Western Sydney is the “largest frontier of Sydney’s growth” – and residents are embracing that growth with enthusiasm, says the Property Council’s new regional director, Ross Grove.
With a projected population of 3.7 million people over the next two decades – almost 50 per cent of Sydney’s growth – Sydney’s West is evolving rapidly, Grove says.
“We are almost building an entirely new city from scratch – and that means we can deliver on the needs of 21st century citizens rather than being restricted to the parts of Sydney with a more ingrained colonial past.”
While those 21st century needs include high speed internet and rail connectivity, the chief priority is jobs, and Grove says this need has driven a “psychological” transformation as much as an economic one.
Take residents’ attitudes to the Western Sydney Airport, which will open in just eight years’ time and is expected to create 28,000 jobs by 2031. Early opposition to an airport at the Badgerys Creek site has evaporated as people recognise “it is part of the solution to the jobs’ deficit” in the region, Grove says.
“People don’t necessarily want planes flying over their heads, but they want more employment options so they don’t have a two hour commute each day.”
Meanwhile, the North South Rail Link will put the “30-minute city” within reach and Stage 1 of the Parramatta Light Rail, which is expected to open in 2023, will connect more than 28,000 commuters to Westmead and Carlingford via the Parramatta CBD.
The site of the Aerotropolis is currently “paddocks and farmland” and is “as close as we’ll ever get to a fresh canvas”. While this demands massive investment in energy, water, roads and telecommunications it also presents opportunities unimaginable to other cities grappling with legacy infrastructure, he says.
Firms around the world are already investing in the precinct, and 16 memoranda of understanding have been signed with space companies, advanced manufacturing, research and education institutions, as well as the CSIRO.
The region’s academic footprint is also expanding. While the dominant institution remains Western Sydney University, the Australian Catholic University is establishing a presence at Blacktown, University of Wollongong in Liverpool, and Newcastle, Wollongong and NSW universities are proposing a joint campus within the Aerotropolis. The developer of the Sydney Science Park, Celestino, may incorporate a facility, run by the University of Technology Sydney, into the project. This education activity, much of which will be research-based, “will help to draw additional investment and high-quality tenancies,” Grove explains.
Grove is passionate about Western Sydney and joins the Property Council with an impressive pedigree. Most recently a senior advisor to the City of Parramatta’s lord mayor, Grove has been an elected councillor with two local governments and was mayor of Holroyd City Council. He has previously worked for Stuart Ayres, the current NSW minister for jobs, investment, tourism and Western Sydney.
“Attitudes of people in Western Sydney around growth are generally positive. While there is an anti-development resistance in other parts of Sydney, residents of Western Sydney have a clear vision for the future and see where they fit within that vision.
“This is very exciting for investors and an industry that relies on community buy-in.”
The “consensus for growth” spans industry, government and community groups. “There is an electorate that wants to make it happen – and will quite possibly punish people for not making it happen”.
The Property Council has established a new Western Sydney taskforce to engage with members, and a top priority will be to reform the “extraordinary patchwork” of developer contribution schemes which Grove says “are placing a significant cost on growth”.
“The property industry generates more than $14.2 billion in economic activity across Western Sydney,” Grove says.
“Our industry accounts for more than one in 10 local jobs across the Western Sydney region. In some new communities it is closer to one in five. We want to ensure the property industry continues to play a central role in driving the growth of Western Sydney.”