Once upon a time in the west
Having lived Melbourne’s inner west for close to 25 years, I have seen many remarkable changes. Old industrial areas along the Maribyrnong River have been renewed, run-down shopping strips have come back to life and there has been a proliferation of cafes, restaurants and bars. Further out west, the Regional Rail link project has created new train stations, and suburbs like Caroline Springs have delivered quality local parkland, schools and services alongside housing growth.
But the massive population growth of the past few years has outstripped the growth of jobs and services, especially in the new suburbs in the outer west.
Melbourne’s west needs three or maybe even more high quality, metropolitan-scale activity hubs connected by public transport for it to function properly. It needs more investment in health, education and community services, more green space and even more public transport links.
Sydney’s plan for a ‘metropolis of three cities’ identifies Parramatta and the proposed western Sydney Aerotropolis as major employment, service and transport nodes for central and western Sydney regions.
Melbourne needs a similarly bold plan for the west.
A coalition of local governments, health and education providers, NGOs and private companies have this week launched their vision for Melbourne’s west.
The main elements of their plan are:
Appointment of a dedicated Minister for Melbourne’s west
Creation of a special economic zone
Setting a ‘liveability guarantee’
Establishing a development fund to support jobs and skills
Setting an integrated land use, transport, infrastructure and services plan for the west.
The Leadwest vision is a great start, but I am still yet to see a plan that would truly transform the west from the old-world view of the west as a location for freight yards, factories, warehouses and waste facilities.
The sheer scale of population growth occurring in Melbourne’s west means new types of employment precincts and activity centres are needed. Many residents living in Melbourne’s west are employed in white-collar jobs but the majority of these jobs continue to be based in the Melbourne CBD and inner suburbs.
As the west grows, it will need activity centres and employment precincts that have great public transport and high amenity. The Werribee Employment Precinct, Sunshine and Toolern are earmarked to deliver these outcomes but we need to look harder at whether they have the right pre-conditions to attract the scale of investment needed today and in the near future.
Download a copy of the Leadwest Vision report here.