Press Release

August 10, 2015

The NSW Government must modernise governance arrangements, introduce promised funding and financing reforms, and create local business improvement districts to deliver practical urban renewal and infrastructure investments to Australia’s cities, a new report finds.


Funding Australia’s Future – City Exchange on Local Funding and Financing Mechanisms*, provides evidence that Australia’s cities are struggling to keep up with the pace and scale of economic development in other countries.

“Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity”, said report co-author and AECOM Technical Director Joe Langley.

“Our approach to urban growth has to change if Australia is to address the infrastructure deficit that is constraining the productivity and competitiveness of our cities. This report clearly shows the potential outcome of the City Exchange recommendations. It details the transformative affect they have had on United States cities that have adopted innovative ways to deliver services, investments and infrastructure for their communities.”

“Why should Australia’s ambitions continue to be constrained and our quality of life eroded through inaction? Easing Australia’s infrastructure backlog requires strong leadership by government, a willingness to innovate within state agencies, and a commitment to bring community engagement to a new level in NSW,” said Mr Langley.

The US–Australian City Exchange on Local Finance Mechanisms, held in June and from which the report has been developed, was presented by the Future Cities Collaborative, an initiative of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, Australia, with the support of AECOM.

The 10-day Exchange saw 20 city leaders from New South Wales (including local council representatives from Blacktown, Newcastle, Liverpool, Penrith and Canada Bay and industry representatives from the Western Sydney Business Chamber and UrbanGrowth) examine innovative funding and financing mechanisms used by city counterparts in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, Chicago and New York.

Participants also examined US private-sector participation in urban revitalisation projects and programs, such as historic improvement districts, sports stadia and convention facilities, and affordable housing projects.  

One participant, Liverpool Mayor Ned Mannoun said: “The Exchange provided concrete examples of how alternative funding and financing tools can get projects off the ground and make a real difference to communities.”

Referring to the City Exchange visit to Phoenix’s multi-purpose events centre, Mayor Mannoun pointed out that in US cities, “decision makers are entrusted with the community’s money and are obliged to make the most cost effective, prudent, and long-term investments they can, ensuring they have explored all options and are not bowing to pressure from special interest groups who have their own goals.”

“With the NSW Government about to make a once-in–a-generation investment in a Sydney stadium, it would be worthwhile they visit Phoenix and learn from their leaders on how to do it best,” Mr Mannoun said.

Business Improvement Districts
The report recommends legislation to create business improvement districts to empower local business and community groups to revitalise tired commercial centres, citing examples.

In the City of Pasadena in Southern California, for example, the historic commercial core of the city was suffering from chronic economic and social decline. The Old Pasadena Business Improvement District, a downtown management entity comprised of local business and property owners, was created and partially funded by the City to harness and focus private sector urban renewal initiatives.

 “Federal and state tax credits for historic district redevelopment were first granted for a four block area in 1993, generating retail interest in the Old Pasadena district,” said Mr Langley.