Don’t box us in – industry needs room to move

urban freight task

Australia’s urban areas are growing, and so is the industry’s urban freight task. ALC explains why the preservation of prime industrial real estate is more important than ever. 

Australia’s urban areas are growing, and so is the industry’s urban freight task. The future looks bright to some – with new homes, increased amenities, and everything from your shoes to the kitchen sink soon able to be ordered and delivered online (if they’re not already). But there is a storm on the horizon. And it takes the shape of a poorly planned, overdeveloped city brought to its knees by an inability to deliver its essential supply chain functions.

Australia’s national freight task is estimated to be 725 billion tonne-km, increasing by over four-fold in the last 45 years. Between 2018 and 2040, it is forecast to increase by 25 per cent to 962 billion tonne-km, meaning planning now will determine how that task is met.

The preservation of industrial land supply and locations is fundamental to the future communities aspire towards. 

Tension between industry and government over the protection of industrial lands is not a new phenomenon. ALC has long advocated for the preservation of freight corridors and industrial land, resulting in the development and adoption of the National Urban Freight Planning Principles. These principles were endorsed by the Infrastructure Transport Ministers Meeting earlier this year. These principles form part of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy and are integral to ensure government planning properly considers the continuous movement of freight as our cities grow. 

However, these principles are not mandatory, and industry regularly finds itself in the position of defending use of the very land it uses to service those communities surrounding it. This was recently exhibited by the Industrial Lands Policy Review by the Greater Sydney Commission, on whether the current ‘Retain and Manage’ policy for industrial lands should be changed to permit rezoning and more ‘flexible use’ of such lands. Such ‘flexible use’ might allow residential and other non-industrial services on current industrial zoned lands in Greater Sydney.  

ALC CEO Brad Williams believes the protection and preservation of industrial lands in markets, both national and local, are fundamental to the future operating capabilities of supply chains.

“The assured supply of industrial land, close to population centres and separated from residences, is essential to managing the cost of moving freight and the efficiency and productivity of supply chains,” Brad says.

Long term thinking and common sense is needed to avoid poor planning decisions that will allow encroachment of residential areas on industrial lands, placing pressure on critical supply chains,” he says. 

Land use planning and development approvals that inadequately consider noise, vibrations, and other amenity impacts of freight facilities, can ultimately see inappropriate zoning – placing industrial areas and transport corridors next to residential land. In addition, further restrictions that are sometimes imposed – such as delivery curfews, and limitations on areas of operation and vehicle types – further dampen sector productivity, decreasing economic competitiveness and increasing costs. 

As a result, increased congestion in our cities restricts efficient access to freight facilities and impacts the predictability of deliveries. Last-mile delivery is already growing at a rapid pace, servicing consumer demand in metropolitan areas. Growth in business-to-customer, just-in-time, and on-demand delivery – driven by the continued rise in e-commerce and home delivery services – is resulting in increased pressure on kerb-side space and growing interaction between vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists.

Poor land use planning is contributing to congestion in our fast growing cities. Congestion impacts liveability and the economy. Australian congestion costs equalled $19 billion in 2016 and are expected to rise to $39 billion annually by 2031. The cost of congestion is lost productivity to business and individuals, environmental and health concerns from air and noise pollution, safety for pedestrians and cyclists, impact on footfall in retail precincts, and impacts on the public space available to communities. 

If we take a common sense and long term approach, through adherence to and application of the National Planning Principles, we can avoid some of the problems we are seeing now as well as contribute to increasing the liveability of our cities. Getting the process right today – and educating the community of the need to co-exist with the supply chains that provide our food, groceries and consumer goods in a timely and efficient manner – might mean that storm brewing on the horizon doesn’t come to pass. 

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