Boomtown Summit Highlights for Parramatta

In its seventh year, this property and infrastructure summit for Greater Western Sydney brought together leaders and experts in government, development, construction, design, planning, transport, housing, services, energy and sustainability.

9 mins read

The City of Parramatta was one of the event sponsors at the recent Boomtown Dinner and Summit held at Sydney Olympic Park and run by the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue (WSLD).

In its seventh year, this property and infrastructure summit for Greater Western Sydney brought together leaders and experts in government, development, construction, design, planning, transport, housing, services, energy and sustainability.

Industry leaders spoke about how Parramatta and Greater Western Sydney are experiencing a once-in-a-generation transformation and will continue to drive meteoric economic growth. Also discussed were the need for continued investment in transport links (from Parramatta Light Rail to Metro, and High-Speed rail links), the 6 cities plan, the importance of sustainability, and more.

Guest speakers included the Premier of NSW Dominic Perrottet, Lord Mayor Councillor Donna Davis, Christopher Brown, Sir David Higgins, Geoff Roberts AM, The Hon Natalie Ward MLC, and many more experts in the property & infrastructure space.

From this year’s Boomtown, there were many highlights for the City of Parramatta.

“Parramatta is undergoing a once-in-a-generation transformation”

Lord Mayor, Councillor Donna Davis welcomed the attendees to the City of Parramatta and described the City as undergoing a once-in-a-generation transformation.

“The City of Parramatta is the natural host for this summit. Parramatta is the destination of the now, and the future to live, work, study and visit. Our city is undergoing a once-in-a-generation transformation, that is impacting every corner of our LGA. We are a connected city, vibrant and alive. One of the secrets to Parramatta’s success has been great transport links.

“We have invested in world-class public buildings, places and spaces. Take for example PHIVE, our new community, cultural and civic building right in the heart of our CBD. Add to that our new public artworks in Parramatta Square, the revitalisation of Parramatta Wharf, the Parramatta Aquatic Centre, plans for a Civic Link connecting Parramatta River to Parramatta Square with a tree-lined pedestrian boulevard, and the expansion of Riverside Theatres, the pre-eminent arts centre of Western Sydney,” said Councillor Davis.

“Surging local workforce is driving an economic boom”

The Premier of NSW, Dominic Perrottet spoke at the Boomtown 2022 Summit, saying that Western Sydney has big energy, big vision and big outcomes.

“A surging local workforce is driving a local economic boom. And now when you look at how far the City has come, the Powerhouse feels right at home. The point of all of this is not construction. It’s the quality of life that construction supports,” said Premier Perrottet.

Find out more about the Powerhouse Precinct in Parramatta.

Dominic Perrottet, Premier of NSW
Dominic Perrottet, Premier of NSW

High-speed rail can be part of Parramatta’s future

In his address about the potential of high-speed rail in Sydney, Sir David Higgins, Chair of Gatwick Airport spoke about high-speed rail being more viable for trips of around two hours, and that the capital cost of building is never recovered.

“High-speed rail never works financially to build. It always has to be built for a broader public commercial reasoning. It will never recover its capital costs. That’s just the grim reality. What you do hope is that it will cover its operating costs,” said Higgins.

In a Sydney Morning Herald article earlier this year, Parramatta was singled out as being a potential major hub for dedicated fast rail lines connecting Sydney to Newcastle, Wollongong and the state’s west as part of long-term plans to boost public transport links.

Geoff Roberts, the Chief Commissioner of the Greater Cities Commission said he looked forward to working with the Federal Government on the Gosford to the Central River City alignment saying that we need to make projects like this work for human beings as well as being engineeringly efficient.

sir david higgins
Sir David Higgins

The Metro is a game-changer for Sydney Olympic Park

As part of the panel discussing “Rail as an enabler of opportunity”, Dr Liz Develin, CEO of Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA) described the Sydney Metro West as a game-changer for development activity in Sydney Olympic Park.

“Sydney Olympic Park is a relatively quiet place when there are not huge events on and all the master-planning that has been done over all the years has waited for the big transport infrastructure piece, and the development industry to get serious because they were waiting for the transport.

“We’re in our master-planning process for 2050 and the Metro is now here and there is a huge hole in the ground so people are now knocking on our door seriously, and I say it’s time to get cracking.

