Turn off the busy Princes Freeway in Werribee, approximately 30 kilometres from Melbourne city centre, and you’ll come to a large paddock.
Among the broken fences, thistles and long-doomed former government buildings is a grand plan.
It’s a plan to convert the 775-hectare site into a thriving CBD, creating nearly 60,000 local jobs in health, medical research and education.
Despite being listed as a priority district by the state government in 2013, the site the size of nearly 400 MCGs is still just picket lines.
Locals say that needs to change, and quickly, to create tens of thousands of jobs in Australia’s fastest-growing second-half.
“I was driving from Wyndham Vale to the main street of Werribee, which is about 10 kilometers away, and it would take me about 50 minutes to get there,” she said.
“So I started at nine and I would have to leave before eight to get to work on time.”
The council says the development of the East Werribee compound is key to solving the jobs and traffic dilemma.
Data from the City of Wyndham shows that 63.5% of local workers leave the area to go to work.
Councilor Mia Shaw said this means residents spend a lot of time getting around, often on very congested roads and trains.
“We don’t need more housing, we need local jobs,” she said.
The Wyndham committee agrees and calls on the state government to work with the council and businesses to develop a plan for the area.
World-class research in Werribee
Vasso Apostolopoulos conducts world-class infectious disease research nearby at the University of Victoria’s Werribee campus.
She used to commute to work at the University of Melbourne in Parkville, but is now much happier with a shorter commute to work from her nearby home.
Professor Apostolopoulos is not alone.
“There are many people who do research, but they all go to the city to do their research, this is their job, they are doctors or medical researchers,” she said.
“It would be great if they could stay where they were, it would reduce traffic to the city, and just keep them in place and the talents in place.”
The structural plan for the East Werribee employment area was completed in 2013. In 2018, plans were announced to make the area Melbourne’s second CBD with the private consortium Australian Education City.
Werribee’s research history
East Verriby has a proud history of animal research, and the Veterinary School is part of the current site.
Former Mayor Bob Fairclough worked as an animal researcher on a government research farm at the site in the 1980s.
“The research was about reproduction, here at this site, many artificial insemination techniques have been developed that are currently in use,” said Dr. Fairclough.
Today, he is president of the Point Cook Residents Action Group, which collects signatures on a petition in favour of the site.
He said the reduction in traffic congestion is the number one complaint of locals, and local radio listeners in Melbourne are all too familiar with the heavy traffic at the Point Cook bend.
“Sometimes the road from Point Cook to the city can take an hour and a half, and we would like to reduce the time to 45 minutes – it’s just traffic,” he said.
The government cites its investment in Geelong Fast Rail and the modernization of local courts and hospitals as proof of its commitment to the region.
In a statement, the spokesman did not directly comment on the idea of the site, but said the government was “looking into opportunities for Werribee.”