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China-Australia Ties: Belt & Road can rebuild Sydney's western suburbs

Editor: Qian Ding 丨CCTV.com

08-14-2017 14:58 BJT

By Tom McGregor, CCTV.com Panview commentator and editor

Editor's Note: CCTV.com Panview was invited to Sydney, Australia; Aug. 8-10, by Australian-based property developer Crown Group. Panview commentator and editor, Tom McGregor visited scenic spots and met local officials, reporters and business people to get a better understanding on how China-Australia relations have created win-win scenarios for both nations.

Sydney stands tall as Australia's financial hub and with a population of more than 5 million that keeps growing, the city must construct major infrastructure and expand property development in a westward direction.

The city is located on Australia's southeast coast. Sydney can only grow by boosting the Western suburbs and the provincial government of New South Wales (NSW) has already announced bold plans to do so.

Daytime view of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge near the city

Daytime view of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge near the city's Central Business District.

Priority Growth Area

In 2016, the NSW issued a statement declaring the Western Sydney suburbs, a "priority growth area." The provincial government has pledged to spend over AUS$3.6 billion. on building new roads and railways.

Canberra, national government, pledged additional funding for regional infrastructure.

"The Australian Government is delivering on its plan to build a stronger and more prosperous Western Sydney by investing $2.9bn. over ten years in major infrastructure upgrades that will transform the region's economy," according to a press release.

Australia has embarked on an urbanization drive of Western Sydney suburbs, which could witness deeper cooperation with Beijing. In 2015, Australia won approval as a founding member of the China-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Boosting B&R links

The AIIB serves as the finance mechanism of China's Belt & Road Initiative (B&R), which was introduced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. Beijing offered to help B&R member states in Asia, Africa, Oceania, Middle East, and Europe to build massive new infrastructure projects.

The strategy calls for constructing more transport hubs with railways, airports and roads, energy zones - power plants and logistics centers  with upgrades on ports and Customs that would boost cross-border trade and investments for participating nations.

B&R will not come cheap but worth the investment. For Australia to enjoy more sustainable development, it needs more efficient and faster rail transport. When taking the rail from Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD) to the western suburb Pammaratta, the ride was slow and expensive.

Train passing through Westmeade Rail Station, a Western suburb of Sydney, NSW Australia.

Train passing through Westmeade Rail Station, a Western suburb of Sydney, NSW Australia.

China is a global leader of hi-speed trains, but Australia had manufactured its rail networks with technologies and expertise from other countries, but there had been difficulties.

The NSW government disclosed on Aug. 6 that rail lines in the Blue Mountains must be modified, since this South Korean built 3.1-meters electric rail cars were too wide for the tracks.

NSW is required to spend another $2.3bn. on upgrades and it serves as a reminder that such flaws in railroad engineering rarely occur with Chinese rail technology.

Rebuilding Parramatta

While riding the rails in Sydney or viewing the skyline from a taxi, Panview had seen large parts of the city and its suburbs drowning in urban decay. Grafitti had been scrawled on wooden fences, abandoned homes and shops.

The move to revamp the Western suburbs has already ushered in positive results. An NSW official explained how Parramatta has transformed from slums to a trendy town for young people.

She was attending an opening ceremony on Aug. 9 for Parramatta' first 5-star hotel, Skye Hotel Suites, which was built by Sydney-based property developer Crown Group.

 View of Parramatta, NSW Australia skyline from inside Skye Suites Hotel Parramatta, constructed by Sydney-based property developer Crown Group.

View of Parramatta, NSW Australia skyline from inside Skye Suites Hotel Parramatta, constructed by Sydney-based property developer Crown Group.

"I last visited Parramatta five years ago and the neighborhood was a mess," she said, "On the same street this hotel was built, there used to be a methadone clinic here and it was a crime-ridden place with so many druggies and homeless."

She added "But look at the streets now. We have a luxury hotel and when walking outside you feel safe even at night, since thug gangsters are no longer roaming the streets."

Remarkable transformation

The Skye Suites Hotel Parramatta demonstrate the courage of rebuilding Sydney's suburbs, which had witnessed hard times in prior years.

Parramatta is currently a safe city that is bustling with many new offices and jobs for young people. Meanwhile, many Chinese have immigrated to Australia with Sydney as a popular destination.

Canberra's renewed efforts to place Sydney's western suburbs as "priority growth area" could attract Chinese investors, while the Belt & Road can build more roads and railways to connect suburban towns with Australia's finance hub.

Win-win renovations

Chinese property developers and construction firms can enjoy golden opportunities investing in Sydney if they set their sights on the city's Western suburbs.

The Land Down Under is an attractive location with a balmy climate - mild winters and warm summers - set on a gorgeous coastline with plenty of fresh air.

The Australian government, led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, has focused on infrastructure building to renovate cities and clean up streets that were formerly crime-infested.

Such efforts appear successful and Chinese investors should take a closer look to make deals in places that were often overlooked by many Australians. 

Tmcgregorchina@yahoo.com

 

(The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )

 

 

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