How lockdown has changed our cities forever


About 1.3 million Australians forced to abandon the office for home during the pandemic do not want to return, creating opportunities to repurpose swaths of empty CBD real estate to revitalise city centres, according to a new report.

Infrastructure Australia's landmark study of the impacts of the pandemic also found the office exodus and lockdowns led to 20 per cent jump in household waste, as shoppers moved online for retail and food orders.

IA chief executive Romilly Madew said some of the trends detected in the study, such as increased working from home, would likely "stick", while others would fade once a vaccine was widely available in Australia.

"We estimate that around four million employees have been working from home since March 2020, representing 30 per cent of the total workforce, with a third of those workers wishing to remain remote," she said.

"This accelerated trend has led to widespread office vacancies, greater strain on the broadband network, greater energy and water consumption in residential areas and increased local activity, including local traffic congestion and demand for green space."

In Queensland, the report found that public transport was shunned during the pandemic in favour of cycling and second-hand cars.



Ms Madew said public transport levels had returned to a new norm of 60-70 per cent of pre-COVID patronage, but traffic levels had also rebounded quickly, with an uplift in second-hand car purchases.

"(This is) potentially indicating that higher car mode share may persist for some time," she said.

The report found the Brisbane to Cairns air route was the nation's busiest during the pandemic, while demand for regional hotels had been more resilient than in metropolitan areas

Popular holiday destinations such as Fraser Island and Hervey Bay reported increases of demand of up to 200 per cent over 2019 levels.

Ms Madew said the pandemic had also accelerated regionalisation as Australian households seized the opportunity to move away from dense metropolitan areas.

"This has resulted in a 200 per cent increase in net migration from capital cities to regional areas," she said.

"This caused an immediate increase in capital city rental vacancies while demand increased in regional and coastal towns.

"The longevity of these changes is uncertain however the impacts are likely to persist for some time as Australians continue to seek more affordable housing outside of the inner metro areas.

"If this trend continues, we could see reduced demand for urban transport and increased pressure on broadband networks in regional centres."




Originally published as How lockdown has changed our cities forever

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