New report helps guide urban investment in growing outer suburbs

A new report examining transformational urban projects across Australia aims to provide councils experiencing rapid population growth a guide on how to restructure economic and community functions.

Transformational Infrastructure Projects in Australia’s Fast Growing Outer Suburbs analyses ten projects that address one or more major challenges or opportunities within Australian growth areas, including public transport, health and education precincts, development and densification, and co-ordination of a series of economic interventions.

A collaborative project between the RMIT Centre for Urban Research with the Universities of Adelaide, Melbourne and Western Australia for The National Growth Areas Alliance the report details how councils can approach existing challenges to get a transformational project off the ground.

Report co-author Professor Jago Dodson from the RMIT Centre for Urban Research says that the fast growing outer suburbs are in transition, economically as well as demographically, therefore councils needed to invest in the right projects to bridge the gap between population and employment.

“Fast growing outer suburbs face a number of challenges such as traffic congestion, inadequate public transport and high cost of living from long commutes to work or study,” he said.

“Local economies and communities are responding to these issues, but targeted investments supported by commonwealth and state governments are vital in transforming growth areas and improving the lives of this growing population.”

The report stresses the importance of improving access to employment is vital, either through providing more local jobs or better access to employment in other areas, particularly by public transport.

“Our study examined the City of Wyndham’s strategy to redevelop Werribee City Centre, along with initial plans to build a Town Centre in the new suburb of Mernda in the City of Whittlesea,” Dodson said.

“Case studies like this in Victoria recognise that employment and activity centres can do more than host businesses.

“Well-planned employment precincts provide infrastructure that actively links dynamic job centres with their surrounding communities to reduce gaps in education and employment access.

“Both are indicative of the different stages of planning required to respond to rapid and sustained population growth, as well as facilitate jobs and should also lead to less congestion and car dependency.

“These projects, as well as the others outlined in the report should be used as a guide for councils on how to approach future infrastructure planning.”

Recommendations of the investigation of transformational projects for fast growing outer suburbs:

  1. Improving access to employment is vital, either through providing more local jobs or better access to employment in other areas, particularly by public transport.
  2. Innovation in the planning and delivery of town centres and regional transport is a major opportunity to address challenges arising from rapid population growth. Provision of social services and transport connections regularly fails to keep pace with rapidly growing populations, leaving communities with restricted access health and community facilities, resulting in lower health outcomes.
  3.  Local government has a critical role in the long-term strategic approaches required to develop and implement transformational projects. This includes leadership and advocacy, understanding priorities, having documentation and reports in place to support funding submissions and having strong relationships with neighbouring and regional councils, stakeholders and communities.
  4. While the role of Local Government is critical, the scale of transformational projects requires the support of Commonwealth and State Governments. Previous reports for the NGAA have estimated$73bn of infrastructure investment is required in the growth areas to 2030 (SGS Economics andPlanning 2015) and also the benefits of a dedicated infrastructure fund supported by the three tiers of government (PwC 2016). When considered alongside the transformational projects included in this report, and their benefits to growth area communities, there is a strong argument for greater support for investment in growth areas from Commonwealth and State Governments.

The report will be launched today by Cr Peter Maynard, Mayor Wyndham City Council