A New Era For Cities: National Cities Performance Framework


The National Cities Performance Framework [NCPF] announced this week by Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor has been declared "a new era for cities and how they are managed" by Cities Reference Group member and Chief Executive of Consult Australia, Megan Motto.

The interim report has been published by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for public comment.

Representing some 49,000 consulting firms in the built environment, Motto was speaking on the announcement of the 41-indicator framework for Australia’s 21 largest cities and Western Sydney.

“Australia is changing. In half a century, future Melbourne will be the size of present day Melbourne and Sydney combined. Future Sydney will have doubled – times two in shops, in traffic, requiring homes, schools, hospitals and employment," Motto said.

“A data-driven approach to managing this future is critical which is why the National Cities Performance Framework is so important. For the first time, it will bring together data sources from housing to commuter time and employment to air quality, breaking down silos to provide a holistic and much-needed planning approach to our cities.”

The Framework is designed to measure how well cities performing against the Australian Government’s Smart City priorities of jobs and skills; infrastructure and investment; liveability and sustainability; innovation and digital; governance, planning and regulation; and housing.

“This is just the beginning," added Motto. “Time will enrich this data as year-on-year changes will provide new perspectives, city-by-city comparisons will enliven competition as all seek to attract the best and brightest, and improvements in how data is visualised will increase accountability of leaders and engagement with citizens.

“This is a new era for cities and how they are managed in Australia, and the government deserves credit for beginning a process that will only grow in importance over the decades ahead.”

Input is sought on the framework by 18 August with a form downloadable from the Government’s Cities website.
National Cities Performance Framework: Industry Reaction

The Green Building Council of Australia

(GBCA) says the Australian Government’s release of the National Cities Performance Framework interim report is an important milestone on the road to smarter policy around cities.

“The Australian Government’s approach demonstrates its commitment to putting the ‘smart’ into its Smart Cities Policy,” said the GBCA’s Chief Executive Officer, Romilly Madew.

The Turnbull Government is developing the National Cities Performance Framework to underpin its Smart Cities Plan, which was released in April 2016.

Launching the interim report, Minister Taylor said delivering on the plan “starts with common goals and an ability to measure their delivery over time”.

Madew said the government’s approach “recognises the importance of policy solutions tailored to the unique challenges faced by each of our cities”.

The GBCA has been a long-time advocate of collecting and reporting on city-level data, and Madew is currently a member of the Cities Reference Group.

“One of the most important features of the Framework will be its online indicator dashboard. For the first time, every Australian will have easy access to data that helps them understand how our cities are performing, and how governments are delivering outcomes meaningful for them,” Madew said.

“As the Turnbull Government continues to roll out City Deals in partnership with state, territory and local governments, the Framework will also provide an essential resource to identify priorities and measure success,” she added.

In June, the GBCA released the Green Star Communities Guide for Local Government, a resource which aims to build the capacity of local governments as they seek City Deals, and identify and prioritise opportunities.

“The Framework must drive sustainability across our cities and help deliver City Deals that leverage existing industry leadership, like that demonstrated through Green Star, to deliver improved outcomes for communities.

“It is reassuring that this interim report positions the Framework for further expansion and refinement. The challenges of measuring city performance in delivering more sustainable communities are becoming more acute, and will require constant review. Developing a ‘living resource’ that evolves as our cities do will help us gain maximum value from government investment and build thriving cities for decades to come,” Madew said.

The Urban Taskforce

said the National Cities Performance Framework is an excellent initiative to ensure more data is available to measure city performance but more measures are needed on urban apartment living.

“The National Cities Performance Framework sets out many important measures that are essential to monitor the performance of Australia’s cities,” said Urban Taskforce CEO, Chris Johnson. “We are concerned however that the data seems skewed towards a detached house view of our cities with little measurement of the swing towards more urban apartment living.

“Contextual indicator number 6, (p. 20) for instance, measures the median detached house price with a description that this is ‘a typical house in a city’ and that this will help understand if ‘housing is affordable for residents’.

"The results from the 2016 census demonstrate that 28.1% of homes in Sydney are now apartments and housing approval data indicates that over 60% of approvals are for new apartments. This shift to apartment living is the biggest structural change happening in Australian cities and the National Cities Performance Framework must measure this trend.

“The Housing Indicators also seem to focus on house prices rather than all homes including apartments and medium density dwellings.

“The planning system is being evaluated through the value of building approvals per capita which is a useful measure but equally important is to measure the actual commencements of buildings. In Sydney only 58% of housing approvals, when measured over 4 years, proceed to commencement and become real projects.

“The scale of the data listed in the performance framework is massive and this will clearly require significant resources to collate, validate, analyse and interpret.

“The Urban Taskforce is particularly interested in interpreting future trends through the cities data and we are keen to work with Minister Taylor in ensuring that useful data comes from his important initiative.”

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