What are your observations of Dantia’s efforts to date to boost the economic prosperity of Lake Macquarie?
I am excited to be part of Dantia as I know it’s an effective and innovative organisation. It is one of the most leading economic development agencies in Australia.
What are priorities for improving the status quo?
One of the great opportunities for Lake Macquarie is residential growth. Given the great natural environment, relative affordability and lifestyle Lake Macquarie offers, there is a great opportunity to attract families and investment. Internationally we have seen that liveability creates economic activity i.e. when people want to live in a town or a city, that area performs well economically. So, there is plenty of opportunity for Lake Macquarie to have a strong economic future.
What is unique about Lake Macquarie?
There are a number of environmental, geographic and economic aspects. It clearly offers a desirable lifestyle – a great place to live, work and play. Residents have access to a strong labour market within thirty minutes’ drive and can commute to Sydney within 90 minutes. Relative affordability makes housing more attainable, especially for Sydneysiders looking to move into the area. There is lots of land available for further development and population growth, an attractive proposition for investors. Bringing all these elements together will make Lake Macquarie even more successful.
What aspects do you see most potential in for its community?
The residents of Lake Macquarie have plenty to be excited about. I think small businesses are the future of Lake Macquarie. Currently 96% of businesses in Lake Macquarie are small, with less than 20 employees. We are seeing strong growth in this category and anticipate that this will continue. These small businesses will also benefit from the population growth, mentioned above.
I also think there is going to be a good opportunity for tourism. The region is home to the southern hemisphere’s largest salt water lake, world class mountain biking tracks and some of the East Coast’s best beaches and forests. On the back of these natural assets, activity-based and experience style accommodation options are increasing with further opportunity for growth.
There is increasing high speed internet access in the area so I’m looking forward to more of a technology-based approach to the future of Lake Macquarie. The internet of things network and investments in smart city initiatives will provide a strong platform for digital innovation and tech-based operations to establish in the area.
You have been a special advisor on housing, urban regeneration and planning to five UK ministers. What led you to Australia?
I would love to say I came to Australia to get a job but I came to Australia because my wife is Australian. Since arriving here I’ve been privileged to run the Committee for Sydney for six years which is one of Australia’s leading city development think-tanks. This experience combined with my knowledge of international housing and economic development has set me up well for my role at Dantia.
What is your role as Principal, Cities Leader Australasia?
I am head of Sydney’s planning approach at Arup which is a global consultancy firm employing over 15,000 people and 1,000 people in Australia. Essentially my role is to understand the development opportunities of cities and advise strategic leaders in government or in business on how to maximise both development returns and benefits for communities.
Your recent report on Sydney, Adding to the Dividend, Ending the Divide, identified a prosperous inner city and a disadvantaged city 30 minutes afield. What are key challenges for planners?
My report points to flaws in the centralised approach to city development. Basically it highlights the increases in certain health and economic problems in areas that are located further from employment and where there is limited public transport. Part of the reason Australia has such a high rate of diabetes and obesity is because we’re not enabling people to do more journeys by foot or walking to public transport. The challenge with Australian cities is to bring a better balance between residential and economic development for better health and socio-economic outcomes.
What's your role in Newcastle city planning?
From early on after arriving in Australia I’ve had a strong involvement with the Hunter. My in-laws live in Nelson Bay; I know the area quite well and have always been interested in it. Recently I have been advising on urban planning strategy for the Hunter and how collaboration between the public and private sector can be improved. Although Lake Macquarie has its own unique aspects and economic opportunities, the growth of the Hunter and regeneration of Newcastle will be very helpful for Lake Macquarie.
Lake Macquarie was the first LGA to create a Smart City network. What does that mean for residents?
I’m very impressed with the digital innovation around Lake Macquarie. In 2018 Dantia and Lake Macquarie City Council rolled out the Long Range Wide Area Network which enables the internet things. This might sound very techy, but this is an incredibly powerful piece of infrastructure that will enable modern economic development, better decisions making, increases to efficiencies and a safer and more liveable city. There will be benefits for residents and businesses and there is a possibility for Lake Macquarie to become recognised in Australia as a leader in this sector.