Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Regional Studies

Urban Growth Centres on the Periphery: Ad Hoc Policy Vision and Research Neglect

Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Regional Studies

Urban Growth Centres on the Periphery: Ad Hoc Policy Vision and Research Neglect

Article excerpt


Peripheral urban growth centres and the challenges they face is the broad scope of this paper. Melbourne (and its aligned growth centres) is the specific focus of this inquiry. The main research question is how these challenges in peripheral urban centres are being handled by policy makers and academic researchers. From this emerge two propositions that we wish to deal with in order to answer the research question. The two propositions argued in this paper are:

1. Ad hoc Policy Vision--Local governments and certain regional development ministries within state governments are well aware of the problems and challenges facing peripheral urban growth centres. With little research and little previous policy experience, such policy makers are putting in place ad hoc policies with a vision of creating increasingly more self-contained suburban regions. The policy aim of broader business and social development in the region is often based on adopting any fashionable idea from high priced consultants who are willing to give expensive and sometimes gratuitous advice without any deep analysis of the region itself, e.g. Florida and creative classes (2005); Porter and clusters (2003); Salt and lifestyle change (2003).

2. Research Neglect--Despite the problems and challenges facing peripheral urban growth centres, there is a dearth of significant, useful research into the problem, the challenges and policy options that can address this issue. Academic researchers have tended to neglect the problems and challenges faced by these outlying regions of large population growth. There is also a dearth of significant useful research into the policy options that address this issue in the current political climate, thus the attachment of local government economic development officers to simple and fashionable policy options.

First, this paper sets out the dilemmas that exist in the peripheries of major urban centres, and especially Melbourne, in the context of the extant research literature. Then, the characteristics of peripheral urban growth centres are identified by looking at the 2006 Census related to three major Melbourne peripheral urban local government areas: Casey, Melton and Wyndham. Their education, income and occupation profiles are compared with the overall Melbourne Statistical Division (MSD) and the national averages. A broad composite model of regional economic development is then used to place the profiles of the three Melbourne areas and their attendant problems in perspective when specific policies are discussed. How this leads to lack of a coherent development policy and research neglect will round off this paper. The conclusion briefly indicates the direction of future research and the path to viable policy options for addressing the dilemmas outlined initially.


The vast Australian landscape has developed over the last century as a predominantly urban sprawl, encouraged by cheap land and public infrastructure (Frost and Dingle, 1995). This has led to a situation of large capital cities like Melbourne spreading over large distances and increased distance to travel to work (South East Development Melbourne ACC, 2006). In the current era of increasing oil prices and emphasis on climate change, the predominance of motor vehicle travel to work creates a major dilemma with the continued development of peripheral suburbs (and nearby regional cities) as population expands rapidly from immigration, provincial areas, and inner suburbs of major capital cities. As Smith and Scott (2006, p. 312) note about capital cities, private vehicle numbers for outer suburban areas increase at a rate greater than the population increase per year, with a preference of using cars at around 80 percent of trips. Preference has fallen from this extreme position in the last two years due to large petrol price rises, but the dilemma is still entrenched because of:

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