Sydney is one of the most important ports in the South Pacific. As the largest city in Australia, it plays a large financial and commercial role as well. Despite the numerous physical obstacles, such as steepness of land, liability to flooding, water catchments and coastal protection zones, Sydney remains home to over 20% of the nation's population.
Currently, inner and middle suburbs are experiencing a decline in population, while areas on the periphery are experiencing rapid population growth.
Sydney is an important industrial centre and accounts for about one third of employment in finance in Australia. The main industries are in consumer goods production. Other industries include engineering, railway and transportation equipment, motor vehicles, electronics, chemicals, plastics and refined petroleum products. Rich cattle and sheep-raising areas in New South Wales have made Sydney an important livestock and woolmarket. Major exports include coal, meat, wheat and wool. Sydney is also a city of government, commerce and entertainment.
Housing standards are generally high in Sydney. Houses are large and the Government has promoted home-ownership through financial incentives and subsidies. Some low income groups have access to public housing, and there are few squatter settlements.
Average water consumption is high in Sydney, and almost all households within the built-up areas have a piped water supply. Refuse is collected and over 90% of households are connected to the sewage network.
In 1971, approximately 70% of all trips in Sydney were by way of private automobile. The decentralization of employment has increased the need for cars. This has resulted in severe traffic congestion and has exacerbated the problem of air pollution.
The ability of city planners in Sydney to control population has been skewed by immigration. Immigrants to Australia generally settle in Sydney, thereby continually increasing the population and creating greater demands for limited housing within the city.