South East Queensland’s Boomtown

City of Ipswich

It is a remarkable feat for a community that was struggling to stay afloat just a short time ago. “We used to be a city that had one of the highest unemployment rates and one of the highest crime rates in the country,” Mayor Paul Pisasale reports. “We now have the lowest.”

Ipswich’s surging population reflects these positive changes. The population of this Queensland community is projected to skyrocket from its current 180,000 to 462,000 by 2031. “Our average age was very high in the past,” Mayor Pisasale adds. “We now have one of the youngest populations in South East Queensland. We are focusing on the next generation.” This increase in residents will also feed the building boom for quite a while longer, as the city will require an additional 118,000 dwellings to house them.

Strategies

Ipswich has done a remarkable job of defying global economic trends with its robust economy and above average employment levels. Located just 40 minutes west of Brisbane, one hour from the Gold Coast, and two hours from the Sunshine Coast, location is certainly a positive factor. But this kind of growth and success take more than a prime location. It takes concerted effort and careful strategising.

“I run the city like a business,” Mayor Pisasale explains. For instance, one the key things that he always asks potential investors is, “what can I do to help you make a profit?” This proposal takes many developers by surprise, the mayor adds. “They say ‘wow, you are the first mayor that ever said he wants to help me make a profit.’” Taking a profit minded approach helps the city – and people – of Ipswich, Mayor Pisasale explains. “When developers make a profit, they put more people on staff, they make contributions to the community, they make donations, they sponsor events. They create jobs.”

In fact, Mayor Pisasale believes that the construction industry is key to the city’s growth and continued economic success. “What people have to realise is that the construction industry is the start of the food chain,” he says. “The construction industry is what feeds the whole city. The whole economy revolves around it.”

Mayor Pisasale’s business minded approach also means running the city with an efficiency that is attractive to investors. For example, “I make sure that the development applications are processed quickly,” he reports. Details like this are essential to bringing developers on board, he insists. “Sometimes the bureaucracy forgets that we are not in the middle of a boom and that we need to work harder.” But developers interested in Ipswich won’t suffer from bureaucratic bumbling on Mayor Pisasale’s watch. “Because I understand that the longer you keep a developer waiting the more money you are costing him,” he says.

The city also puts tremendous effort into making Ipswich a pleasant place to live in order to attract and retain residents and businesses. “We do a lot of things for residents,” Mayor Pisasale explains. “We have a lot of fun.” The city sponsors a number of free events, including movies in the park, festivals and celebrations. But the greatest emphasis, Mayor Pisasale says, is on building community, so that every resident feels as though they belong. “We are a family,” he insists.

Projects

Ipswich is chock-full of development and construction activity. ICON Ipswich, Leighton Properties’ $1 billion redevelopment of the city centre, will be one of the nation’s largest urban renewal projects. The massive project will cover four city blocks and create approximately 170,000 square metres of master planned commercial, retail, residential, recreational, and public space. The first stage will be the construction of a nine-storey office tower, which is slated for completion in September of this year. This stage of development alone is expected to create around 300 construction jobs – and that is only the beginning. The entire project will take up to 20 years to complete, although the bulk of the work should be finished within the next decade or so.

Ipswich is also the site of Australia’s largest master planned community, the brainchild of the Springfield Land Corporation. The Springfield area, which includes the suburbs of Springfield, Springfield Lakes, Springfield Central, Augustine Heights and Brookwater, has grown by an average of 10 per cent every year for the past five years. The planned community boasts a total current population of over 18,000, and is expected to draw in a total of 86,000 by project’s end. The current statistics already make the Springfield area one of the largest growth areas in South East Queensland. Not surprisingly, this developing community is a driving force behind Ipswich’s rapid rise in population.

One factor that is making the Springfield area so attractive is that it is slated to include everything that a resident could want, all in close, convenient proximity. The community will eventually cover 2,860 hectares and include a specially designed 390 hectare commercial centre, dubbed Springfield Central, with over 1.4 million square metres of office, retail, educational, health and technology facilities. When completed, Springfield Central will provide an employment base for at least 30,000 people, giving residents the option to live and work within the same community.

A number of healthcare facilities are also included in the master plan. Currently there is an assortment of GP clinics that provide a range of affiliated allied health services, most of which are also conveniently located near retail pharmacies. The Mater Health Centre at Brookwater just opened in February, and includes a Mater Pathology Collection Centre, MyLife Medical Group, allied health services, medical imaging, specialists, and a pharmacy. The Springfield area may also soon be the site of Health City Springfield, a proposed 52 hectare integrated health precinct that would provide a suite of health related services for the entire community. This comprehensive health and wellness complex would have multiple facilities, including hospitals, medical centres, day surgeries, diagnostic services, wellness and fitness centres, dental offices, optometry offices, respite centres, aged care, and retirement communities.

The Springfield area also offers top-notch educational opportunities. In fact, the Springfield Land Corporation has made it a priority to provide quality education services and facilities in order to attract young families to the planned community. The Springfield development already boasts four private schools and five public schools, as well as a University of Southern Queensland Springfield campus and a campus of Bemer TAFE. There is also Education City, an 18 hectare lifelong learning centre located in Springfield Central that offers schooling, training, and childcare educational services.

Ripley Valley, located south east of the city centre, will be the site of Ipswich’s next major project. Sekisui House, one of Japan’s largest and most renowned builders, is leading the development. The company’s interest speaks volumes for the reputation of Ipswich, Mayor Pisasale points out. “Sekisui House used Michigan University to do a global search on where they should expand outside of Japan,” he reports. “From that search they chose Ipswich.” The company is master planning a community dubbed Ecco Ripley, a 194 hectare sustainable development situated in the urban core of Ripley Valley. A Town Centre will provide a civic and commercial base, and will interconnect to approximately 4,000 residences via parklands. Ecco Ripley is expected to draw in a total of 120,000 people by the time it is completed. The planned community, as with Springfield, will be an important contributing factor to Ipswich’s overall growth.

These projects will certainly keep Ipswich busy for many years to come. But Mayor Pisasale is determined to bring even more growth to Ipswich. It will be increasingly important to create jobs throughout the area so that the influx of new residents can work close to where they live. The Ipswich City Council has specifically identified education and aerospace as two industry sectors that would be an ideal fit for the rapidly developing region. And with all that the region has to offer, it shouldn’t be hard to entice these sectors – and many more – to Ipswich.

Most importantly, opportunities for the construction industry should remain extremely high and the industry is likely to continue pouring into the city. “We are developing and people are making a profit,” Mayor Pisasale points out. “Everybody wants to be a part of it now.”

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

May 26, 2020, 7:55 AM AEST