Opportunity or disaster? Western Sydney’s growth to be examined at CatalystWest

What good is faster transport if it doesn’t actually make life easier?

More than 300 thought-leaders from industry, government and the community will discuss the implications of large scale infrastructure development – at Western Sydney University’s inaugural CatalystWest(opens in a new window) event on 28 February.

CatalystWest – to be held at the University’s Parramatta City campus – is an interactive ideas exchange event that is set to shape the future development of western Sydney.

Dr Andy Marks, the University’s Assistant Vice-Chancellor and creator of the event, said CatalystWest “is about mapping new directions for western Sydney.”

“For too long, western Sydney has been the passive subject of policy and growth strategies. We have the global expertise and local knowledge to come up with new and better ways of overcoming challenges in transport, health, urban planning and work. CatalystWest will bring that extraordinary capacity for change together in one place,” said Dr Marks.

In the lead-up to the event, Western Sydney University experts and key industry sponsors have produced a series of green papers on the pivotal issues that western Sydney will face into the future – as a means of spearheading conversation and debate at CatalystWest.

Dr Jenna Condie from the School of Social Sciences and Psychology is one of the authors of the ‘Transport Infrastructure Transforming Cities’ (PDF, 1184.2 KB) (opens in a new window) green paper, with Dr Garth Lean and Professors Donald McNeill and Andrew Gorman-Murray. Their green paper presents a series of challenges and opportunities for western Sydney’s transport systems.

“We already know that people who have longer daily commutes are generally poorer, less happy and more stressed. The least privileged people in society are in the most need of improved transport systems,” said Dr Condie.

“However we also know that, whenever transport infrastructure is improved or introduced, surrounding land values increase – and people can be pushed or priced out of the areas with good access. So we have this continual cycle of disadvantage where, irrespective of any improvements that are made, the people with the least amount of resources are the ones that have the worst access to adequate transport.”

Dr Condie said, with any large scale infrastructure development, it needs to be considered: who is it for and who is going to benefit?

“When experts discuss the future of any large city’s transport infrastructure, there is a tendency to focus on continual growth, speed and efficiency,” said Dr Condie.

“I see my role on the CatalystWest panel as ensuring that we also consider the other side of the story – the human and environmental impacts of any major infrastructure developments.

“Why is it that we always need to push to become faster? What would we do with the time that we save, by doing more work? By travelling further distances? If, in the end, we are still not addressing social inequalities in society and making life better, is there any point?”

Dr Condie said, in the next thirty years, the capacity for digital technologies to capture locational data will improve exponentially – and this will serve as an opportunity for city planners.

“For transport, with more locational data available, we can have a better understanding of how and when people travel – and with more understanding around why we travel, we will be better able to shape the infrastructure that is really needed.

“However it’s quite dangerous to put all of our hopes in digital technologies as holding the solutions for today’s problems. The reality is that new technologies always come with as many challenges as they do opportunities.”

Members of the community are invited to attend CatalystWest(opens in a new window) – where they will be immersed in expert talks, panels, live performance and networking.

Upon registration, attendees will have access to the CatalystWest interactive app and will be able to access each of the green papers which address the event’s four key themes: health, resilience, transport and work.

Following CatalystWest, discussions and ideas will be incorporated into a series of white papers that will form actionable policy frameworks, projects and implementation plans for the future of western Sydney.

The Gold sponsor for CatalystWest is KPMG. Silver sponsors are Landcom and UrbanGrowth NSW Development Corporation, The GPT Group, South Western Sydney Local Health District.


12 February 2018

Danielle Roddick, Senior Media Officer.