Infrastructure lagging in booming suburbs
On the outskirts of Melbourne the nation's fastest growing suburbs don't have enough roads, rail networks and schools to cope with the population increase.PT1M33S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2t2w2 620 349 September 3, 2013
Severe growing pains in Melbourne's fringe suburbs have led to calls for council population targets and for an independent body to manage infrastructure planning in the city's growth areas.
New Bureau of Statistics data confirm that Melbourne is home to the four postcodes with the fastest population growth in the nation, with South Morang, Point Cook and Tarneit more than doubling their populations in the five years to 2012. South Morang has grown by more than 38,000 people since 2001 - the size of a regional town.
One mechanism to ease some of the strain from taxpayers is to build more housing where there is already transport, jobs and infrastructure.
But the sprawling housing developments have not always been accompanied by train lines, roads and schools.
Alistair Reid with his sons Callum and Hamish in Mernda Villages. The family intends to move closer to the city. Photo: Eddie Jim
Carolyn Whitzman, associate professor of urban planning at Melbourne University, has studied the south-western municipality of Wyndham and said the residents of the nation's fastest-growing council area faced tremendous work-life balance issues.
She said one-third travelled more than two hours to and from work each day and the area would need one or two new schools every year for the next 20 years to keep up with current growth. It could take decades to make up for the lack of infrastructure spending by governments, she warned.
It is a similar situation north of the city in South Morang and Mernda in the municipal area of Whittlesea, which needs $764 million spent on roads alone. A higher level of domestic violence has been linked to the exhausting commutes faced by residents, and 29 football teams are forced to share the same oval.
The state government says it has reforms under way, including the better use of mandatory contributions from developers.
Dr Whitzman said councils, including those in inner and middle-city suburbs, should be given population targets to ensure more growth occurred in areas with established infrastructure.
"One mechanism to ease some of the strain from taxpayers is to build more housing where there is already transport, jobs and infrastructure," she said.
The Whittlesea City Council has called for a politically independent body to oversee infrastructure development in Melbourne, pointing to the failure of previous strategic plans to outlast changes in state governments.
Whittlesea's director of advocacy and communications, Griff Davis, said the outer suburbs had suffered from the short-term focus of governments. He said the $6 billion to $8 billion pledged for the east-west link should be used to fund urgently needed rail extensions, including the link from South Morang to Mernda.
On a Sunday afternoon the shopping centre in the burgeoning housing development of Mernda Villages is bustling with young families, but almost everyone tells a similar story of weekday frustration. Alistair Reid said his wife had to leave home at 6.30am for a 90-minute commute into the city, so the family planned to move closer in when their two young boys no longer needed childcare.
Wyndham mayor Heather Marcus said many people who moved to the outer suburbs soon realised it was not the "dream" they had expected.