Australia’s top-performing local government areas or “smart cities” are overwhelmingly in affluent and highly populated urban neighbourhoods, with Sydney leading the way, a new report has found.
More than a quarter of Australians are living in these areas, according to the Smart Cities Down Under report, which assessed 180 local government areas out of 563 and found a clear regional disparity between city and country.
NSW led the way, taking out a third of the places in the top 60 council areas ranked by the new Queensland University of Technology report.
The top six spots were all in Sydney’s north shore. North Sydney was named the winner, followed by Willoughby, Mosman, Waverley, Lane Cove and Ku-ring-gai.
Top 20 local government areas
North Sydney (NSW)
Lane Cove (NSW)
Canada Bay (NSW)
Port Phillip (VIC)
Peppermint Grove (WA)
Joondalup (WA) C
Smart cities in New South Wales Photo: Smart Cities Down Under
A city’s “smartness” was measured by its economy, society, environment and governance, which includes indicators such as median income, health status, housing affordability, sustainable commuting and buildings as well as the availability of public Wi-Fi and NBN coverage.
The report categorised council areas into three groups of 60: leading, following, and developing neighbourhoods.
The state of Western Australia came second with 14 councils landing in the top 60 list, including Cottesloe, Nedlands, Subiaco, Joondalup, Cambridge and Claremont.
Smart cities in Western Australia Photo: Smart Cities Down Under
It was followed by Victoria, which had a dozen councils in the top performing local government areas, including Port Phillip, Boroondara, Yarra, Glen Eira and Stonnington.
The report’s lead author and associate professor of urban studies and planning at Queensland University of Technology Tan Yigitcanlar said residing in a smart city enabled Australians to be better off.
“It’s critical. Those locations provide economic opportunities, better education systems and increased liveability and wellbeing,” Mr Yigitcanlar said.
Smart cities in Victoria Photo: Smart Cities Down Under
Two other key factors that raised a council’s “smart city” prospects was governance and policies.
“Better governance, including planning, delivery and monitoring of public and urban services, are critical. Government is the mechanism that enables a smart city to be formed,” he said.
“Environmental qualities are quite critical so how we develop our buildings, which vehicles we use, how often we use them, the energy services [that are chosen].”
While there was a clear lack of regional local government areas in the top 60 list, Mr Yigitcanlar said there was even a disparity within councils in big cities.
“Even [within] the metropolitan areas, those councils that are not actually ranked as highly, they are disadvantaged,” he said. “[A smart city] provides higher quality of life … if they’re not in these local government areas they’re disadvantaged.”
Smart cities in South Australia Photo: Smart Cities Down Under
He said many of the smart cities were found in affluent areas because the area attracted people who added wealth to the area.
“The more fortunate areas are socioeconomically more advanced, meaning the innovation districts, high-ranked university, well-educated, talented people, industries and businesses that recruit them are located in these locations.”
He also found higher populated areas more often provided better working and living outcomes.
“The population could be more concentrated in the area but doesn’t necessarily mean high skyscrapers,” he said. “As areas become denser, councils can fund infrastructure, the service quality increases, technological retrofitting of higher density areas are at relative ease compared to developing low density areas.”
The Northern Territory had two councils that were in the top 60 list of smart cities while Queensland, the ACT and Tasmania had one each.
Smart cities in the Northern Territory Photo: Smart Cities Down UnderSmart cities in Tasmania Photo: Smart Cities Down UnderSmart cities in Queensland Photo: Smart Cities Down Under