Dick Smith has ripped into plans to change the face of Sydney. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian
Dick Smith has ripped into plans to change the face of Sydney. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian

Suburb that’s ‘destroying Australia’

ENTREPRENEUR Dick Smith has ripped into a plan to turn Sydney into a mega city with three CBDs, saying immigration had caused a "jam" across Australia.

A series of reports on ABC's 7.30 this week explored the bold plan - developed by politicians and urban planners - to split the NSW capital in three to deal with a growing population.

Australia will have a population of 40 million by 2050, according to the report.

Despite a falling birthrate, the population will boom thanks to migration and an ageing population.

The western Sydney suburb of Parramatta is being touted as Sydney's second CBD, a model Smith slammed as "destroying Australia as we know it today".

He said Parramatta was being littered with ugly high-rise apartments.

"We're putting our kids in termite mounds," Smith told 7.30.

"Parramatta is going to be used as a model for other suburban areas and it's complete madness."

The Aussiemite entrepreneur said the time of "endless growth" had to be halted.

"The plan of every political party is to have growth (but) they don't actually tell you the truth; they mean endless growth," Smith told 7.30.

"Endless growth isn't possible."

Dick Smith says we need to rethink the way we plan our cities. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian
Dick Smith says we need to rethink the way we plan our cities. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian


While he admitted he had personally "benefited incredibly" from population growth, he said endless growth was impossible for Australia.

Social forecasters and politicians disagreed on the state of Australia's population growth during the program. Some labelled the "explosive" growth in urban centres as harmful to the Australian way of life; others, such as economist Phil Ruthven, disagreed.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Australia is underpopulated by any definition you are likely to have," Mr Ruthven said.

"Our cities are not that big. They're biggish but, when you look at cities of five million or four million, they're dwarfed by many cities that are five times bigger than that."


The report highlighted that western Sydney's booming population was grossly under-serviced by public transport. About 9 per cent of Australians live in the region - that's 2.2 million people according to census data from 2016.

According to 7.30, 200,000 of these people leave Western Sydney every day as commuters, with only 20 per cent of them using public transport. It's a pain felt on congested motorways such as the M5, which is almost always gridlocked in peak times.

As Australia's population expands, urban planners are coming up with ways to deal with the growing cities and urban sprawl. The urban planning answer is to decentralise Sydney, creating a second and third CBD by 2050. Not addressed by these planners is whether controls would be placed on locals and their commutes, solving the transport issue.

The first of the planned CBDs is the "Harbour City", Sydney's existing CBD. Wrapped around the iconic Harbour and filled with heritage buildings, it's likely this area will carry with it a cache and price tag to match its history.

The second would be the "River City" centred on Parramatta and the cluster of new developments in the area, including high-rise residential buildings.

The third CBD is being thought of as the "Park Land City", centred on Sydney's second airport at Badgerys Creek.

Diffusion of population has its perks, but infrastructure and community support seems to be the number one issue. Quality of life is what Australians value, with anecdotes peppered throughout the report of long wait times, traffic congestion and a lack of basic services driving panic.

In Mickleham, which was described by news.com.au this week as a one-service-station town, Belinda Wood told 7.30 of an 18-month waiting list for childcare.

"I think we waited 18 months to get a position for one day," she said.


Australia gave permanent residency to the smallest number of people in a decade last year - 162,000 - according to Immigration Minister Alan Tudge.

He said the visa program that awards points to encourage migrants to move to areas away from Sydney and Melbourne should be extended.

"Some of our visas already have conditions to say that you must stay in a regional area or a smaller city," he told 7.30 host Leigh Sales.

Sales asked whether the government should pause immigration because of "complaints about overcrowding, about congestion, about housing" in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

"If we can just ease the pressure on the big cities and enable the further growth in those jobs to be filled in the regions, then we actually achieve two objectives rather than one," Mr Tudge responded.


As Australia's population continues to grow towards 40 million, infrastructure has been highlighted as the linchpin to maintain the country's quality of life.

Within densely populated urban centres, spaces for infrastructure comes at a premium. The Productivity Commission warned in 2013 that current rates of population growth meant that in the coming 50 years Australia would need to spend five times more on infrastructure.

While there are growing calls to halt immigration, negative population growth can have negative effects on the economy, as seen in Japan, where a shrinking population has resulted in a declining economy. In the years between 2010 and 2016, Japan's population shrunk by almost a million people according to census data.

Australian National University demographer Ann Evans highlighted the importance of keeping the local flavour of our cities, without doing too much modelling from high density overseas urban spaces.

"We want to keep the Australianness of our cities," she said. "But we need to be able to make sure that we can increase the density while maintaining the open spaces and vibrancy that we have in our cities."

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