Call for fourth level of government to manage growth of cities

CSIRO has published a book making the case for establishing a fourth level of government to deliver better planning and management of Australia's cities.

The book, Australia’s Metropolitan Imperative: An Agenda for Governance Reform, notes that while, globally, there has been a trend towards governmental devolution, in Australia, alongside deregulation, public–private partnerships and privatisation, there has been increasing centralisation rather than decentralisation of urban governance.

“Australian state governments are responsible for the planning, management and much of the funding of the cities, but the Commonwealth government has on occasion asserted much the same role. Disjointed policy and funding priorities between levels of government have compromised metropolitan economies, fairness and the environment.”

The book makes the case that metropolitan governments would promote the economic competitiveness of Australia’s cities and enable more effective and democratic planning and management.

Co-editor of the book, Marcus Spiller of SGS Economics, recently highlighted in an article the impact of the lack of metropolitan government on planning for Sydney, and in particular on infrastructure funding.

“Although the formation of the GSC (Greater Sydney Commission) has been an important advance in integrated infrastructure and land use planning in Sydney, the Commission has no funds raising powers of its own. It must rely on its powers of persuasion and the influence of its Ministerial host – the Premier of NSW – to enforce adherence to the metropolitan plan by infrastructure agencies like RMS, Transport for NSW, HI and the like.

“Canberra collects 80% of taxes, well above the level required to meet Commonwealth functions. Although Commonwealth Governments profess interest in sustainable and liveable cities from time to time, they cannot possibly know better than regional or State jurisdictions what is required by way of infrastructure in these areas. A program of devolution of tax raising and priority setting is necessary.”

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