical to make this work.

“Overall, we know that Australia tends to lag in planning for the longer term. Key to developing more sustainable cities will be working in close consultation with all elements of a community and future planning to ensure we not only meet current demand, but can readily adapt to future needs,” Steele concluded.

The top 10 cities overall, and broken down into the three pillars, are as follows:

Ranking Overall People Planet Profit
#1 Zurich Seoul Zurich Singapore
#2 Singapore Rotterdam Stockholm Hong Kong
#3 Stockholm Hamburg Geneva London
#4 Vienna Vienna Vienna Dubai
#5 London Berlin Frankfurt Zurich
#6 Frankfurt Prague Wellington Edinburgh
#7 Seoul Amsterdam Rome Prague
#8 Hamburg Munich Sydney New York
#9 Prague Muscat London Paris
#10 Munich Montreal Hamburg Stockholm

The full index can be viewed here.

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