After the election: unrealised opportunities in outer suburbs

A re-elected Coalition Government has made some welcome commitments to the outer suburbs, but there are further unrealised opportunities in these areas, according to a key advocacy group.

“We welcome some of the measures the Coalition has promised for outer suburbs, but there is an unrealised opportunity for a long-term strategic approach,” says Glenn Docherty, spokesperson for Fund our Future campaign.

As part of Fund our Future, more than 100,000 emails were sent by communities from Penrith in Sydney’s west through to Wanneroo in Perth’s north, calling for the establishment of a fund to address the chronic infrastructure problems in fast-growing outer suburbs.  

Previous research shows there is already a $50 billion infrastructure backlog and that is without taking into account the extra 2.5 million people who will call these areas home in the next 15 years.

“Giving residents and businesses in the fast-growing outer suburbs the same opportunities and access to infrastructure as other Australians is not only a matter of fairness, it also adds up for the economy,” says Glenn Docherty, who is the Mayor of the City of Playford in Adelaide's north.

“Investment in the outer suburbs will outweigh the costs, create jobs, increase tax revenues and permanently boost the economy by billions per year,” says Mayor Docherty, who is the Chair of the National Growth Areas Alliance (NGAA), which is behind the campaign.

One of the election outcomes for outer suburbs was the Coalition’s commitment to a City Deal for Western Sydney, which would be centred around Western Sydney Airport.

“The concept is in line with our research and our approach. We look forward to more detail about how it will be implemented and what investments will be made. We would also like to see a similar place-based focus on other outer suburban areas,” he says.

The Government has also made a total of $132 million in election commitments to Fund our Future projects. While the campaign called for a fund for growing outer suburbs, priority projects were used to illustrate the sorts of infrastructure that could be a reality if a fund were established.

The Fund our Future projects committed to by the Turnbull Government:

  • Fixing Appin Road in Sydney’s south-west ($50 million)
  • The upgrade of Mulgoa Road in Penrith ($80 million)
  • Widening Badgally Road in Campbelltown in Sydney’s south-west ($2 million)

“The delivery of these projects will help to ease nightmare commutes for these residents in the short-term. We are also keen to pursue a long-term strategic approach for all outer growth areas around the nation. This should include agreement on outcomes and a pipeline of infrastructure projects,” says Mayor Docherty.

“Our campaign and the groundswell of community support has put the issues affecting outer suburbs on the table,” he says. “We will be working hard to keep them at the top of the Government’s agenda.”

The NGAA believes the outer suburbs have particular challenges and opportunities and so require a distinct, long-term approach, in the same way regional and rural areas have.

In the election campaign, the Coalition announced the National Stronger Regions Fund will be renamed and will exclude all metropolitan areas, including outer suburbs, which previously had access.

“The fund was one of the few avenues available to councils on the outskirts of our capital cities to access money for much-needed infrastructure,” says Mayor Docherty.

“Infrastructure Australia has underlined the need to better support population growth. It should not be made harder for these population hotspots to get assistance.

“The redirection of this Fund to rural, regional and remote areas only further supports the need for outer growth suburbs to have a dedicated approach,” he says. “We will be seeking discussions with the Government with a view to a better and fairer way forward for the five million people living in these areas.”

Media contact: Susi Hamilton, Campaign Communication Officer, National Growth Areas Alliance 0448 388 934.