It’s an exciting time in history of western Sydney, as a measured and systematic transformational change takes place. Over two decades, the region will have a new airport, new major public transport hubs and services, countless new apartments, a significant increase in population and a geographic rebranding, making it the centre of the greater Sydney metropolitan area.
There has been a lot of buzz about the positive impact of these changes, however while all of these plans are brought to fruition, everyday citizens must continue to live their lives amidst the disruption and not all of them are happy about it. But what is the solution? Change is inevitable and many of the plans currently being rolled out have the wellbeing of local citizens at their core. Reducing wait times on trains, reducing commuter times to within 30 minutes of home and creating better quality housing are all lifestyle-based strategies. Not only do they accommodate for a growing population, they also contribute to a happier one, a motivation that is becoming more a part of urban development than any other time in history.
The problem right now however is that although the current projects are some of the biggest undertaken in the NSW history, they are also overlapping with each other, making their impact much more keenly felt. Residents in the City of Ryde are feeling the pressure as block after block of apartments are completed and occupied, yet local infrastructure has not been updated at the same pace. Locals in suburbs such as Gladesville, Putney and Ryde are all becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of practical solutions, in the face of a rapidly growing population. With the current pressure being placed on suburbs within the region, narrow suburban streets are choking with increasing numbers of cars, traffic backlog is delaying bus services and speed limits around schools and parks are being ignored by frustrated drivers.
The first signs of the most recent progress in the City of Ryde came from apartment developments, increasing resident numbers in the area and adding to the congestion issues. On the other hand, residents have wondered why there has been so much apartment construction, many of which are not fully occupied; most are left puzzled as to why they were built in the first place. Those residents may not be tuned into the longer term outcomes of the Greater Sydney Region plan, which will see nearby Parramatta becoming one of the cities in the ‘metropolis of 3 cities’ vision. A vision that almost certainly will result in population growth. For today however, they don’t need to think long term – their priorities are getting their kids to school safely and themselves to work on time.
In fact, things have gotten so bad that the NSW State Government recently implemented a temporary ban on new planning proposals for residential developments in Ryde. In the face of an imbalance of residential houses against medium to high density construction, they also put a suspension on new residential planning rules. It’s been speculated that this is also an attempt to retain the spirit of ‘the great Australian backyard’, a construct that has been rapidly diminishing in suburbs that fall under the jurisdiction of the City of Ryde and City of Canterbury Bankstown, amongst others.
Although change is inevitable, it is also extremely challenging for those affected by it. The powers that be may have long term progress in mind, but they don’t have to live with the day to day of almost two decades worth of construction, growth and mismatched timelines. In an ideal world, projects would synchronise so that necessary infrastructure was in place before new residential developments were completed. As it is now, for the whole childhood and teenage years of babies born today, they will live with construction. The estimated completion date for the three-city metropolis is 2036 – still 18 years away. The Badgerys Creek airport is still 8 years away and numerous other necessary infrastructure upgrades such as roads, parking and rezoning will continue to be disruptive. Residents can do little more than be optimistic about the future of their neighbourhoods and manage as best they can with the day to day. It’s expected that as each stage of different projects are completed, incremental increases in property values will be enough to satisfy long suffering residents. Hopefully the reward of a potentially million-dollar property one day, is enough to compensate those who’ve lived through many years of chaos and disruption as the works have taken place.