Livable regional Victoria or cosmopolitan suburban Melbourne?
The perennial question has again got Ballarat talking as a government inquiry considers life in the emerging suburbs of Melbourne’s sprawl, contrasting it with the infrastructure, amenity and lifestyle of other parts of the state.
The debate comes as the Baillieu government works on a planned “CBD’’ for Melbourne’s west, with a proposal for 20,000 people and 50,000 jobs to be based in a new suburb and employment centre on 770 hectares of state-owned land between Werribee and Point Cook.
Without a rail link, early residents moving to East Werribee face long commutes on the busy Princess Highway and amenities being built to keep up with demand.
Housing in new suburbs and developer estates is readily available while regional centres such as Ballarat and Bendigo are struggling to keep up with demand for housing, and rents are high.
Ballarat’s median property price is lower than some outer suburbs – around $330,000 compared with $380,000 for Werribee and $457,000 for Caroline Springs.
More than 3.21 million train trips take place on the Ballarat line each year, with train timetables promising Melbourne peak commuters a journey of between 75 and 82 minutes.
Reignited by a Victorian Parliamentary inquiry into living options in outer suburban Melbourne, the debate was considered by the Outer Suburban and Interface Services and Development Committee.
Committee members considered a lack of public transport and local infrastructure as factors contributing to anti-social behaviour and crime, calling for higher-density housing in established outer areas over further sprawl in areas such as those between Melbourne and Ballarat.
The report suggests appropriate public transport options to reduce car travel in outer suburbs as well as marketing and incentives for development in growth areas.
Ballarat resident Brendan Lalor weighed in on the debate, saying he preferred to commute to Melbourne daily.
“It gets a bit tiring sometimes but I earn more in Melbourne than I could in Ballarat, and my weekends are spent enjoying all that “the Rat” has to offer,” he said.
“Best of both worlds.”
Tegan Verhey said she had opted for a move to Caroline Springs.
“I wouldn’t move any closer into the city though, but I do admit some days it would be quicker to catch the train from Ballarat to Melbourne than drive my 25kms to work.”
With the Ballarat population set to increase as the fastest-growing city in regional Victoria, an extra 15,000 households will be added to the city’s growth areas.