How I'd improve Sydney: We need to think of ourselves as united, not divided

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We need to start thinking about Sydney in a broader sense as a united city. To do that we need to be a connected city, and that's largely about how we get around.

I'm a little concerned that from a planning point of view, we have created three cities: the Eastern Harbour, Western Parklands and Central River.

Sydney is a city made up of different cities, but we should still think of ourselves as one large city.

Sydney is a city made up of different cities, but we should still think of ourselves as one large city.Credit:Wolter Peeters

They're useful from a planning perspective. But visitors do not see boundaries. Locals do not see boundaries. We shouldn't let the planning instruments dictate our brand and identity.

There is an inherent competitiveness to our city and our personality which has created an east versus west mentality. Do you go for the Swans or Western Sydney? There is value in that parochialism, but on top of that we still need to be part of the one city.

In Melbourne, it doesn't matter what footy team you back – you live in Melbourne.

Sydney is a city made up of different cities, but we still need to think of ourselves as one large city. Our connectedness is about cultural diversity. Whether you are out at Drummoyne or you are out at Mount Druitt, you should be able to enjoy different aspects of that united city.

When you have a good brand, you lift the DNA of the city and you assert your personality. I think our personality is diversity, and we haven't played that up enough and exported that to the world.

We also need to play up our night-time economy but in a smarter way, across the broader Sydney metropolitan area, so that you have options to go do something locally rather than think you have to commute into the central city.

It’s not just about bars and clubs. They are definitely part of the mix. But what if you are a single mother who just wants to wander around at night and enjoy the local park? Is the footpath actually something I can push my pram on? Is there lighting that says it’s safe and inviting?

We need to start thinking about those local pieces of infrastructure that connect and play into the larger pieces.

I still can't believe as a global city we still do not have free wifi. I have a guest in town from New York and she was amazed that she could not get wifi. That was in the CBD. She finally got a hold of me and she said: "I couldn't use my phone, what was that?" I said: "That's because we don't have free wifi in our city centre."

Katherine O'Regan is the executive director of the Sydney Business Chamber. This article is part of a Sun-Herald series on Sydney's brand.