Parramatta’s Continued Rise as Sydney’s Second City Centre. Transit Also the Key for Less Well Off Areas. Lessons For Manukau and Auckland

TRANSIT – build it not slash it


Sydney is very much like Auckland in my opinion as an Urban Geographer. Both Cities are going rapid expansion and both Cities have run a Tale of Two Cities where you have two very distinct sub regions (one well off and one not so) with their own Cores (Auckland/Sydney City Centre and Manukau/Parramatta). Like also with the major push Manukau being the second City Centre of Auckland we have at the same time the concerted push for Parramatta being Sydney’s second City Centre.


The similarities with Manukau and Parramatta continue today as major investments in both City Centres (they are really that and calling Manukau a Super Metropolitan Centre or a Node was a “workaround” owing from the resistance of Council Planners with the Auckland and Unitary Plans) accelerate and residents of the respective sub-regions begin to both notice this and feel the positive consequences from it (jobs, recreation, hospitality etc). However, we (as in Sydney and Auckland) have a major problem brewing that can threaten both Manukau and Parramatta and I’ll let the Daily Telegraph point it out:


Project Sydney: Public transport the key to everything

SYDNEY’S fastest-growing region is being starved of jobs because of a dire lack of public transport that is also failing to link Greater Sydney to entertainment and sport.

Five years after the launch of The Daily Telegraph’s campaign to improve the fortunes of the west, a new report reveals a vast upturn at Parramatta due to significant investment.

And locals say the area is finally becoming its “own city”. But the report also shows that people living just 10km away are being locked out of a better life.

Our “CityPulse” ranking and report, by consultants PriceWaterhouse Coopers, provides never-before-seen insight into how Sydneysiders live their lives using a metric system that analyses “live”, “work” and “play” opportunities across 267 areas.


Parramatta has finally become its own city. Source: The Daily Telegraph

For each of the three sectors, areas are given a score out of 10 depending on their performance on issues like job accessibility, housing and entertainment.

The average results were 5.1 for “live” and 4.8 respectively for “work” and “play”.

Crucially, the “CityPulse” research reinforces the case for the hotly debated Sydney Metro West and to extend the rail line to Blacktown, Liverpool and Fairfield.

Apartment homeowners Cameron Trevor and Lauren Rountree enjoy the advantages of life in Parramatta. Picture: Justin Lloyd. Source: The Daily Telegraph

Fast-tracking projects that provide crucial job creation at Western Sydney Airport and health hubs at Westmead and Liverpool will also boost rankings for the Greater Sydney region.

Trendy suburbs such as Erskineville, Alexandria and Mascot were among the top performers. And Baulkham Hills has been propelled into one of the most desirable places to live because of the North West Metro at Bella Vista.

Parramatta also ranked in the top 10 places to work.

But other areas have been overlooked. Despite their natural beauty, Blue Mountains suburbs such as Leura, Megalong Valley and Wentworth Falls all scored one or less across all metrics. Other areas that scored “below average” included Minto, St Andrews, Tregear, Richmond and Lurnea.

A key component of the CityPulse data is an area’s accessibility — specifically what can be accessed within 30 minutes by car or public transport. The performance of Tregear and picturesque Blue Mountains suburbs is hampered by accessibility, higher unemployment rates and low activity on new housing approvals compared to city areas.

An artist’s impression of the planned Parramatta Light Rail at Church St, Parramatta. Source: The Daily Telegraph


While the project remains stalled, congestion worsens — the CityPulse data showed dozens of suburbs within 10km of the west end of Parramatta have “below average” job accessibility by public transport.

Despite falling unemployment across the region, some pockets remain a concern too. Data showed the areas with the highest unemployment were clustered together in Fairfield, Fairfield East, Fairfield West and Guildford.

The unemployment rate for Fairfield was an alarmingly high 9 per cent in December 2017.

Western Sydney Business Chamber director David Borger likened Sydney Metro West to a project “as bold as the Sydney Harbour Bridge”.

CityPulse researchers said plans for the region “need to draw upon the innovative mindset of (Harbour Bridge engineer) John Bradfield”.


Extending the Sydney Metro West to Liverpool could turn around the area’s fortunes and improve access to jobs for the young and growing population.

The area scored a dismal 3.5 out of 10 for “work”, owing to its lack of access to jobs, and is also hamstrung by high dependence on welfare and subpar community health scores.

This is despite its “well-educated, ethnically diverse population”.


The government has agreed to build the Sydney Metro West from the CBD to Bankstown although it has not divulged a time frame or allocated funding for it.

Penrith, 54km from the CBD, scored poorly on all counts — Live (2.6) Work (2.7) and Play (2.3) as the region’s growth lags.


Gabrielle Coffey has lived in Campbelltown her whole life and is happy in the area.

She is one of the lucky ones, having a job close by to her home


Source: The Daily Telegraph 


Parramatta like Manukau have established themselves as their respective Cores and their residential catchments are acknowledging this as such in a positive manner. Both (minor) City Centres are also getting continued investment whether it be from the Sydney Plan or Transform Manukau in both urban renewal and new transit lines. But both have accessibility problems (due to those transit lines not in place fully yet) to their residential catchments.

With Parramatta more rapid transit is needed heading west and north to link up those residential areas with poor employment access ten 10km away. With Manukau we have missed the Manukau South Link that would allow Pukekohe and Papakura to Manukau direct in around 14 minutes (from Papakura) however, this is being remedied with the Southern Airport Line that forms a rapid east west connection between the Airport and Botany. The Southern Airport Line would finally open up three large employment areas missed by the heavy rail network that allows residents from Papakura, Drury and Pukekohe access to via Puhinui Station:

  1. Airport
  2. Manukau
  3. East Tamaki or Botany


Regional Rapid Rail and the Southern Airport Line
Source: Greater Auckland


Get the feeder busses right and the Southern Airport Line would open up access to other employment areas such as Highbrook and residential areas such as Otara and Flatbush.

Airport and bus line up


Simply put a single (and preferably) Light Rail line improves the accessibility for Southern Auckland residents to three large employment complexes in one go. Parramatta and its surrounds would be the same, a single transit line (actually might be a few made up of Light Rail and Bus Rapid Transit) linking up those isolated residential areas to their Core that is Parramatta City Centre. Better developing our Metropolitan Centres like Papakura would also help in having jobs and hospitality closer to home as well.


Transit is the key to unlocking residential and employment areas. Parramatta and Manukau have the same in terms of benefits and potential for their residential catchments. Both can be further unlocked by getting transit out to areas in need. Both need the politicians to stop fluffing around and just get on with it (Manukau is in a bit more of a fortunate situation than Parramatta as the Southern Airport Line stage one is set for completion by 2021 with the rest not long after).


However, while transit does unlock areas we also need to focus on better local development as well. That is the opportunity to work, play and shop close to home!

That I cover in my next post.




One thought on “Parramatta’s Continued Rise as Sydney’s Second City Centre. Transit Also the Key for Less Well Off Areas. Lessons For Manukau and Auckland

  1. Great article, Sydney Metro is building new and reutilising existing rail lines to up services and patronage; the same could be applied here.

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