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Life creeps into Sydney, Melbourne CBDs

Alexandra Vanags
04 November 2021 2 minute readShare

Movement of people in Australia’s capital city CBDs is picking up but is still at a fraction of pre-pandemic levels in the most lockdown-impacted regions.

According to research done by Roy Morgan, the average seven-day movement in Melbourne’s CBD had increased to 23 per cent of pre-pandemic levels on the first weekend after the end of the lockdown on Friday, 22 October. This is up from a low of 8 per cent on 8 July. However, as Roy Morgan points out, many shops remained closed even in the first week of lockdown and many hospitality venues remained close to in-store dining due to ongoing restrictions.

Sydney is bouncing back, reaching 31 per cent of pre-pandemic average seven-day movement in late October, up 4 percentage points from a week earlier.

Roy Morgan expects the rates to pick up as restrictions continue to ease – for example, both states still require masks on public transport, and in Melbourne people still need to wear masks in offices. The return of international travel should eventually help as well.

Meanwhile, Hobart is at 49 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, Brisbane at 70 per cent, Perth 72 per cent and Adelaide at 83 per cent.

“Australia’s two largest cities emerged from long lockdowns during the month of October and hopes are high that the next two months in the run-up to Christmas will be relatively normal for both as workers return to the office and people return to shopping and socialising in the cities,” said Michele Levine, CEO of Roy Morgan.

“However, the latest figures on movement levels in the Sydney and Melbourne CBDs show there is a long way to go before both cities catch up to their counterparts interstate.”

Roy Morgan partnered with UberMedia to aggregate this data from mobile devices.

Slow but steady: Business Sydney

Paul Nicolaou, executive director of member-based advocacy organisation Business Sydney, said that since returning to their offices in Clarence Street three weeks ago, there has “been a slow but steady and consistently building increase in foot traffic in the CBD”.

“Business Sydney has been advocating strongly in media and to government on encouraging the return to workplaces and with the easing of masks and capacity limits in offices and venues, the return to the CBD will accelerate before the Christmas close down period,” he said.

“Our members tell us that their staff who have returned to the office are enjoying the reconnection with work colleagues and the benefits of teamwork, collaboration and the creativity and productivity this brings.”

He added that they’re supporting the City of Sydney as it pushes for both workers and visitors to return. The “many initiatives” include more al-fresco dining and entertainment activities and the pedestrianisation and beautification of George Street to help attract increased foot traffic.

“I certainly don’t concur with some pessimistic views on COVID spelling the end of the city office,” he said.

“In fact, one of our members, Cimic Group, has begun construction on a fabulous new $1 billion-plus, 39-storey office and retail tower above the emerging Pitt Street Metro Station, in a strong sign of confidence in the future of the CBD office tower.”

Ten-point plan for Sydney

As lockdowns eased in early October, Business Sydney released statement setting out a 10-point plan for getting the city back on its feet.

This 10-point plan included:
1. Appointing a special Minister for Sydney to coordinate the city’s recovery.
2. Free public transport from 6-7am and 6-7pm for six months.
3. Removal of the FBT on lunches for 12 months.
4. Waiving of fees/restrictions for pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants for al-fresco dining on footpaths and extending outdoor footprints to include car parks and open spaces.
5. Removal of the parking space levy for six months.
6. Establishing a “Reopen Sydney Fund”, to support small businesses with operating costs.
7. Run a “Shop & Dine Sydney” promotional campaign including accommodation vouchers and an extension of the ‘Dine & Discover’ vouchers until June 2022.
8. Allow later night trading in the CBD for 12 months.
9. A coordinated live events and street activation program.
10. Create a road map for return of the cruise and business events industries.

Life creeps into Sydney, Melbourne CBDs
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Alexandra Vanags

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