Friday, 29 Sep 2023

Bold and innovative planning is delivering Australias newest city. But it will be hot and can we ditch the colonialname?

Tooran Alizadeh, Glen Searle and Rebecca Clements of the University of Sydney weigh in on the strengths and flaws of the planning process for Australia's newest city.


Bold and innovative planning is delivering Australias newest city. But it will be hot and can we ditch the colonialname?

A massive project is unfolding in Sydney's Western Parkland region. The building of a new city from the ground up is central to an infrastructure-led restructuring of metropolitan Sydney. The catalysts are the Western Sydney City Deal and the Western Sydney Airport being built alongside the new Bradfield City.

Bradfield city is being developed on unceded Aboriginal land with complex ongoing settler-colonial legacies and high stakes for diverse First Nations communities - including the largest urban Indigenous population in Australia. Yet it is named after a colonial figure with no connection to the land.

Our case study research acknowledges what is happening in the Western Parkland development as being at the forefront of urban and infrastructure governance across Australia. It's particularly notable how all three tiers of government - federal, state and local - have come together in this massive project.

Yet we have also identified a range of concerns, including public consultation, project funding, urban heat and water demand, the need for affordable and public housing, and other social equity issues.

The case study is part of a three-year (2020-2023) research project, the Infrastructure Governance Incubator, across three universities - Sydney, Melbourne and Monash. Our study includes 55 interviews with key stakeholders from all tiers of government, as well as non-government and community voices.

Participants from across the board have seen the "Bradfield" naming as a shameful decision. It's in stark contrast to the positive steps towards supporting Indigenous voices throughout the project. These steps include the award-winning Recognise Country guidelines, Indigenous-led design projects, a Koori Perspectives Circle, and new Indigenous roles within government authorities to support engagement efforts.

In Australian cities, it is critical we explore the role of infrastructure in perpetuating settler-coloniality and in making space for Indigenous-led futures. The complex challenges of a case like this can inform important discussions about how we might improve infrastructure planning to produce just and sustainable approaches.

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