Steering Melbourne’s growth

We need to change these suburbs from being mere dormitory suburbs.

“A diamond interchange on Duncans road would make a big change to the entire area.”

If you were looking for an expert on Melbourne’s West, you would do well to look up LeadWest. Tanu chats with Chief Executive Officer Anton Mayer

Melbourne’s western suburbs are among the fastest growing local government areas in Australia. A massive demographic and economic change is underway in this area of the city. Although the western suburbs have contributed their share to Melbourne’s current property market woes there is little reason to doubt that the developments underway will steer the region back to boom times. The majority of Victoria’s population is happening here. LeadWest is a regional organisation aiming to foster sustainable development in the region.

A small organisation, it comprises representatives from five councils of the area,as well asbusinesses that operate in the region. “First and foremost we are an advocacy group. We don’t work with the high street or the local small businesses but aim to deliver messages to the Federal government about the region,” says Anton Mayer, the Chief Executive Officer of LeadWest.

“LeadWest was formed when councils realised that they needed a co-ordinated approach about what we needed and how to deliver the message,” says Mayer. It relies on the separate and independent council for feedback from their areas and then they compile this information to make a plan for regional advocacy. They aim to capture funding for the area from the Federal and state government.

“If there is a certain amount of money up for, say, a hospital in the area, we are best placed to advise the government on where it should be spent, for instance on upgrading an existing hospital,” says Mayer.

The single biggest issue that unites both residents and businesses in the region is transport. This area needs big input in terms of infrastructure spending, there is no doubt as to exactly where that needs to go.

“The west has been under-serviced by good transport and communication. Some of those are being addressed with the Regional Rail Project. A diamond interchange on Duncans Road would make a big change to the entire area,” says Mayer.

LeadWest feels that there is a case to be made that the Werribee Open Range Zoo as well as the Werribee Mansion are missing out. “Anyone coming from Geelong to this area has to get off and drive through Werribee CBD to get to the zoo. That will have to change in the future.”

While the residents continue to complain about the time it takes to get to work in the city, Mayer says the bigger picture involves working on the future plan for the Werribee Employment Precinct. “We need to work on getting higher density employment in the area.”

A related concern is how people migrate to the city for work. “We need to change these suburbs from being mere dormitory suburbs. People drive to the city in the morning and come back at night. Changing the nature of the workforce and bringing more employment to the area will make all the difference.

“The Federal and state governments need to put more money into educating the local workforce. With all these recent job losses, we need to look at how you can train to work, if you are not working,” says Mayer.

Wyndham plays a big role in the solutions that can be offered to the inner suburbs in the Maribyrnong Council. “The problems in Footscray, for example, are directly related to the growth experienced in Wyndham. When the residents complain of traffic congestion, it is a direct effect of people who are moving through the area from the outer suburbs.”
We need to work on transport and infrastructure to change the nature of the suburbs and the lifestyle of its residents and LeadWest has only started on sending this message out. People need to contact their local representatives to make sure that organisations like LeadWest hear your message. LeadWest also looks to social media sites for internet chatter, so getting active on such sites also has rich, and long-term, dividends.