Property Council of Australia urges shakeup for straight-to-consumer logistics

An urban freight revolution is going to require greater preparation under the modern economy according to a newly released research paper.

The research paper prepared by Macroplan and launched by the Property Council of Australia indicates Sydney’s planning system will need an overhaul in order to cater to the growing demand for straight-to-consumer logistics.

The Property Council of Australia’s Western Sydney Director Ross Grove cited 11 key actions were vital for the incoming urban freight revolution and could make a contribution to the immediate needs of the freight and logistics industry.

“In the not too distant future we could see empty shops take on a new life as local distribution points, 24/7 delivery times extended and made permanent, and improved guidelines to account for more home deliveries in new developments,” he said.

“Many of the habits we’ve picked up in lockdown are in fact accelerations of some of the trends we have experienced before the on-set of COVID: online shopping, the uber economy, click and collect and the home-delivery of our groceries,” said Grove.

“The nature of our consumption is such that we’re seeing a shift in the mixture of conventional retail, online order and delivery services. So, we need to ensure our planning system changes to reflect this reality.”

Grove said long-term changes in the commercial landscape had left us with empty shopfronts with a potential to be repurposed as community distribution points.

“Reactivating these places for the new economy will take pressure off our existing supply of industrial land, which is presently in high demand,” he said.

“Changes to our employment zones framework are an important part of seeing this vision realised. Our current approach to zoning was made for a more traditional economy, and prohibitions on low-impact logistics in town centres are now holding back innovation in how businesses are permitted to serve their customers.

General Manager of Planning at Macroplan Daniela Vujic said a lack of land supply for freight and logistics uses in the Greater Sydney Region had resulted in a number of companies preferring other cities such as Melbourne where serviced land supply was available.

“Sydney is riddled with a lack of flexibility to use appropriate spaces, such as retail and commercial spaces for last mile delivery, handling and storage,” said Vujic.

“Consumers have increasingly time-sensitive delivery expectations, and this means we need to create opportunities for a more localised distribution framework.”

Urban environments, according to Vujic, now needed to consider design-in freight and logistics activities.

“Creating successful places includes designing for how an increasing number of deliveries will be made,” she said.

“This means we need to look at loading/unloading areas, electric vehicle charging, and the extension of 24/7 delivery arrangements where disruption to local communities is minimal.”

Vujic said across the country the freight task was such that while there was growth in the number of trucks on the road, the number of lighter commercial vehicles was skyrocketing.

“There are now more than one million more light commercial vehicles on our road than there were twenty years ago and the COVID pandemic would have further added to this growth,” she said.

“If we don’t start providing for localised distribution points this number will continue its exponential growth, increasing both the number of kilometres travelled, and the cost of small-scale deliveries,” continued Vujic.

“Our planning system needs to modernise to prepare us for the changing global and consumer trends, and our research paper sets out a roadmap for making it happen.”

In Victoria 50 per cent of small businesses had the potential to be wiped out under the State Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

The highly visible failure of retail businesses was already prevalent according to comments made last month by Paul Zahra, the Head of the Australian Retailers Association.

For those businesses that have managed to survive inflation now awaited with tenants in Australia already experiencing their highest annual rent increases since the onset of the global financial crisis.

“Most of our members are small business and we believe that 50 per cent of small businesses in Victoria will permanently close,” Zahra told the National Press Club in Canberra.

Thousands of small businesses are anticipated to fail within weeks as insolvency firms prepare for surges in the number of companies going broke as government support through lockdowns ends.

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