Last week the City of Sydney released it’s Community Wellbeing survey. It’s available to the public, you can find it here. I would certainly encourage anyone interested to have a read. It’s mostly good news for the City, which is music to my ears. So quickly, what is it? The document defines it as; healthy communities, opportunity for all residents, cultural participation and diversity and strengthening Sydney’s competitiveness. Productivity capacity is also one of the core goals of the Sustainable Sydney 2030 plan put forward by Lord Mayor Clover Moore. Using a vast set of data, the Wellbeing survey examines how well we’re achieving these goals, and more broadly, defining what the standard of life for Sydneysiders.
“Social Sustainability and urban resilience initiatives often focus on building a communities’ adaptive capacity to cope with sudden and unforeseen ‘flashpoint’ challenges as well as ongoing social and economic upheaval. In global cities like Sydney, flashpoints include terrorist threats, financial crashes and natural disaster. Ongoing challenges include rapid population growth, strained infrastructure, disparities in housing supply and demand and the longer-term impact of climate change”
– Community Wellbeing Survey, October 2016.
So let’s talk about the findings of the survey.
Health and Safety:
Overall Sydney is fairing pretty well. Health is measured chiefly by life expectancy at birth for men and women, which has risen by over a year in both cases over an 8 year period. Further evidence includes a 4% increase in immunisation rates and 3.5% decrease in Asthma rates across the period. Personal safety is another area measured by the city, and something I heard a lot about during my local election campaign. Despite rising a little over 10%, 61.1% of residents feeling safe while walking home at night – I don’t believe that number is high enough! More generally speaking, crime rates have dropped across the board, as measured by individual incidents dropping by 34.5% between 2006 and 2015.
Opportunity is a difficult thing to quantify, but for the purposes of this post let’s talk about housing affordability and income. Housing has clearly risen dramatically over the past decade. Median house prices have risen from $610 000 to $1 418 000 and flat prices rising from $470 000 to $828 000, between 2006 and 2015. Weekly household income has risen in the same period from $1248 to $1639, which obviously doesn’t match the increase in house prices. Furthermore, a devastating 16.9% of survey participants answered that they were financially insecure.
The City of Sydney has been committed to ensuring that cultural richness and participation are available to all. Cultural life also has economic outcomes, driving the creative industries and bringing visitors to the city. Unfortunately, the survey has found no increase in the perceived opportunity to participate in arts and cultural events. In fact, there has been an overall decrease in residents actively engaging in cultural activities, events and performances of 1.0%. Disappointingly, Aboriginal and Torres straight islander cultural activities, events, performances and venues have dropped, in just 4 years, by 19.0%, this is despite a growth to the broader creative industries worker of 8.6%.
Democracy and community engagement:
There are some unfortunate statistics here, with 22.9% of residents believing they do not have a say in local government. Furthermore, a measly 36.2% of residents believe that they are satisfied with democracy in the City of Sydney. Maybe that webcasting I’ve been going on about could help with these numbers?
Overall, Sydney is looking pretty good. For the most part the well-being survey has demonstrated that the Sydney 2030 plan is going well. There are some glaring failures though, so it’s important that the City of Sydney council takes steps to acknowledge and work towards making improvements across a number of areas that are raised as wanting in this survey.