Amid Greater Sydney’s growth in the knowledge economy, the story and importance of our industrial and urban services activities get somewhat overlooked. Data actually tells us that the industrial and urban services sector is growing; becoming more efficient and adaptable, providing more jobs and making a key contribution to our city’s economy as a critical component in a metropolis that works.
Managing and supporting our industrial and urban services land requires a carefully considered and managed approach and, where appropriate, protection from competing land uses such as residential. Far from advocating for the status quo, this Paper identifies this land as evolving and advancing to be at the forefront of helping our cities demonstrate resilience in adapting to automation, new format logistics and the need to stimulate employment activities that lead to a more equitable and efficient metropolis.
More careful and thoughtful plans are required for these precincts, to increase the density and range of activities which can take place within them and ensure that they remain productive, affordable and economically viable locations for businesses. Cities around the world are increasingly recognising that successful commercial centres, innovation clusters and health and education precincts rely heavily on their proximity to land which offers vital support, service and interface functions.
For Greater Sydney, alongside active management of existing employment areas and allowing for their evolution, there is also a need for a long-term, spatial approach to providing employment areas in newly developing parts of the metropolis.
Both old and new industrial and urban services activities share important characteristics central to their success, as well as the fundamentals to a functioning city: proximity to end-markets and the creation and sustaining of local networks. They also remind us that while the nature and scope of employment-generating activities will shift over time, the core drivers underpinning why productive activity succeeds in these locations remains.
This Paper also argues that industrial and urban services also share the need to access affordable land for industrial uses. Greater Sydney is not alone in responding to such pressures. Cities with similar demands – London, San Francisco, Vancouver and New York – are also taking a more strategic approach to ensure the economic and employment-generating conditions provided by their industrial lands are supported and protected.
All cities need an intelligent approach to land use decisions which support a functioning city. In this, industrial and urban services land is an integral component: relinquishing it in the face of shorter-term imperatives is likely to be costly in the long term because once the land has moved to a higher value use, it is highly unlikely ever to be converted back.