The tiny country town set to become suburban Perth
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The tiny country town set to become suburban Perth

Welcome to Waroona.

You might know it today as a picturesque agricultural settlement established in 1893, but the Waroona of the future will be the new outer edge of Perth's sprawling suburbia, a mere 1.5-hour drive from the CBD.

This is Waroona looking north along the Darling Scarp toward Perth. Despite being 115km away from Perth Waroona has been earmarked as an outer suburban area.

This is Waroona looking north along the Darling Scarp toward Perth. Despite being 115km away from Perth Waroona has been earmarked as an outer suburban area.Credit:Hamish Hastie

At least, it’s been earmarked as such by the state government’s South Metropolitan Peel Sub-regional Planning Framework, released in March.

The framework is a road map to steer the urban, industrial and green footprints of an area that's 5000 square kilometres and encompasses the cities of Armadale, Cockburn, Gosnells, Kwinana, Mandurah and Rockingham as well as the shires of Murray, Serpentine Jarrahdale and Waroona.

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The region's population will double to 1.26 million by 2050, compared to approximately 630,000 in 2017, according to the framework.

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These new people will require about 300,000 new dwellings to live in - more than double the 205,000 dwellings accounted for in 2011.

A majority of these new homes would be in new estates.

Despite one of the key principals of the strategy being to limit new greenfield developments, the framework only calls for about one quarter of those to be infill.

As part of WAtoday's Big Perth series, we explore the South and Peel framework in detail below.

Creeping south

Urban sprawl is as quintessentially Western Australian as an ice-cold Emu Export in the middle of a sweltering December heatwave or being unable to merge on the freeway.

About 1.4 million people are expected to make Perth home over the next 30 years.

About 1.4 million people are expected to make Perth home over the next 30 years.Credit:Fairfax Media

This framework continues that time-honoured tradition of flattening the landscape and putting up swathes of 4x2s by extending the sprawl beyond Perth’s own established boundaries.

The Shire of Waroona, outside the ‘Greater Perth’ area, has been earmarked for a 350 per cent increase in population, from its current 4200 to 18,200. Most of that would occur in or near the township of Waroona itself.

Just north of Waroona, within the Greater Perth boundary, the Shire of Murray is projected to receive a 950 per cent increase in population.

This means the 17,300 people currently living there will have almost 150,000 new neighbours by 2050.

Most of these new Murray residents will be centred around an expanded Pinjarra.

Other outer suburban council areas like Serpentine Jarrahdale and Mandurah will also experience huge growth in residents and housing.

By 2031 the framework projects that Mundijong in Serpentine Jarrahdale, currently inhabited by cows and horses feeding off the endless green pastures, will become a huge regional centre.

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According to the framework’s maps it will feature an urban area roughly the same size as its neighbouring suburb Byford to the north, which has already undergone a huge transformation from farmland to urban jungle.

In general, lovers of rural blocks should hold onto them tight. Areas zoned 'rural residential', those with lot sizes from one to four hectares, have been labelled inefficient forms of development and new blocks would not be supported.

'They put a big circle around Perth'

High-level frameworks are fine but what does it mean for the councils at the coalface who will have to come up with the finer details?

Shire of Waroona president Mike Walmsley was sceptical of the population projections.

“They just put a big circle around Perth, which happened to include us,” he said.

“I can’t see it happening in the next 30 years but God knows what the future holds.”

Any attempt to create a metropolitan hub in Waroona would probably be met with resistance, he said.

Mr Walmsley said Waroona was a rural town and residents didn't want to destroy that character.

“Most people live out here because they like the quiet,” he said.

“We need to protect our beautiful agricultural land because Perth is going to need it to feed itself,” he said.

The Shire of Murray was less surprised.

Shire president David Bolt said regardless of whether their population would actually hit 160,000 his council was planning for higher density.

“We’ve got an activity centre plan that’s before the government for Pinjarra at the moment and we’re waiting for that to be advertised.

Whether you agree with the numbers or not we’re planning for large growth over the next 30 years; we need to do that.

Murray Shire president David Bolt

Why the south is booming

Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage director general Gail McGowan said development would occur south because Perth’s north was extremely constrained.

