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What’s the deal with City Deals?

9 Aug 2018, by Amy Sarcevic

As Australia prepares itself for an 11.8 million population increase and a steep rise in urbanization over the next thirty years, the need to ensure our cities are more productive, more liveable and more sustainable is becoming stronger.

As it stands, the nation is already highly centralized with more than half of the national population currently living in just three major cities – Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

In order to manage the urban consolidation now underway, Australian cities will need to adapt and change, with greater levels of collaboration across governments and with the private sector.

To address this, the concept of a City Deal was introduced by the Smart Cities Plan in 2016 and many states are now looking towards this as a means of accelerating outcomes.

Unlike national and statewide policies and programs rolled out on a local level, City Deals consider the unique strengths and weaknesses of individual conurbations.

But what do they look like in practice and how can they be managed and implemented to drive outcomes across the board?

Ahead of the IAQ Queensland Infrastructure Summit – 14 September 2018, Brisbane, we caught up with co-presenters Paul Low of KPMG and Matt Collins of the Cities Transformation Taskforce (the body responsible for negotiating City Deals with the Queensland government) – to get some insights.

What does a city deal look like in practice?

City Deals are long-term agreements between Federal, State and Local Government leaders, the community and private sector stakeholders, to drive reform and collaboration.

City Deals vary enormously in scope and coverage, depending on the unique challenges and opportunities of the subject city. They generally focus on multiple areas, including jobs, skills, infrastructure, infrastructure investment, liveability, sustainability, opportunities for innovation, governance, planning, regulation and housing.

However, they are all focused on delivering place-based approaches that transform cities and regions.

What are some of the benefits of city deals?

City Deals are focused on planning for the future, and here in South East Queensland we want a City Deal that can help improve regional connectivity, drive more knowledge jobs and export jobs, and enhance the lifestyle advantages we have so that we can attract and retain talent.

The process of scoping the City Deal is driving collaboration in the region, with a focus on leveraging many of the large scale infrastructure initiatives now underway so that we can realise their potential to transform the region.

By better aligning the three tiers of government, City Deals can really drive an agreed set of objectives and leverage the investments governments are making to push outcomes across the board.

This set up also provides greater certainty for the private sector – boosting investor confidence and setting a strong foundation for attracting future innovation.

Where are we currently up to with city deals?

To date, the Australian Government has completed three City Deals – Townsville, Launceston and Western Sydney – and is negotiating four more. The City Deals concept now has bipartisan backing, so we can expect to see these deals become an enduring part of the urban policy landscape

We are currently working on a City Deal for South East Queensland, which we will share details and current progress of this at the Summit.

The good news is that the framework is already in place, thanks to the three deals that have already been implemented. But building a long term plan and achieving consensus is by no means easy. If City Deals are to be rolled out in greater frequency, then it is vital that political leaders find ways to create a shared vision, effectively collaborate and agree.

Paul Low and Matt Collins will co-present at the IAQ Queensland Infrastructure Summit sharing insights into the SEQ City Deal and offering advice on how other conurbations can effectively prepare, collaborate on and implement a City Deal.

Learn more and register.

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