Less than half of Sydney’s population will be Caucasian within the next few decades, according to urban planning expert Professor Edward Blakely.

Speaking at a Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association dinner last week, US-born Blakely said that by 2020 less than 50 percent of babies born in the city will have a mother who was born in Australia.

People my colour [black] or yellow will be the majority, Blakely said.

In my home state of California that is already the case. Fifty-two percent of people in California are black, brown or yellow. That’s the future of Australia.

Understanding other languages and cultures had to become a priority, he said.

I would require that every student who starts school in Australia has a second language from kindergarten. We will fail in the future if we do not develop multilingual people.

Blakely is chair of Urban and Regional Planning and director of the Planning Research Centre at the University of Sydney. His talk to the SGLBA was titled Sydney 2020 -“ How we will live, work and play.

Sydney would have to make a lot of changes in the next two decades if it wanted to remain competitive with the rest of the world, he said.

Sydney is a global city, not an Australian city, he said.

We’re more global than we are Australian. We have to understand that and plan for it. There’s more business done between Sydney and San Francisco than there is between Sydney and Melbourne.

We make up nearly 25 per cent of the nation’s GDP. We are not just a place, we are a nation. We make the budget. We create the surpluses. We are important to the nation’s future.

The biggest challenges facing the city were poor infrastructure and misguided urban planning, he said.

Sydney has grown in an unplanned way. We live in an underdeveloped city. The train goes so far and then it just stops. The bus goes so far and then it doesn’t connect.

When I visit Africa and some places in Asia I expect that. But when I get home I expect it to all work. We have a real crisis in infrastructure.

That crisis was so great that the OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] suggested Australia would no longer be competitive unless the nation dealt with its infrastructure shortfalls, Blakely said.

He also criticised Sydney’s lack of a controlled housing system.

We have no system for providing housing, it is totally ad hoc. I can’t imagine any place with the wealth that we have not developing a housing system, making sure we plan right down to the neighbourhood level.

We need to create more housing in the inner-city, to use the existing base. We have a lot of places where could grow. Eveleigh is full of huge rail yards with nothing on them.

What would they do in Melbourne? Redevelop them. What would they do in New York? Redevelop them. We’ve got a lot of opportunities here.

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