Locking in the hybrid workplace in Western Sydney could unlock $450 million boost to the region’s economy


17 May 2021

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A new Business Western Sydney report aided by data analysis from Astrolabe Group has found that Western Sydney’s metropolitan centres could share in a $450 million annual boost to their local economies and attract more jobs if the hybrid working week becomes a permanent fixture of work-life balance after the COVID pandemic has passed.

Headlining this report is a request to establish a $1 Billion Western Sydney Renewal Fund that will enable a five-year urban renewal programme to allow more than 100,000 people to work closer to home and generate an economic surge in city centres such as Liverpool, Bankstown, Blacktown, Campbelltown and Penrith.

“One of the few positives that has come out of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic is the work-life benefits for the millions of people living in Western Sydney,” said David Borger, Executive Director of Business Western Sydney.

“The biggest challenge facing Western Sydney is the 200,000 jobs deficit. Embracing a hybrid workplace and providing people with a local office or desk would dramatically improve the work-life balance of thousands of workers and boost local economies with greater investment as a result.

“Sitting in a never-ending queue of traffic or being sardined in a train carriage for 10-15 hours a week is just wasted unproductive time; it’s time that can be spent with loved ones or keeping active. No wonder Western Sydney has poorer outcomes when it comes to health and wellbeing compared to the Eastern suburbs.

“Capitalising on the opportunity the pandemic has given us by investing directly into town centres in Western Sydney will see the opportunity for more than 100,000 people to work from their local area.

“The quality of amenity in our suburban city centres need drastic improvement to take advantage of this opportunity of working locally. Establishing a $1 Billion Western Sydney Renewal Fund, with funding from local, state and federal government together with private sector contributions, would give our City centres the kickstart they need to support more locally-based jobs.

“Our city centres have good bones but desperately need to enhance their urban streetscapes to attract greater private sector investment; giving what a local workforce want before, during and after the working day.

Mr Borger said in the decade to 2018, half of all new jobs in NSW were created within two kilometres of Sydney’s CBD, whereas during the same period, most of the new housing was built in outer suburban areas of Western Sydney. Each year approximately 27,000 Sydney residents relocate interstate or to regional centres seeking a better life.

“The people of Western Sydney want and need good a work-life-balance. Being able to get to and from work in 15 minutes is the goal. Without achieving this, we continue to run the risk of losing Sydneysiders to Brisbane or Melbourne.

“It is not solely about workers working from home or from the CBD. There is a need for a third option, a touchdown space. A small office near where employees live so they can access an office without the need for a long commute

“Having co-working or co-located hubs in centres like Blacktown, Liverpool, Bankstown, Penrith or Campbelltown will still give employees the opportunity to catch up with colleagues.,” Mr Borger said.

The Closer to Home Reports key recommendations are:

1. Establish a $1 Billion Western Sydney Renewal Fund combining resources from Commonwealth, State and Local Governments and industry to drive town centre renewal.

2. The State Government continue to pilot and expand hubs across Sydney. These hubs need to be in the metropolitan clusters including Campbelltown, Liverpool, Penrith, Blacktown, Bankstown, Olympic Park and Parramatta. This will ensure that a large portion of the workforce is able to work within 15 minutes from home.

3. Private companies should consider how they structure their organisations and invest in a more distributed workforce with satellite offices and co-working spaces in regional centres closer to where their employees live.

4. Employers, both public and private, need to invest in the necessary infrastructure needed to support the hybrid working week, including regionally located, “touch down” offices and co-working spaces so employee can spend more time working closer to home.

5. The State Government should conduct a review into Business Improvement Districts and the regulation surrounding them. If we are to see Council’s succeed, we must ensure that they have streamlined frameworks that allow them to flourish. This will ensure that each city centre can accommodate the hybrid economy and maintain these strong working hubs that are more attractive places to work. We need each tier of Government to join with local businesses to coordinate investments in place making and renewal. The State Government remove red tape which prevents the local businesses and landowners from establishing Business Improvement Districts in NSW.

6. Local Government needs to ensure that each of their city centres have the services and amenities to accommodate a significant increase in local employment. We need to ensure our planning and land use controls encourage agglomeration and provide a competitive and compelling option for employees to want to work in them.

7. That local Government introduce changes to their LEP’s and LSPS’s to encourage small strong retail distribution. The Chamber will explore a retail study to understand the planning shortfalls and cold spots in Western Sydney that can be addressed.

8. Include an explicit goal in the next Metropolitan Strategy of levelling up Sydney and removing the gap in social and economic outcomes between East and Western Sydney.