Ms Madew estimated around four million employees have been working from home since March 2020, representing 30 per cent of the total workforce.
She said a third of that group would likely remain working remotely.
“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,” she said.
“For governments, a place-based, coordinated approach to support regional growth will be an important component in making the trend stick.”
The report found Canberra, Adelaide, Melbourne and the Sunshine Coast experienced a decline in internet quality, while the best place to work from home was Perth.
NSW Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said the COVID-19 pandemic would leave an indelible mark on settlement patterns in NSW.
“We will see people making slightly different decisions. In many ways, it has sped up trends that were already underway,” he said.
Mr Stokes said there had already been a measure of decentralisation from the likes of Sydney’s CBD into other parts of the metropolitan area and regional NSW.
“It has helped people see some of the benefits of relocating regionally and, and I suppose has had the opportunity of spreading the benefits of growth around different parts of NSW that have traditionally missed out,” he said.
Asked whether infrastructure in regional areas could cope with the influx of people, Mr Stokes said the government had been working in recent years to ensure regional NSW received its fair share of infrastructure spending.
“As a result, we are well set up for changes in settlement patterns that might lead more people to consider either a tree change or a sea change,” he said.
The Infrastructure Australia report also found public transport patronage in most Australian cities fell to between 10 and 30 per cent of normal levels in the initial lockdown before settling at a “new norm” of 60 to 70 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels.
In Sydney, the rate of public transport recovery coincided with the return to office-based commuting. “Australia’s drop in public transport use is comparable to North American cities, despite their different COVID-19 case numbers,” the report said.
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Tom Rabe is Transport Reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.
Matt O’Sullivan is City Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald.