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“What the data shows us”: Why connectivity, amenity and access to nature are critical to liveability

What can we learn from Place Score’s 2023 Australian Liveability Census? Founder Kylie Legge says the findings put a whole new frame on the classic ‘Australian (quarter-acre block) dream’.

“What the data shows us”: Why connectivity, amenity and access to nature are critical to liveability

Place Score founder and chief executive Kylie Legge.

Alice Blackwood


November 21st, 2023

Connectivity, amenity and access to the natural environment are topping the agenda when it comes to liveability in Australia, according to the results of Place Score’s 2023 Australian Liveability Census.

The census showcases the opinions of over 26,000 Australians regarding their experience, ideals and performance of local government areas, or LGAs, across Australia. The 2023 survey also asked three critical questions: What is important to you in your ideal neighbourhood? How is your current neighbourhood performing for you? What are your ideas to make your neighbourhood more liveable?

Place Score founder and chief executive Kylie Legge says the findings recast the commonly held perception of the ‘Australian (quarter-acre block) dream’, instead putting the focus on accessibility, convenience and social connections.

“Place Score believes that neighbourhoods should be designed with a clear understanding of how communities want to live. What the data shows us is that the most liveable neighbourhoods are medium density, with diverse housing stock, green streets and parks, and local centres,” says Legge.

For the survey over 1.25 million individual ratings were collected to generate liveability performance scores out of 100, known as Place Experience (PX). In 2023, respondents rated the liveability of their local neighbourhoods by assessing 50 different attributes such as ‘amount of open space’, ‘sense of belonging’ and more.

Defining the attributes of good liveability

Across Australian the attributes contributing most to liveability on average are: Welcoming to all people (7.7 PX), Connectivity (that is, proximity to other neighbourhoods, employment centres, shops) (7.6 PX), and Elements of the natural environment (7.5 PX).

Those attributes contributing least to liveability in LGAs nationally include things to do in the evening (bars, dining, cinema, live music etcetera) (5.1 PX); sustainable urban design (5.5 PX); and range of housing prices and tenures (5.5 PX).

“Looking at the big picture, in terms of what’s going to make the most difference to the most amount of people across the country, is making sure we’re trying to create more compact neighbourhoods,” comments Legge. “The very highest densities are not the most liveable, it’s the medium density with the mix of housing typologies that is leading the best outcomes,” she observes. “The best outcomes come from having the most diverse neighbourhoods [possible].”

She also notes that while integrating new homes into established suburbs is more challenging from a planning perspective, it does lead to better community outcomes, not to mention “delivering long-term financial, environmental and health benefits associated with more compact cities”. “Where we put these homes will determine liveability for the next 100 years,” she says.

On access to nature, Legge points out that trees are fundamental. “Any tree you can save is a tree that is contributing to better outcomes. Nationally, 71 per cent of all people said that elements of the natural environment were important to them and their ideal neighbourhood.”

Unlocking the liveability of Under-25s

A focus of the 2023 survey for Legge and her team was gaining a proper insight into the younger generation’s viewpoint. The “under-25 sample”, she notes, is quite underrepresented in social research and in community engagement. Mental health has proven to be a huge focus for this age group, with a sense of belonging and social connection rating high on the agenda.

With a majority of these respondents accessing goods and services, as well as social activity, via their phones, their relationship to place manifests through a distinctly different set of liveability values, Legge points out.

She points to notably lower levels of sense of personal and neighbourhood safety, possibly as a result of lower levels of interaction in physical social settings. “Because if you’re not walking down the street doing the nods [and hellos], it’s very hard to feel that you’ve got someone that you could run to in an event.”

Legge also reveals that the under-25s sample has two clear priorities where there is a notable gap between what they care about and what’s actually being delivered. “Those two things are around sustainable urban design and things to do at night-time.”

There is a growing demand among people wishing to see communities acting sustainably through community share programs, waste reduction and water management activites, for example. “And the things to do at night-time, it’s not just about bars and nightclubs,” says Legge. “The sort of things they are asking for is having lighting on at the parks in the evenings, extending library hours after work…”

Taking an agnostic approach to data collection

Most notable about Place Score and its 2023 Australian Liveability Census is the “agnostic” data it provides – data that is applicable and relevant to private, public and government enterprises and bodies. Place Score’s data is applicable to all contexts and can also help clients gain insights into the user groups they intend to engage with in the future.

There are also many ways to cut the data and understand it, and so we acknowledge that the information provided here is just a small sample of the bigger picture, which can be accessed through the State of Place Report, here, produced by Place Score off the back of its survey.

Place Score highlights these 8 key census findings

1. Australia’s top 10 densest LGAs experience 8 per cent better liveability than the national average

2. Victoria and South Australia are the country’s most liveable states

3. Gen Z are 35 per cent less likely to report having good mental health than residents over the age of 65

4. The fastest growing LGAs perform 6 per cent worse than established neighbourhoods

5. The 10 best-performing LGAs nationally are all defined by denser, high-amenity neighbourhoods with established landscapes

6. 27 per cent more Australians say public transport in local neighbourhoods is more important than private car infrastructure

7. Over 64s are more satisfied than any other age group in every state or territory except NSW

8. Poor liveability experiences are seen in those aged 25-44 years of age

Explore the full State of Place Report here.

About Place Score

Place Score asks local people about the places they know best, to help governments and developers prioritise community benefits in their planning decisions. Place Score is a place experience, diagnostic, engagement, benchmarking, tracking and advisory company. Its purpose is to make places better for people by providing community insights that help its clients understand local values and current place experience to build a clear evidence base for planning and investment.

Place Score

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