A tale of two cities: the unique opportunities for Sydney and Melbourne

We may like to consider ourselves a wide-brown land, but a large majority of us live in cities.  Two cities, to be precise. Sydney and Melbourne, currently account for 10 million people.  That’s almost half of the country’s total population. And when we are not in one, we choose to visit the other.  Air traffic between Melbourne and Sydney is intense.  The only busier routes in the world is between San Francisco and Los Angeles and Tokyo to Fukuoka.

In just 30 years, Melbourne and Sydney are tipped to reach eight million people each.  That means that there will be 16 million people in these two cities alone. On a global scale, if the two were well connected by flight services, additional airports and a good rail service with a fast train, they would represent one of the largest conurbations in the developed world.

In other words, they would ‘merge’ to form one connected urban region converted by a range of regional towns, hamlets and lifestyle opportunities.

Unfortunately, the history of Melbourne and Sydney has been a tale of two cities with a long-standing rivalry.  It’s said that this rivalry is the reason why neither was chosen to be the Australian capital, and the ACT was created so that Canberra could not be claimed by either state.

Whatever the reason for their ‘squabbling’ - whether because Sydney was a convict settlement and Melbourne established by free settlers all those years ago - the rivalry continues unabated. Melbourne competes with Sydney to be home to the next industry, and Sydney competes with Melbourne to host the next big event.


But in the interests of both, as well as the national interest, it’s time for the two to start working together.

What I see into the future is the opportunity for convergence.  The two cities working to create a conurbation which would result, not just in a big Sydney and a big Melbourne, but a world-class network of cities which would see not just a big Sydney and a big Melbourne, but a big Canberra.  And there would be a strong rail network so that all the smaller towns and regions can connect into a very strong spine between these cities.

Instead of cutting out regional areas in the battle for capital city supremacy, this is an inclusive vision for our future.  Smaller towns will certainly benefit by being brought into the network; but they also have much to offer.  Imagine the environment around the Murray River and our Alpine region being easily accessed by city dwellers for recreation and holidays.  Imagine opening up these destinations for international tourists - how much more attractive a visit to Australia will be if we enhance movement between our many highlights.

We would also draw global talent to work in our cities with the promise of a working week that can include hopping on a train for an easy weekend skiing or going bush.  And the picture changes for everyone about where we can choose to live and work, as the network puts within reach an enhanced range of lifestyle and employment options.

I believe the tale of the two cities of Melbourne and Sydney can be re-written from two competitors to one great urban network.

About the author: 

Brian Haratsis is MacroPlan’s Founder and Executive Chairman. Brian is an economist and future strategist with over 30 years experience as an advisor to governments and major corporate clients throughout Australia and New Zealand. For more information or to discuss your property research requirements, please contact National Marketing Manager, Amy Williams on 02 9221 5211 or amy.williams@macroplan.com.au.