She also defended including Waroona, which represented the edge of the Peel region, in the framework.

“People talk about need to draw finite lines, and other states and countries have imposed urban growth boundaries, but the Darling Scarp, the oceans and the Peel Harvey catchment – which is under considerable challenge – are natural limits,” she said.

“The growth of areas such as Pinjarra will be due to their access to industry, both rural and industrial. This will create stronger linkages from east to west."

An artist's impression of the future Peel Business Park.

An artist's impression of the future Peel Business Park.Credit:Landcorp

Where will people work?

Cr Bolt said if Pinjarra was to support all these new people it would need to provide somewhere for them to work close to home. It’s a similar story across the rest of the region.

The framework says 5900 hectares of industrial land would be needed to improve employment self-sufficiency of the region from 65 per cent to 83 per cent.

Expansion of industrial areas on the Kwinana Western Trade Coast, the new outer harbour and proposed intermodal rail and road freight facilities within the Latitude 32 industrial area would create a gargantuan hub of industry running from Bibra Lake in Cockburn to Rockingham.

Further south the establishment of a ‘Peel Business Park’ in Nambeelup near Mandurah and Pinjarra would provide 30,000 jobs.

Beyond industrial areas the framework allowed for greater employment opportunities in city centres like Armadale, Mandurah and Rockingham.

It also highlighted the potential for employment from tourism in waterside locations like Mandurah and Rockingham and hills areas, national parks and state forests in the east.

The City of Kwinana looking southwest from Wandi, with the Kwinana Freeway running south through the middle of the frame and the Kwinana industrial area in the distance. Under the framework the industrial area will extend from Rockingham in the south to the city of Cockburn in the north.

The City of Kwinana looking southwest from Wandi, with the Kwinana Freeway running south through the middle of the frame and the Kwinana industrial area in the distance. Under the framework the industrial area will extend from Rockingham in the south to the city of Cockburn in the north. Credit:Hamish Hastie

Hitting the road and rail

Some big road and rail projects worth potentially billions of dollars have been proposed to move the influx of people around.

Nearer term projects like the Thornlie-to-Cockburn link, Armadale-to-Byford extension and Karnup train station were mentioned but there are more abstract proposals on the cards as well.

The framework includes the southern portion of the long dreamed about ‘circle line’.

This would entail extending the Forrestfield-airport line to Thornlie and connecting the Thornlie line to Fremantle. The circle line would also connect north to the future Ellenbrook line and the Joondalup line.

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It also suggests the Australind train service be ‘better integrated’ with the Transperth network between Perth and Mundijong.

An additional southern metro rail line and high-speed extension to Bunbury has also been raised.

Karnup has been selected as the site for a new train station on the Mandurah line.

When it comes to asphalt, east to west road upgrades were high priorities to deal with the increased industrial activity.

Extensions, realignments and upgrades were proposed for east-west roads like Rowley, Anketell, Thomas, Mundijong and Mandjoogoordap.

Tonkin Highway will become Perth’s second major north-to-south arterial road with a 45-kilometre extension from Thomas Road in Byford to Pinjarra.

More highlights

  • 32 schools would be needed for new greenfields areas.
  • Existing hospital sites are expected to be able to keep up with demand however eight hectares of land is to be retained as a potential long term option at Karnup.
  • The dead are not forgotten either. The framework recommends the enlargement of the Whitby cemetery and the construction of a new site at Keralup.
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    Sites have been reserved at Port Kennedy and Tim’s Thicket, south of Dawesville, for possible future water resource precincts and/or disposal facilities.

  • Climate change and rising sea levels will have to be considered in any future planning, including on inland estuaries and rivers.
  • The framework proposes concentrating new urban areas in predominantly cleared pastureland rather than impacting on areas with ‘regionally significant conservation values’.
  • It also highlights the need to improve the Peel-Harvey Estuary and Swan-Canning River’s water quality.

Hamish Hastie is a Fairfax Media business reporter writing from the WAtoday offices in Perth. He was raised in Armadale in Perth's south east and covered the area for four years at the Examiner Newspaper before a stretch writing for the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA's business magazines.