December 17, 2005

A tale of two Sydneys: affluent versus aspiring

By Lee Glendinning Urban Affairs Reporter
December 17, 2005

THE stark racial separation of Sydney that seeped into violence in Cronulla has been revealed geographically.

Mapping of the city by the Centre of Population and Urban Research at Monash University shows a high concentration of blue-collar people from a non-English-speaking background in the western suburbs.

There is a "very recognisable belt" symbolised in the intense red regions representing the distribution of non-English-background people around their birthplace, says the centre's director, Professor Bob Birrell.

Conversely, regions to the north of the harbour have a very low proportion of migrants with a non-English-speaking background, and those who live there are generally the more "well-heeled" immigrants, Professor Birrell said.

"What has happened is that Sydney is now surrounded by outer suburban areas predominantly made up of the aspirational lower white-collar, smaller businessman building the McMansions through those outer suburbs," he said.

"That extends right around the city core. Of course, to the North Shore, there's the concentration of the more affluent migrants - Chinese, more well-heeled, Australian and British.

"It's a fairly simple picture but it's just so striking."

Academics have been examining what the information revealed in the mapping means for concentrations of lower-income workers and the pattern of settlement for "aspirationals". Encompassed in this mapping are the political and social equity consequences for Sydney.

The president of the anti-consolidation group Save Our Suburbs, Tony Recsei, in his paper Pipe Dreams: The Shortcomings of Ideologically based Planning, said high-density policies were harming social equity in Sydney.

His paper refers to an investigation of housing costs that reveals that world cities adopting high-density policies have the highest costs, and that Sydney is one of the worst.

Mr Recsei said the Government needs to provide funds to cater for the necessary infrastructure and employment needed for the "decentralised development" across the country.

"The Commonwealth Government must take some responsibility for new arrivals that result from its policies," he said.

"It cannot just assume, as it does now, that the states can forever shoehorn immigrants into existing communities."

Posted by sleong at December 17, 2005 08:59 PM