Of all urban infrastructure projects in Australia, NSW’s $11 billion Sydney Metro West rail service linking the coming Western Sydney Airport with nearby suburban hubs is among the most compelling. The massive project has now joined a record $100 billion worth of such endeavours being fast-tracked by NSW as a result of COVID-19 – and its impact is being described by developers as “breathtaking” in scale.

Brand new urban precincts built along with the rail line as well as the new airport will create up to 200,000 jobs, stimulating expansion on a scale one developer has described as “breathtaking”. The rail service will eventually connect Western Sydney Airport in Badgerys Creek – scheduled to open in 2026 - with an interchange at St Mary’s, a station at Orchard Hills and another station at Luddenham.

Construction work on this expedited rail service will now start within months instead of several years’ time. Up to 14,000 jobs are forecast to be created in the early stages as the new urban precincts are built along with six new metro stations and the planned M12 motorway. The development around it all will be so large it will decisively make up the minds of those considering a move to western Sydney, agents observe.

Developer’s paradise

Paul Cutcliffe, director of Cutcliffe Properties, has operated in the region for almost four decades. While the days of heady increases in land values after a second Sydney airport was first confirmed for Badgery’s Creek have passed, opportunities still abound across all areas he said.

Only two years ago for example a speculator bought a parcel of approximately 4.5 hectares in Bringelly’s  ‘enterprise corridor’ zoned for industrial-style development for around $9 million. Since then prices have almost doubled and the owner is looking to sell for about twice what they paid.

“Many years ago we had cases where blocks of land were bought for $20 million and then on the market a few years later getting offers of up to $80 million – it’s those kind of increases that are probably not going to be seen again,” Mr Cutcliffe said, adding that the particular parcel of land never sold as it was eventually reclaimed by the government for the transport corridor.

“But certainly since the airport’s been announced prices have escalated and they also haven’t stopped rising. For developers looking for their returns of 20 per cent to 30 per cent, those will always be there if they buy undeveloped land. Also, each time there’s an announcement like this it drives more and more focus to the area. A lot of the bigger developers are moving in now so that they are prepared while the smaller companies are holding back a bit longer.”

Prominent businessman in the region Arnold Vitocco has described Badgery’s Creek as a “paradise for developers”. At an event last year Mr Vitocco said southwest Sydney was the most exciting place for property development, the coming second airport at Badgerys Creek poised to transform the area and create opportunity for all sectors due to the sheer number of projects and amount of construction on the drawing board.

“It is enormous, it is like all the planets aligning at once,” said Mr Vitocco, a joint owner of Narellan Town Centre shopping centre, ranked ninth in the country for turnover. “You’ve got federal and state governments and bipartisan support from all sides, all wanting to see it happen. So you’ve got rail, road and the airport happening, which I’ll never see again.

“They’re going to build something the size of Adelaide in and around Badgerys Creek. The scale is breathtaking. Think of the opportunities that happened in Adelaide, well that is all going to happen for us there. You name it, new business is required out there. We need lawyers, we need orthodontists out there. It is funny to say, but there is so much that is wanted.”

Great potential

Up to 11,000 hectares around the airport site have been made available to developers in recent years and the land divided into 10 precincts. The initial three precincts will be the Aerotropolis Core – an area designed to take advantage of the economic activity stimulated by the new airport - the Northern Gateway and South Creek, the latter tagged by the government as offering the greatest potential growth.

When fully developed The Aerotropolis Core precinct is planned to hold 8000 homes and the Northern Gateway 3400 homes. Among large-scale developments that will not only create tens of thousands of jobs but also help establish the region as a major centre is the combined facility planned by the University of Newcastle, University of Wollongong, UNSW Sydney and Western Sydney University. All four institutions are negotiating with the Aerotropolis Authority and the Western City to establish a world-class “multiversity” higher education and research presence across a mega-campus to deliver “22nd century education”.

Large companies looking to or already involved in building commercial and residential projects near the airport include Leadlease, Mirvac, Scentre Group and Logos.