Last week I was able to visit Newcastle as a member of the Gateway Cities Alliance. This Alliance was formed in 2019 as a key outcome of the Australia’s Gateway Cities: Gateways to Growth Report published by the Committee for Geelong and jointly supported by the City of Greater Geelong, Wollongong City Council and the City of Newcastle.
This report and the focus of the Alliance is to recognise the impact of population growth on Australia’s metropolitan capitals, identify the strengths of ‘Gateway Cities’ – Wollongong, Geelong and Newcastle – and discuss how economic and social opportunities in these major regional centres can be better leveraged.
As Australia’s population continues to grow and the strains of rapid urbanisation in Sydney and Melbourne intensify, Gateway Cities are well placed to facilitate the ongoing sustainable growth and development of the Australian eastern seaboard by accommodating bigger populations and being able to support them through employment, excellent health, education and communication services and affordable accommodation.
At our workshop in Newcastle, we discussed the journey of the Alliance to date and what our key aims were for the next three years in light of the recent Federal election.
In essence, the Gateway Cities are keen to understand and shape what role they play in policy development and infrastructure planning for Australia’s major cities.
The Alliance is emboldened by the Federal Labor’s vision for cities which includes revitalising CBDs, producing an annual state of the cities report to inform policymaking with evidence, and to deliver a new National Urban Policy Framework.
Geelong, Newcastle and Wollongong each face challenges in relation to managing growth and the strategic development of their CBDs and other strategic precincts. Over the coming months, the Gateway Cities Alliance will be working on its three-year strategy and continuing dialogue with the new Albanese Labor Government.
On a local level, we are facing multiple pinch points due to population growth, particularly in terms of residential land supply and the need for greater density. We are all aware of the scarcity and lack of diverse housing stock which includes access to long-term rental properties, key worker housing and social housing.
Some of these pinch points include:
- Waiting for the Victorian Government to release of the finalised Central Geelong Framework Plan which will define the way we can densify the CBD and increase the number of people living in Central Geelong from less than 2,000 to over 10,000.
- Two Urban Growth Frameworks under consideration by the City of Greater Geelong that will define the level of residential density near Geelong and South Geelong train stations.
- Working through an independent review of the Draft Bellarine Peninsula Statement of Planning Policy. This process may decide to apply permanent settlement boundaries in the Bellarine and lock down growth. This process is similar to the recent, controversial decision made in the Surf Coast to void the precinct structure plan developed by the Shire in 2017 and ensure that Torquay’s Spring Creek valley remains outside the town’s protected settlement boundary in the final Statement of Planning Policy.
Geelong is a wonderful place and we want to maintain that liveability. We also need to be able to manage this growth through long term planning that provides confidence for investment. All levels of government have a role to play to ensure we have this certainty. The Committee for Geelong will continue to advocate locally and through important collaborations like the Gateway Cities Alliance to ensure our voice is heard above the political fray.
All Committee for Geelong reports and submissions to government are available to view on www.committeeforgeelong.com.au