New report calls on Federal Government to smarten up its act in the west


Date: 08/05/2002

Governments need to work smarter when it comes to western Sydney according to a new report released today by the University of Western Sydney.

The region's so called 'aspirational voters' are receiving large Federal subsidies while the needs of other communities have been ignored.

'A New Vision for Western Sydney: Options for 21st Century Governance' released by the University's Urban Frontiers Program calls for a major overhaul of federal, state, regional and local government structures so they can better harness western Sydney's strengths and address its problems.

According to the report's authors, Professor Bill Randolph and Dr Brendan Gleeson, the Federal Government continues to ignore the real needs of Australia's most important region and State and local efforts need to be better co-ordinated.

"Western Sydney is facing major challenges in the form of localised poverty and housing stress, increasing fear of crime, traffic congestion and ecological damage of our waterways and parklands," says Professor Randolph.

"These problems are becoming increasingly difficult to solve because government structures in western Sydney are too complex. There are overlapping modes of representation and accountability that make it virtually impossible to make real progress in the region.

"Western Sydney is crying out for a more co-ordinated and consistent approach when it comes to planning and policy development."

Dr Gleeson believes a range of radical steps need to be taken in order to guide future development in the region.

"The Federal Government needs to stop neglecting western Sydney in fiscal terms and put the region back on the map when it comes to regional policy development and infrastructure investment," he says.

"The first step towards this lies in creating a Federal assistance program for the west which supports state and local government investments. This program could be led by an Office of Urban Regions which would help raise the profile of metropolitan issues at a federal level."

Professor Randolph says that there are messages for the NSW State and local governments too.

"Although the NSW State Government have made significant moves to redress the historical neglect of western Sydney in some areas, public spending could be better directed toward the region's greatest needs," he says.

"For example, the State Government is currently spending $770 million on the construction of bus transit ways instead of simply extending the Sydney Bus Network which would surely help to break transport poverty in the west.

"The State Government could also devolve some of its responsibilities by passing down decision making and resource allocation to the regional and local levels.

"This would give local government a greater role in western Sydney and enable them to move their focus from the triple R's - roads, rate and rubbish- towards a more dynamic community development role."

The report also recommends merging the two regional political bodies MACROC and WSROC to better represent the views and needs of the Greater West.

"A unified regional organisation of councils would receive greater resourcing from local, state and federal governments and would be better placed to be a more effective regional advocate on the political stage," says Dr Gleeson.

"Western Sydney is Australia's regional economic powerhouse with only Sydney's CBD and metropolitan Melbourne having larger economies. If governments don't adopt new policy initiatives the current challenges facing western Sydney will continue to intensify to the point where regional and national economic well-being are affected."

A full copy of the report can be downloaded at http://www.urbanfrontiers.uws.edu.au/publications/issues.phtml#wsvision

Media contact:

Lynda McKewen
Senior Media Officer
Ph: (02) 9678 7424
Mobile: 0419 244 595

Professor Bill Randolph: 0409 917 805
Dr Brendan Gleeson: 0418 697 860

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