Can a city deal help manage Brisbane’s growth challenges?

April 12, 2019 / By  

For investors, Brisbane and the broader South East Queensland (SEQ) region, which includes the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, offers long-term growth prospects that compare well to anywhere in the world. However, with growth comes challenges. Specifically, the challenge to manage growth and deliver infrastructure that ultimately protects the lifestyle factors driving much of this growth in the first place.

Brisbane and SEQ’s growth prospects

SEQ is already the third largest urban region in Australia, home to one in seven Australians and growing at a rate that is twice the OECD average.

In January 2018, JLL’s global cities research team along with The Business of Cities Ltd released a paper entitled World Cities: Mapping Pathways to Success, which identified Brisbane as one of 26 new world cities. This paper identified Brisbane as a lifestyle driven new world city, where its lifestyle is seen as its strongest brand asset. These cities tend to attract a disproportionately large amount of global capital.

Looking at Oxford Economics’ forecast for comparable New World cities, Brisbane has among the highest levels of growth potential (Figure 1).

Figure 1: New World City Growth Potential 2017 – 2021

The challenges of managing growth

The inherent challenge for lifestyle cities to keep attracting investment and growth is to ensure that their strongest brand asset – quality of life – is not undermined by poorly planned and managed growth. SEQ has already faced some of these challenges, with rapid population growth putting a strain on infrastructure, causing increased congestion, and pressure on the natural environment.

Historically, one of the big problems has been gaining cooperation between the three levels of government and prioritising infrastructure investment. The recently announced SEQ City Deal looks to break that cycle.

A City Deal – a step in the right direction

A City Deal is a rolling funding agreement between the three levels of government – local, state and federal –to deliver transformative outcomes that a fast-growing region requires. It aims to redistribute the benefits of growth and development between the layers of government to specifically encourage cooperation, mainly by prioritising the next wave of transport investment and improve accessibility to jobs and create a ‘45 minute region’.

By scale, it is the nation’s largest city deal to date. KPMG modelling suggest the deal could deliver an economic uplift of $58 billion by 2041.

Some key outcomes of the city deal includes improving connectivity and producing a more effective logistics and freight supply chain. Early works have already begun on some key major infrastructure projects to achieve this, including Brisbane Metro, Inland Rail and Cross River Rail, but the deal is hoped to get more cross-jurisdictional cooperation and coordination on these projects. It is also aimed at getting greater coordination in the protection of the environment and liveability of the region.

It is too early in the development of city deals in Australia to conclusively say whether or not they will be successful in getting different levels of government to work together. However, there is certainly goodwill at present and it is a step in the right direction towards tackling the region’s big challenge – managing population growth in a sustainable way.

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