MOST of Melbourne’s six new suburbs will have to rely on the busy V/Line train network or public transport upgrades that are years from completion, which critics say will worsen congestion and commuting times.
Planning Minister Matthew Guy yesterday announced the development of six new suburbs – Diggers Rest near Sunbury, Lockerbie near Greenvale, Lockerbie North, Manor Lakes in Wyndham, Merrifield West in the city of Hume and Rockbank North near Melton.
Mr Guy also revealed the city’s urban growth boundary would grow by almost 6000 hectares, with former farm and green wedge land opened up for development at Wallan, Point Cook, east of Pakenham and in Melton.
Residents could be moving into some of the new suburbs within two years, and they would be provided with ”sophisticated” town centres, a range of housing, good services and land set aside for local employment, Mr Guy said.
”There is no use in responding to population growth after it has occurred,” Mr Guy said. ”Melbourne … will continue to retain its status as a great place to live.”
Plans from the Growth Areas Authority show Merrifield West residents will have to rely on the Donnybrook V/Line rail station or drive seven kilometres to the Craigieburn rail station.
Rockbank North and Lockerbie will be near busy V/Line rail stations, while a rail station is ”proposed” for nearby Beveridge.
Diggers Rest will see an ”expansion” of its V/Line rail station but no date is given. V/Line patronage has soared in recent years, with many lines offering standing-room only on peak services.
Monash University transport expert Professor Graham Currie said locating suburbs near V/Line stations was positive but questioned their capacity.
”All of the best evidence from round the world show the provision of transport services should happen before development occurs,” Professor Currie said.
Wyndham mayor Kim McAliney said it would be a challenge to accommodate more residents but commended Mr Guy on visiting the fastest growing area in Australia to see the challenges first hand.
”We are no longer prepared to approve any more plans for new developments – we’re drowning, that’s how I feel,” Ms McAliney said.
Mitchell Shire mayor Sue Marstaeller said she was pleased that Wallan had been brought within the urban growth boundary because it would make planning easier.
Lockerbie, a $4 billion development from Stockland, will be one of the state’s largest greenfield residential projects.
Melbourne’s 10 largest property developers control 70 per cent of active land supply, said leading analyst Colin Keane from the National Land Survey Program.
Median land prices in outer growth area suburbs have fallen every month since mid-2011.
But despite prices declining, most of the available land was still out of the reach of first home buyers, with only 32 per cent priced under the critical $200,000 barrier, Mr Keane said.
Opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee said infrastructure remained the most pressing issue for many living in the outer suburbs: ”I think people are getting frustrated and concerned that we just keep opening up land for development without getting this in place.”
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