Fabled Sydney lifestyle under a cloud

Sydney regularly ranks high on lists of the world's best cities, with its booming economy, enviable beaches and a laid-back, sun-kissed lifestyle - but critics see clouds on the horizon.

The cosmopolitan jewel in Australia's crown has a reputation for arts, fashion, commerce and culture and on a beautiful day down by the harbour, feasting on fresh seafood, it is hard not succumb to its charms.

But its fabled lifestyle is under threat from creaking infrastructure, traffic congestion, rising prices and a population boom.

"I love living here. Sydney really does have so much going for it," said Linda Townsend, an Australian mother-of three who has also lived in London, Atlanta and Hong Kong.

"But I've also travelled widely enough to know that Sydney is not the best city for many things. Living here has its daily struggles and stresses.

"It's become very expensive, the transport isn't good and it's getting worse."

Sydney is the country's most populous city, with some 4.5 million people already crammed into its borders.

And it is growing faster than anticipated, with forecasts that it could pass six million within the next 25 years, presenting some serious challenges to urban planners.

While many live the good life, Sydney is seen as a city of two halves, with some residents housed in downtrodden and fast-expanding suburbs, mostly in the west, where crime is rife.

They face crowded roads, ageing trains and buses for their daily commute, some of the most expensive housing in the world and rising living costs.

Even Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who resides at The Lodge on the harbour opposite the Opera House when in Sydney, acknowledges that being in the country's premier location is not all it's cracked up to be.

"The government understands families are doing it tough and Sydney is an expensive place to live," she said recently.

A key gripe of Sydneysiders is its creaking infrastructure.

Critics blame the problems on a lack of vision by the former New South Wales state Labor government that was turfed from power this year.

Bernard Salt, a leading commentator and advisor to corporate Australia on demographic trends, said Sydney had been mismanaged.

"There's been poor vision and a lack of courage," he said, saying the 1990s will be remembered for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and "all available resources being sucked into that".

"Then in the 2000s they realised the roads were congested, transport didn't work and now we're paying for it."

In an attempt to sort out the mess, former premier Nick Greiner was appointed in May by the new Liberal government to develop five and 20-year infrastructure plans to help guide the city's future.

Part of Sydney's problem has been its inability to attract cash from federal funding body Infrastructure Australia, which has repeatedly rejected its submissions as inadequate.

This has meant major Sydney transport needs remain unmet and people sit in traffic jams, on overcrowded buses that travel at a snail's pace, or on trains that haven't been upgraded in years.

"The challenge is there for the government to build the infrastructure we need to stop congestion crippling our city," National Roads and Motoring Association president Wendy Machin said.

Affordable housing is another hot-button issue.

Costs have surged, with median Sydney house prices now among the world's most expensive, according to consultancy group Demographia.

This has put the Australian dream of owning a house with a backyard out of many people's reach.

Rhonda Daniels, an expert in urban planning at the Institute of Transport and Logistics at the University of Sydney, said the city must address these issues urgently if it wants to keep its reputation as a great place to live.

Yet despite the challenges, she disputes that Sydney's sought-after lifestyle is under threat.

"If a city is growing, then it means people are still attracted to its lifestyle, even if it has its drawbacks," she said. "People can't have it both ways."

John Latto, an Irishman who emigrated to Sydney to escape the overcast skies and cold weather of Belfast, agrees.

"People complain about Sydney, its too expensive, the roads are packed, but look at it," said the 31-year-old landscape gardener, as he pulled on his wetsuit to have a surf at Manly beach.

"I don't care what they say, this is paradise."

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Manager - Global Leisure Business

    £55000 - £65000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in their fiel...

    Investigo: Senior Finance Analyst - Global Leisure Business

    £45000 - £52000 per annum + bonus+bens : Investigo: My client, a global leader...

    Investigo: Financial reporting Accountant

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits : Investigo: One of the fastest growing g...

    Sphere Digital Recruitment: CRM Executive – Global Travel Brand – Luton – £25k

    25,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: CRM Executive – Global Travel Brand – Luto...

    Day In a Page

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?