A sit down with Michael Bishop

NSW, and particularly Sydney, is experiencing significant population growth. The NSW Government is committed to delivering the housing supply needed to support that growth. Working closely with Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes, Michael is part of the conversations helping to shape that future growth which is focussed on not just delivering a set number of new homes to meet a future population target, but also supporting a diversity of housing types to meet the community’s needs.

What are your thoughts on medium density housing?

Without a doubt, medium density housing needs to become more prevalent in our cities. Minister Stokes is passionate about how NSW can improve the planning system to encourage more of this type of housing. Failure to improve the diversity of housing types and tenures runs the risk, particularly in Sydney, of creating a bifurcated city split between towers and suburban sprawl. Medium density housing can help solve many of the challenges in modern cities like affordability, accessibility, good design, and healthy neighbourhoods. Planning systems need to be capable of delivering compatible, well-designed medium-density housing in existing suburban areas.

What are your opinions on high density housing?

Cities in NSW have changed dramatically in recent years – not just in Sydney, where tall towers are common, but also in places like Newcastle and Wollongong where we now see building of up to 20 storeys. High density housing will be a critical component in meeting our State’s future housing needs, but it needs to be planned for in the right locations that are well connected and accessible, contribute positively to the public domain, and meet community expectations for good design.

What experiences have you had with medium to high density housing in your role?

Planning can be a challenging field of public policy because of the wide-ranging stakeholder views about what our cities should look like. At the moment, I’m working with Sydney’s 32 local governments which are preparing their strategic plans that implement the Government’s Greater Sydney Region Plan and set the local planning direction over the next 20 years. Each council has a very clear idea of what housing types they’d like to encourage to meet their share of Sydney’s growth, and those conversations are playing out right now.

What lessons might New Zealand learn from Australia when it comes to medium density housing and vice versa?

While both Australia and New Zealand face significant challenges in managing urban growth and housing affordability, New Zealand has made incredible progress when it comes to medium density housing. New Zealand’s National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity shows national leadership on urban policy, while tools like the Auckland Design Manual help the community to understand complex planning and design issues.

In NSW, the Government is delivering a major $90 billion infrastructure agenda that is reshaping Sydney’s growth and land use plans. For example, a new Sydney Metro will stretch from the northwest, through the Sydney CBD, out to Sydney’s southwest suburbs, and we’re taking an integrated approach to delivering land use change alongside the new transport links.