Sydney on the global stage – 10 big moves

Once a remote outpost, and now a leading city in the Asia-Pacific region, Sydney has a unique opportunity as the world’s geopolitical and economic centre of gravity moves east and south write urban experts James Rosenwax and Stephen Engblom in a new manifesto for the city’s future.

Cities have never been more important, nor the competition among them more intense. The cities that are positioned to excel are pursuing visionary, integrated strategies to tap hidden value, attract people and investment, and overcome financial and operational challenges.

Sydney is an international hub for financial and technology services, tourism, education and investment, particularly from Asia. As the world gets smaller, with airports (and soon spaceports) replacing seaports, Sydney is locked in a global race for talent, solutions, businesses and capital.

Just as California’s coastal cities and surrounding regions now represent the world’s fifth largest economy, the east coast of Australia, led by Sydney, must step up to compete with the likes of other global regions such as the San Francisco Bay Area and China’s Pearl River Delta.

Sydney will only achieve its potential with a bold commitment to reform. The advances in governance that have been advocated by the Greater Sydney Commission should be matched with equally robust programs that allow for accelerated implementation.

New models of housing, public transport, education, healthcare and social care must be tailored to cater for populations that are ageing, growing and diversifying. Funding innovations and smart city deployments offer the promise to cost-effectively scale services. Public–private partnerships that have delivered innovative business districts such as Barangaroo, as well as successful toll road programs, should be analysed for lessons that could make Sydney the world leader in alternative procurement. The city must also urgently bolster its resilience against climate change in a region vulnerable to extreme weather and drought.

Sydney and Australia have long been receptive to global lessons and best practices. The city also has innovations to share with the world. These include extensive advancements in transit and tunnels, the accommodation of greater apartment densities in suburban neighbourhoods, and astute management of precious water resources.

In this manifesto, AECOM sets out a series of steps to help guide a long-term plan for Sydney.


  1. Evolve Sydney’s governance model: to retain Sydney’s global competitiveness and liveability, it is vital to deliver next-generation governance that will transform the city at the pace required.
  2. Rethink future procurement and delivery: more flexible and varied procurement strategies are urgently needed to deliver urban infrastructure.
  3. Embed a smart city approach to planning: sharing information between citizens, businesses and governments will enable planners to make more informed choices.
  4. Value green infrastructure: trees, green roofs, rain gardens and other forms of green infrastructure should be recognised and integrated into city planning, based on a comprehensive accounting of their benefits and costs.
  5. Optimise Sydney transport: a more proactive approach to operating Sydney’s transport network will balance competing demands for limited road space, and seek to efficiently use available capacity.
  6. Deliver next-generation corridors: next-generation corridors prioritise the movement of people, water and essential services – not just vehicles. They should be value-generating assets that attract employment and provide great places to live, work and play.
  7. Reform Sydney’s freight network: as Sydney’s population grows, it is vital to preserve corridors for future freight routes, either by road or rail. New solutions are also needed to deliver parcels and groceries efficiently.
  8. Make housing more diverse and affordable: Sydney should embrace innovations to build smaller homes and use more efficient designs and building materials.
  9. Turn Sydney electric: managing growing demand will require new strategies to optimise Sydney’s electricity network, and lessen strains during peak times.
  10. Create a water-sensitive city: major reforms are needed to ensure Sydney can deliver an adequate water supply to its population. These include widespread use of smart metering, increasing capacity, creating a network of new lakes, harvesting stormwater and using potable water more wisely.

To download the full manifesto click here