Settling confusion on City Deal plan

James Riley
Editorial Director

The Australia and New Zealand branch of the Smart Cities Council will release a paper next month to help state and local governments, and property developers understand core smart city concepts and foster smart community projects.

In particular, the paper focuses on how to leverage Federal Government City Deals to establish smart communities.

The paper’s release comes at a time when the federal government negotiates four new City Deal infrastructure projects with questions around how many will contain digital smart city components.

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SCC ANZ’s Executive Director Adam Beck said that the paper would be delivered in the form of a code for building smart cities and communities developed in cooperation with industry and government stakeholders.

“The question that we’re trying to answer with that document is how you build a smart community from a developer’s perspective,” Mr. Beck said.

“These smart city deals have one common thread that runs through them and that is that they all have large urban infrastructure development projects. What we’ve tried to do is define what smart looks like in an urban development infrastructure project.”

Mr. Beck said that the document would outline five principles to help articulate the key features of smart city development projects, such as connectivity and promoting digital commerce, and a set of metrics against which to test the principles.

“Up until now there’s been no clear definition of what the smart city development looks like. Everyone is out on their own trying to work that out. We’ve spent a year working with industry and government to get some consensus on what that looks like,” he explained.

The paper in part addresses an information gap in the market. However, Mr. Beck said that it was also to ensure that governments at all levels didn’t miss the opportunity to leverage purchase power made possible from funding alignment across government tiers.

“If you use the City Deals framework to its greatest benefit, you can start to advance some of these scaling opportunities.”

The code’s release is timely, with the federal government having established City Deals containing large smart city digital transformation components with Western Sydney, Launceston and Townsville. It has established MoUs four a further four in Perth, Darwin, Hobart and Geelong.

Government authorities from South East Queensland, Victoria and Adelaide are also believed to have been knocking at the Department of Infrastructure’s doors of late.

The City Deals program is guided by six priorities, including jobs, housing and sustainability, governance and regulation, and innovation and digital opportunities. They are also the key mechanism for delivering on the government’s adjacent Smart Cities Plan.

To date, the most mature deals the government has announced have contained a strong focus on digital innovation and digital smart city development. However, the few details that have emerged regarding the Perth plan – most of which pertain to housing and transport ­- suggest that the government might be shifting the focus of its negotiations away from smart cities digital transformation projects.

Beck said that early signs for the deal with Darwin were positive so improving the prospect that the government’s the focus on smart city infrastructure will endure.

However, he said that the situation also served to highlight the lack of transparency around the projects.

“I think it’s a case that there’s not as much information sharing as there could be and what the status of all these projects is,” Mr Beck said.

In the case of Darwin, for instance, the city and the Territory’s government have received funding under the smart cities and suburbs program but few details of its digital transformation projects have emerged.

A spokesman for the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities told said that the program was currently being guided by three principles: Willing and capable partners; opportunities to unlock economic potential and transform the city, “alignment with broader investment and policy priorities”.

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