Australia's state capitals have tumbled down the liveability list

Australian cities have tumbled down the global liveability rankings, thanks largely to the wave of COVID-19 infections and lockdowns during 2021.

The Austrian capital, Vienna, topped the rankings for the first time since 2019, with Melbourne in 10th spot – the highest-ranked Australian city – and tied with Osaka.

Adelaide – which was ranked second in last year’s index – has fallen to 30th, Perth has fallen 26 spots to 32nd and Brisbane has dropped 17 spots to 27th.

Melbourne had topped the list from 2011 to 2017 before being overtaken by Vienna.

The Victorian capital rated highly for education and infrastructure, but was well behind other cities in the top 10 when it came to healthcare.

Released by the Economist Intelligence Unit [EIU], the list’s researchers assessed more than 170 cities across the categories of stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.

Vienna
Vienna returned to the top of the rankings after the removal of most COVID-19 restrictions. (Pedro Szekely)

In its most recent report, the EIU said the pandemic continued to drive the biggest moves up and down in the liveability index.

It said that western European cities that had removed most of their COVID-19 restrictions had made significant climbs up the rankings.

“In Australia, some states were slower to lift restrictions than others. As a result, Perth and Adelaide have lost ground since last year,” the report said.

The impact of the 2021 COVID-19 wave hit New Zealand cities more severely in the rankings, with Auckland dropping from first place in last year’s index, to 34th.

Wellington fell 46 spots to 50th.

The Global Liveability Index 2022:

  1. Vienna
  2. Copenhagen
  3. Zurich
  4. Calgary
  5. Vancouver
  6. Geneva
  7. Frankfurt
  8. Toronto
  9. Amsterdam
  10. Osaka and Melbourne

The EIU said Australia and New Zealand benefitted in early 2021 “when COVID vaccines were scarce: their closed borders kept cases down, keeping liveability high”.

However, due to the COVID-19 wave that struck both countries in late 2021, they “no longer have a COVID advantage over well-vaccinated European and Canadian cities”, the report said.

Distinguished Professor Billie Giles-Corti from RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research said Melbourne’s healthcare rating was “a bit of a nonsense”.

“Austria only has about eight million people, Australia has 25 [million] and they’ve had 20,000 deaths [from COVID-19], we’ve had 9000 deaths,” she said.

“If COVID is a factor that’s contributing to our lower ranking in healthcare, our figures are so much better.”

Prof. Giles-Corti said there were areas where Vienna was clearly ahead of Melbourne.

“I think one of the things that’s really missing out of this index is how sustainable cities are and the ecological footprint of Vienna is much lower than Melbourne’s, because it has more public transport,” she said.

“We have people living on the fringe of our city with no amenity, to me that’s more important than this index.”

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