Building a ‘Greenfields’ Smart City in Australia

Back in 2013, the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations, chaired by former Director-General of the World Trade Organisation Pascal Lamy, released a ground-breaking report titled, Now for the Long Term.

It recognised the increasingly important leadership role that cities, city states, and regions will play in solving the world’s most pressing and complex development challenges.

As one of Australia’s leading local governments, Sunshine Coast Council has embraced the important leadership role highlighted by the Commission.

Council has supported the development of a progressive intelligent community and region focused on a vision of being Australia’s most sustainable region - healthy, smart, creative.

The development of the region and the efforts of Council have not gone unnoticed, with the worldwide Intelligent Community Forum naming the Sunshine Coast as an International Smart 21 City for 2018 for 4 of the past 5 years.

Although the region’s growth and innovation strategy is underpinned by a broad portfolio of inter-connected major, or what we refer to as “game changing”, projects and initiatives, two of the more important exemplar projects are worthwhile highlighting as they may be of interest to other urbanising or rapidly growing regions.

These projects are the new Maroochydore City Centre (MCC), which is the equivalent of a Central Business District (CBD), and the Sunshine Coast International Broadband Network (SCIBN).

Before we briefly discuss these projects and their anticipated benefits in building a “‘greenfields’ Smart City for the Digital Century”, here is an introduction to our region and local government organisation.

Who We Are

On the doorstep of Asia and the Pacific Rim, the popular and rapidly growing Sunshine Coast region (population 2018 - 320k, 2030 - 500k+ projected), in the state of Queensland, Australia is an increasingly recognised local, national and global destination for business and tourism.

Sunshine Coast Council, which is the local government body with oversight responsibility on behalf of the region’s residents to deliver on the region’s vision, recognises future prosperity lies in ideas, innovation and driving entrepreneurialism.

Innovation is the focus of three of the five strategic and performance pathways in Council’s goals for the region which are outlined in its Corporate Plan:

A smart economy (a regional hub for innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity);

A healthy environment (a reputation for innovation, sustainability and liveability); and

An outstanding organisation (a reputation for implementing innovative and creative solutions for future service delivery).

Our Challenges

Across the whole of the Local Government sector, whether in Australia or more globally, the requirement for change is being driven by a range of political, financial and people factors. Like any organisation, Local Government authorities need to react to the increasing pace of change and adapt their operating models to match the needs of the future.

There are four key themes that are expected to shape Local Governments in the future and these themes have been central to identifying the context for the SCC in 2020 and beyond;

  1. The changing constituent

  2. The rising costs of service provision

  3. Changes to the way work is done and services are delivered

  4. The changing role of Local Governments

  5. Regional growth and demographic developments

In relation to growth and demographic developments, the predicted growth of our region over the coming decades (200,000 additional residents within the next 30 years) will raise the bar for our organisation significantly. Simply doing more, working harder, faster is unlikely to deliver the scale, complexity and sophistication of solutions and services required to meet the service expectations and needs of our growing community. Innovation – doing things differently and better – will need to be at the core of our response to these thematic influences.

How We’re Responding

A greenfield city centre as the centrepiece of a Smart Region.

The Sunshine Coast is growing from a series of regional villages and towns, with a large beautiful rural hinterland, to a mature urban decentralised city-state region. To complete the transition to a modern 21st century “city”, the region required a contemporary urban city centre built on digital foundations.

Council’s vision and leadership in realising this ambition has been pivotal in facilitating the development of the site to achieve both a holistic and human centric civic design. Today this 53-hectare ‘greenfield’ site in the heart of Maroochydore – hence the name Maroochydore City Centre (MCC) – is transforming into a CBD for the 21st digital century. It is believed to be the only development of its kind currently underway in any developed country.

Formally opening in late 2018, the new MCC will be embedded with smart technology throughout, creating a cleaner, greener, dynamic city centre that’s not only desirable and liveable; it will have a transformative impact on the region’s economy.

Moving beyond the boundaries of the MCC, Council’s Smart City Implementation Program (SCIP) is designed to put the region at the forefront of 21st century service delivery as Council actively seeks to harness the benefits of the digital revolution for all.

For example, within the MCC and across the region. Council is looking for creative ways to use technology to deliver smarter and more efficient services to improve the lifestyle of our residents, including the introduction and activation of smart services for waste, WiFi, parking, tourism and events, lighting, water, CCTV, signage, building information modelling, power and energy, sound, sensors, health and education.

International Broadband Submarine Cable

Recognising the fundamental importance that gigabit connectivity will increasingly play in underpinning the efficient and effective delivery of services and economic growth for the benefit of the regional community, the Sunshine Coast Council has partnered with RTI Connectivity Pty Ltd (RTI-C) to deliver the Sunshine Coast International Broadband Network (SCIBN).

From early in 2020, the SCIBN will deliver Australia’s fastest data and telecommunications connection to Asia and the second fastest to the United States, thanks to a new international broadband submarine cable agreement between Sunshine Coast Council and RTI-C which was announced on 7 September 2018.

The project includes a 550km undersea fibre optic cable that will connect the Sunshine Coast to the 9600km Japan-Guam-Australia-South (JGA-S) submarine cable, which is being delivered by a consortium including RTI-C, Google and AARNet.

The SCIBN project investment of AUD $35 million is being jointly funded by Sunshine Coast Council and the Queensland State Government, with the project forecast to deliver up to 864 new jobs and stimulate AUD $927 million in annual economic benefit for the state of Queensland.

With future-proof capacity, the new cable will increase data transmission speed, reduce risk and lead to a reduction in international communication costs for business and consumers, overcoming the current challenge where most of Queensland’s data and voice communications travel to Sydney via a terrestrial network, before heading to their international destination through existing submarine cables.

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