At the first SIMNA Western Sydney (SIMNA WS) event in November 2018 we asked attendees what they were interested in. Growth and change was a hot topic, and rightly so; the population of Western Sydney is set to increase from 2.2 million to 2.9 million by 2036 and the region is attracting major infrastructure investment, including Western Sydney Airport and new train and metro lines.
Measuring the impact of growth and change was the focus of the second SIMNA WS event, held at ICE in North Parramatta on 28 May 2019. The sold-out event featured a panel of three speakers: Stephanie Barker from the Greater Sydney Commission, Katie Wearne from City of Parramatta and Shaun Beckley from Liverpool City Council.
Stephanie spoke about the realities facing Western Sydney as it grows, including the vulnerability of some areas to heat waves, cultural diversity as an asset, fostering social connectedness and ensuring diversity in housing supply and housing affordability. She detailed the collaborative approach the Commission have taken to developing performance indicators in partnership with communities, and spoke of the Commission’s commitment to sharing the results of their research and impact measurement. You can learn more about the Commission’s approach to community engagement at this link.
One consequence of population growth is increased patronage of public spaces such as parks and sportsgrounds. Katie shared the results of a Social Return on Investment (SROI) study that the City of Parramatta conducted in partnership with the Western Sydney Local Health District to assess the value of green spaces. The study, which is the first of its kind in Australia, found that people visiting parks experienced nine outcomes related to social connectedness, emotional wellbeing, physical health and family relationships. This results in a significant social return on investment, with $10 of social value generated for every $1 invested. Click here to learn more about the SROI on green spaces.
Many people living in Western Sydney are sceptical about the pace of change. Using development application data as an example, Shaun made a compelling case for data transparency as key to building confidence in the planning system, encouraging innovation and creating a learning culture across Councils. He spoke about the Australasian Local Government Performance Excellence Program as an example of this in action. Over 135 Councils in Australia and New Zealand are involved in the program, which helps Councils develop shared performance measures for residential and commercial developments and undertake comparative analysis on their performance. Shaun stressed that in order to effectively measure the impact of development, there is a need for good quality data, locally relevant benchmarks, and the bravery of councils to ‘give it a go’.
The workshop concluded with a Q&A, which focused on the role of social connection and services in city making, strategies for encouraging people to share data, and involving stakeholders in the development of indicators. It was a robust discussion with clear themes around transparency, sharing results and working with communities to develop meaningful measures.
Thank you to our three wonderful speakers, our facilitator Natalie Jurisic from RedKite, our hosts ICE and everyone who attended. We are thrilled that SIMNA Western Sydney is being so warmly received and look forward to inviting you to our next event later in the year.