Community infrastructure lagging in Melbourne’s growth suburbs
Population growth is rapidly outstripping demand for vital social infrastructure in Melbourne’s seven fastest growing local government areas, a new report by the state’s independent infrastructure advisory body shows.
Infrastructure Victoria’s latest research, Social infrastructure in Melbourne’s growth areas, finds that Wyndham, for example, has one aquatic recreation centre for every 149,000 residents, compared to the state average of one centre for every 65,000 persons.
The situation is nearly as stark for the provision of libraries, which deliver an increasingly broad range of services and are now often designed as the core of multi-purpose community hubs. Melton currently has around one library per 90,000 residents, compared to the state average of one per 41,000 persons.
Infrastructure Victoria Chief Executive Michel Masson said: “Rapid urban expansion means social infrastructure has failed to keep pace with population increases in the new growth areas of Melton, Cardinia, Casey, Hume, Mitchell, Whittlesea and Wyndham.
“It’s not enough to just plan and build housing in greenfield suburbs, all levels of government need to better integrate social infrastructure so that everyone has access to similar services, regardless of postcode,” he said.
The advisory body’s research shows that more people, in particular young families, will continue to move to Melbourne’s growth areas. Already, over one-third of Melbourne’s children aged four years and under live in these local government areas.
Victoria’s population is projected to surge by 20% in the next 15 years, with Melbourne’s seven growth areas anticipated to make up a large share of this increase.
Trailing investment in vital social infrastructure risks further widening the disadvantage gap between many newer and established suburbs. By 2036, the City of Melton is expected to support one library per 47,000 people aged 19 years and under, compared to the cities of Yarra and Port Phillip with rates as low as one library for 4000 young people.
Infrastructure Victoria released the state’s 30-year infrastructure strategy in August this year which recommended the Victorian Government increase funding to support local governments to plan and deliver libraries and aquatic centres in the state’s seven growth areas over the next five years.
According to the authority’s new report, Melton, Casey, Whittlesea and Wyndham will need both a new aquatic and recreation centre and a new library in the next five years. Of the remaining growth areas, Cardinia and Hume will also each need a new library.
Additionally, the authority is urging state and local governments to start planning for potential new aquatic centres in Cardinia and Hume. In Mitchell, where existing infrastructure is disconnected from new growth area suburbs, the report finds planning should begin immediately to assess the need for both a library and aquatic recreation centre.
While social infrastructure can be expensive to build in new suburbs, Mr Masson said the benefits provided to communities and businesses far outweigh the costs.
“Both libraries and aquatic centres provide essential services to the community and in many cases act as a community hub, improving physical and mental health and supporting productive and engaged communities,” he said.
Mr Masson added that visitors also spend money at nearby local businesses, supporting local economies and jobs. “Co-locating facilities with other services such as primary health care, allied health or aged care services can provide additional community benefits.
“An opportunity exists for governments to work in partnership to ensure the timely delivery of co-located or integrated facilities that meet rapidly growing community needs and support Victoria’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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- In a typical year, there are 70 million visits to Victorian aquatic and recreation centres and 30 million visits to libraries
- It is estimated that each swimming pool visit generates $26.00 in health benefits to the community, worth $1.82 billion to the state’s economy per annum
- Every dollar invested in libraries earns $4.30 in economic and social benefits, helping to build literate, productive and engaged communities
- While the benefits of libraries and aquatics centres are high, the cost of their planning, design and construction can be difficult for local governments to meet on their own. For example, the Ivanhoe library cost $34 million, and the Springvale library hub cost $32 million. New aquatic centres range from $50 million to $70 million. The AquaPulse aquatic centre in Wyndham cost $54 million.
- Infrastructure Victoria collected data on the number of aquatic and recreation centres (both indoor and outdoor) and libraries across metro Melbourne and regional Victoria on a per capita basis, compared to rates of accessibility and predicted rates of population growth.
- The authority’s Social infrastructure report encourages staged delivery of new facilities to provide funding and development flexibility for councils, plus shared planning to provide opportunities for co-located and integrated services.
- By 2036, it is projected that parts of Cardinia, Casey, Hume, Melton, Mitchell, Whittlesea and Wyndham will be home to 930,000 more people – equivalent to the population of around 10 cities the size of Bendigo.