The City of Brimbank was formed in 1994, and is located in the western and north-western suburbs of Melbourne. It encompasses 25 new and established suburbs, and prides itself on its cultural diversity. It covers an area of 123 square kilometres of land, and has a current population of over 182,735 people (according to the 2011 Census) – a population that is constantly growing, much like the city itself.
Helping to oversee that growth is Stephen Sully, the General Manager of City Development for Brimbank City Council. Sully has been in his position for two-and-a-half years. Before that, he ran his own planning and design consultancy for over a decade. “I have a particular interest in town centres and urban renewal,” he says.
“I really like working for Brimbank because of the character in its community,” he adds, explaining what makes the area special. He says the Brimbank municipality is one of the largest – in terms of population – in metropolitan Melbourne. It is home to over 100 different cultures and nationalities and 56.1 per cent of the population speaks a language other than English at home.
Brimbank is also located between inner Melbourne and Melbourne’s western urban growth areas, the fastest growing urban areas in Australia. At its closest point it is only 11 kilometres from the Melbourne CBD. Despite this accessibility, Sully says the area is “very much an untapped part of Melbourne.”
“There are fantastic opportunities to promote economic, cultural and social development in this area,” he explains.
According to Sully, Brimbank City Council is taking a proactive leadership role in the future development of not just Brimbank, but the broader western region of Melbourne as well. “Brimbank has a vital and pivotal role to play in the future development of Melbourne as a sustainable and liveable metropolis, of world renown.”
“We have the land, the centres and the access to key infrastructure to provide housing, employment opportunities, goods, services and facilities,” Sully says. “Not just for our own community but also for the broader communities of the western region of Melbourne, and the regional centres of Geelong Ballarat and Bendigo.”
When it comes to the future, Brimbank City Council has identified many specific areas of their municipality as being suitable to development and growth. The Council has devised strategies that seek to maximise the value of clustering similar activities as well as focus development to where services and facilities exist to enable them to be effective. Many of these strategic sites are former industrial locations that no longer suit the needs of modern industry, or were former quarries or landfill sites.
In general, Sully says the priority for Brimbank moving forward is establishing it as a first choice commercial investment and development destination for western Melbourne and beyond. “I don’t think you can find land and development opportunities that would rival Brimbank anywhere else in metropolitan Melbourne,” he says. “In terms of the access that our land and industrial estates and town centres have got to the Melbourne airport, Melbourne port, and the central business district – we’re unmatched.”
The goal, Sully adds, is to accommodate a broad range of businesses to provide the local community with access to as many goods, services, and employment opportunities as possible. “We want to capture the imagination of government and the private sector in regards to the opportunities and benefits of investment and development in Brimbank,” he says. “We want to forge partnerships with business and property owners.”
“The biggest impediment that we face is the fact that not many people know where Brimbank is and what we have to offer,” Sully explains. “It’s about getting people to realise what opportunities there are on the western doorstep of Melbourne.”
To combat this visibility challenge, Brimbank has established an active and effective economic development unit to assist and facilitate business development in the municipality. The Council is also advocating to government on behalf of local businesses to ensure that required infrastructure is available.
“The Council is advocating very strongly for Brimbank and the west of Melbourne to state and federal government every chance we get,” Sully says. “We’re seeking opportunities to speak about the opportunities that Brimbank has, and we’re seeking the support of anyone we can find to forge partnerships that will make it easier to attract the development that we desire.”
Live, work and play
Brimbank is not only an ideal place to bring a business – it’s also an ideal place to live. The area offers a broad range of housing opportunities at a range of affordable prices, residential areas that are well serviced by schools, parks, playgrounds and shopping, and scenery that includes many creeks and river valleys.
The town centres are also attractive and distinctive, and in close proximity to growing employment opportunities, as well as leading educational institutes such as Victoria University and the Australian Apprenticeships Centre.
Brimbank’s access to existing infrastructure also makes development more sustainable than development on Greenfield sites on Melbourne’s fringes – so the area also has the additional advantage of being “green.”
“The Council is actively working with industry to pursue environmental sustainability principles and is encouraging industry to be good environmental neighbours to nearby residents,” Sully says.
Another important focus of Brimbank is their town centres. The municipality has five major ones, each of which are comprised of a multitude of business operators and property owners. In Sunshine – their flagship town centre – there are 450 individual businesses and 230 property owners.
“Trying to work with and develop a centre that is that complex is very difficult,” Sully says. Brimbank’s approach is to manage those centres in the same way a large freestanding shopping centre would be managed. They want to implement things like common marketing initiatives and branding, and forge a “very strong partnership between Council and each and every business within the centre.”
“We want to manage these centres with the businesses, and work very closely with the businesses,” Sully adds. “Traditional town centres are the lifeblood of any community. If there’s a good place where people can walk their dog on a Saturday morning, or get a coffee, or buy the local paper – that’s where a community can come together. That’s what a traditional town centre does, so we’re putting a lot of effort into developing those.”
Ten years down the road, Sully says the Council would like to see Sunshine recognised as one of Melbourne’s great centres and as the CBD of the west. “We want it to accommodate corporate office headquarters, government departments and regional entertainment, education, and health facilities, as well as retail and local business opportunities.”
As for Brimbank as a whole, Sully hopes the future will see Brimbank established as an attractive and desirable place to live, work and play – as well as a recognised location for regional services and facilities serving the western region of Melbourne and the regional centres of Ballarat, Geelong and Bendigo.
“With Council’s vision, current strategies and continually increasing interest from entrepreneurial investors, we’re well on the way to achieving this vision,” Sully concludes.