“We’ve got grand plans with the Metro coming and finally this place will be able to see its vision of both being an amazing events precinct, but somewhere people live,” she said.

Find out more about how the Metro West is connecting Parramatta to Sydney.

Is the 30-minute city concept still relevant?

Chief Commissioner of the Greater Cities Commission Geoff Roberts, said that his organisation is about to enter a period of strategic planning, and within that suggested that perhaps the 30-minute city concept may not be as relevant.

“We’re wondering if the 30-minute city concept is still relevant to everyone. Maybe we are now talking about the 180-minute week where people do long commutes two or three days a week, rather than squashing everyone into a five-day-a-week and saying let’s get on the train between 7.30 and 8.30 in the morning and do that five days a week.

“The evidence that we have is that more people are now happier to live further away from work. The hybridisation of work is here and therefore we are moving more to city regions because of congestion and liveability,” said Roberts.

geoff roberts
Geoff Roberts

Place-making not master-planning 

Western Sydney University’s Dr Roger Attwater who is Senior Manager, Environmental Sustainability, said that when managing its land assets, they are moving from the concept of master-planning to place-making. 

“In our own internal planning, we are moving away from master-planning to place-making which is principles-based and therefore more flexible given the uncertainties and the vagaries, and what you’re doing at what times. We’re trying to embed commercial operations and tenets within what we are doing,” he said.

Chris Brown, Chair of the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue (WSLD) said his organisation was also focusing on placemaking. In his organisation's White Paper outlining its 2023 NSW Election Priorities, it says there is an “emergence of the 15-minute local centre as a dominant strategic planning paradigm. Accordingly, place-making has taken on an elevated importance within our planning and transport agencies, complementing the work of local councils and developers.”

WSLD priorities are (among others):

  • Deliver Parramatta Civic Link & Parramatta Light Rail active transport connections
  • Acquire the Roxy Theatre and return it to public hands
  • Provide funding for the completion of the Riverside Theatres Masterplan.

Parramatta Light Rail’s employment legacy

Natalie Ward, NSW Minister for Metropolitan Roads said the Parramatta Light Rail was due to be delivered next year.  

Find out more about the Parramatta Light Rail

Deputy Secretary, Infrastructure and Place, Transport for NSW, Camilla Drover as part of a panel looking beyond the megaprojects spoke about the legacy of skills training on large projects like the Parramatta Light Rail. 

“Regardless of the project size, there’s the skills legacy program and it mandates how many learning workers, how many local workers, how many women, etc. Big and small projects are complying with those requirements, so we’re getting those great outcomes.

“We’re seeing about 70 per cent of our workforces in Western Sydney coming from Western Sydney and that’s really important. We’re also seeing lots of learning workers, so Parramatta Light Rail, for example, 20 per cent of the workforce is under 25, that’s leaving that wonderful legacy of skills training and development,” she said.

Find out more about Parramatta’s talented employment sector.  

Western Sydney Airport’s education program

The CEO of Western Sydney Airport, Simon Hickey, which is due to open in 2026 spoke about his airport’s education program that includes a partnership with the Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta.

“We’ve got to get people interested now in the jobs and opportunities that are going to become available at the airport and in the surrounding infrastructure. We’ve got a skills program. We’ve directly gone and spoken to 8,500 kids in schools about the airport. We get kids in schools to come to the airport and take them to the experience centre we’ve built.

“We’ve signed a partnership called Generation STEM with CSIRO which is to get kids interested in STEM subjects and they are going to abound in our area. We’ve signed a partnership with the Powerhouse in Parramatta centred around education in STEM and using both their facilities and our facilities,” said Hickey.

Find out more about the Western Sydney Aerotropolis.

WestInvest $5 billion fund

The NSW Government’s WestInvest fund which was announced earlier this year was mentioned by many of the speakers. The Government describes the $5 billion WestInvest program as one that will help fund and deliver transformation projects that will enhance communities and help create jobs throughout Western Sydney.

Lord Mayor Councillor Donna Davis spoke of the revitalisation of the Central City Parkway underneath the M4 which will benefit from WestInvest funding, along with other projects for the Parramatta LGA.

The City of Parramatta was awarded the Boomtown! Project of the Year award for PHIVE, Parramatta’s new community, cultural, and civic hub located right in the heart of Parramatta’s CBD.