Campbelltown: the re-imagined city

Campbelltown is undergoing an economic and social renaissance as it works towards putting the aspirations of its community at the forefront of State and Federal government radars. Jonathan Jackson spoke with Campbelltown’s Jeff Lawrence, Director City Growth and Economy about fostering a sustainable, proud community.

Being an isolated suburban Melburnian, the suburbs and cities of Sydney don’t tend to take up too much of my day to day focus. However as fate would have it, shortly after I received notification of an impending interview with Jeff Lawrence from Campbelltown City Council, The Today Show’s Lisa Wilkinson along with her Channel 9 cohorts were hosting a live broadcast from Macarthur Square, the city’s largest shopping centre and the fifth largest in NSW.

And I was watching.

It turns out Wilkinson grew up in Campbelltown, attended Campbelltown Performing Arts High School and has long-time family roots in the area. There was a significant turn out to the broadcast, as you’d expect when a big morning breakfast show hits your patch, but what was noticeable among the crowd was its spirit.

Indeed, as Council’s Jeff Lawrence points out, the city is enjoying a period of growth and is looking forward to a sustained period of prosperity which has the mood quite buoyant.

So buoyant in fact that the city has been suggested to be part of  a bid by western Sydney, to host the 2026 or 2030 Commonwealth Games.

Driving the city’s growth is Council’s determination to, as Lawrence says, “foster a climate of private and public jobs creation within a more sustainable social, economic environment.” Part of this will lead to the city becoming more recognised as a medical university city with new and more diversified employment generation.

We’ll come to Campbelltown’s health ambitions shortly, but to paraphrase music icon Bob Dylan, ‘times are a changin’ and Campbelltown City Council has adopted an innovation approach to make change happen.

First and foremost to this approach, is the Council’s ability to work very closely with other levels of government in order to instil community aspirations and visions with the best economic, social and environmental outcomes in mind for the city.

Furthermore there is an agenda for accelerated growth, with a focus on housing and employment generators, and a particular emphasis on ensuring  housing has the necessary  infrastructure to encourage better choice and affordability and to support strong economic development.

“Campbelltown has land availability for greenfield developments and for redevelopment  at greater densities, which is critical in the context of Sydney’s diminished land supply, as well as increasing land prices and population pressures,” Lawrence says. “The city’s capacity to grow means we have much to entice prospective businesses.”

As a significant growth area just an hour’s drive from central Sydney, infrastructure is of paramount importance.

“It (Campbelltown) is one of the most significant growth areas in NSW and we expect the population to  grow  from  160,000  to  275,000 by 2036, with the additional capacity – under current planning provisions – to take our population to more than 300,000 people,” Lawrence says.

That  is  remarkable  growth of almost 68%, hence the need for positive change and the requirement to become a better connected city.

“Lifestyle and connectedness are at the centrepiece of Council’s efforts in western Sydney,” Lawrence says. “We are working closely with all levels of government to ensure that the people of south west Sydney have the capacity to connect with other parts of Sydney to the Illawarra and beyond and to other parts of the world. That connectivity is the key to Campbelltown becoming the hub of Sydney’s South West Growth Corridor.”

This aim is being further enabled by the coming development of Sydney’s  second  major  airport  to be built in western Sydney.

Road and rail links are being planned and developed or enhanced, to ensure Campbelltown residents can access the expected increase  in  jobs  that  the  airport will bring.

“A lot of areas are currently undergoing infrastructure change: roads have been really strained, so the Narellan Road upgrade will create additional linkages and extensions to the Campbelltown CBD to support the extensive urban development in the south west growth centre.

“Council continues to strongly advocate to the NSW Government for the Badgally Road bridge extension  over  the  railway  and into the Campbelltown CBD, to provide  better  connections  into the city centre. Advocacy work also continues for the Spring Farm Link Road, including the connection for the Menangle Park release area to the Hume Freeway.”

“These are all critical connections that will better link Campbelltown to other strategic centres across western Sydney and which will drive economic sustainability into the longer term.”

Lawrence is certainly excited by the prospects of a better connected, more liveable city. However, it is the development of the Campbelltown health and education precinct and the upgrade of the public hospital that he believes will drive this city forward.

The public hospital has completed stage 1 development and Council has been advocating to proceed with stage 2, working with government to invest the many hundreds of millions of dollars that Lawrence believes will help create a new Campbelltown.

In fact, prior to the publication of this article, the NSW State Government announced a $632 million boost to Campbelltown Hospital which will expand on its paediatric services, cater for a larger emergency department, as well as improve mental health services.

“This hospital upgrade is absolutely fundamental for investment in our city’s services. Doctors will stay and practice in Campbelltown,” Lawrence says. “With our focus on developing a medical university city, it really is an exciting time to be associated with health in Campbelltown.

“Campbelltown Regional City Centre is uniquely positioned as the only strategic centre in western Sydney within which a major medical university campus is located in proximity to large scale developable business park lands. We are working alongside key stakeholders right now to plan and develop the health and education precinct, which will provide world leading education and specialist community based care in paediatrics, Aboriginal health and gastro motility.”

As in any region, retaining top talent can be an issue but the hospital upgrade and the opening of the Macarthur Clinical School, along with Western Sydney University’s School of Medicine, will provide students and educators with previously unseen advantages  moving forward.

The recently opened $21 million, four-storey Macarthur Clinical School was jointly funded by the NSW Government and Western Sydney University.

With all that is going on in Campbelltown, the relationship between community and Council, seems never to have been stronger.

“We have developed a strategic plan alongside our community to learn their aspirations, discover their ambitions and create a willingness to work with each other to shape the city’s growth.

“What  we  have  found  is that open spaces, lifestyle and recreational opportunities are important to our community. This means creating better job flow, fixing the traffic congestion issues, building quality affordable housing that is close to infrastructure and excelling in education to help keep the best professionals working in this region.

“Access to higher end jobs will help meet the aspirations of the community and shape the policies that best represent its interests.”

There is an ongoing dialogue between Council and the local community and Council has put a lot of time and effort into better communications to forge a community shared direction of the future.

What does the future look like? Much of what we have discussed above.

In a nutshell, Campbelltown is working towards transforming itself into a 30 minute city where lifestyle opportunities abound, that is connected to itself and the rest of western Sydney, that is a city that people want to live, visit, learn, work and play.

And why wouldn’t they? There is a well-regarded, burgeoning university with a School of Medicine that is integral to the city’s future aspirations. There are many private and public schools, world class facilities including the sports stadium and Campbelltown Arts Centre, The Australian Botanic Gardens Mount Annan, the Dharawal National Park, and Club Menangle, the headquarters for Harness Racing NSW.

If I wasn’t so connected to Melbourne, I could have convinced myself to give Campbelltown a go.

“The lifestyle of Campbelltown is second to none. We have a rich cultural diversity, a strong sense of civic pride, and significant existing infrastructure and high quality services,” Lawrence says.

“We are working hard to create a 30 minute city; a smart city that facilitates job creation, investment, business growth and innovation; a city that residents are proud to call home and businesses are keen to invest in.”

The message from Campbelltown City Council is discover Campbelltown – if you’re after a competitive edge, you will not be disappointed.

Campbelltown City – a city designed for ambition, innovation and opportunity.

Business First is a peer-to-peer magazine: written by CEOs and other high level executives, with interviews with some of the country’s best leaders.

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