Remember how clothing manufacturer Bonds created a collective national black mood in 2009 by announcing it would shut down its Australian factories?
Across NSW, some 600 people lost their jobs. Then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd expressed “extreme disappointment” at the decision and said it was “bad news for the economy”.
It now looks as though this unwanted decision may have at least one benefit – helping meet Sydney’s insatiable demand for housing.
The company’s sprawling eight hectare former spinning mill site at Pendle Hill is now likely to be re-developed, with plans released to build up to 1,800 dwellings. The site is located close to rail transport and retail services. (See the pre-gateway proposal here)
There were also similarly negative headlines when Alcoa announced last week that it was shutting its aluminium mill and recycling plant at Yennora, in Sydney’s south-west, resulting in the loss of 180 jobs this year. However, again, this site is also very close to rail transport and you can’t imagine it will be staying vacant for long.
The fact remains that, for city planning, the sad loss of manufacturing jobs is actually playing an important role in helping the ongoing renewal and growth of Sydney and surrounding areas.
There are many other examples which can be cited.
For instance, in 2012, fuel refining stopped at Shell’s 86 hectare Rosehill site, leading to the loss of 300 jobs. However, in February this year, Parramatta City Council staff said the site’s change to an importing and storage depot would create surplus land for redevelopment and potentially lead to the renewal of large areas of Camellia and Rosehill. (See the council report here – large file size)
It’s a similar story at the former Darrell Lea chocolate factory site at Rocky Point Rd, Kogarah, where chocolate production stopped following the company’s collapse in 2012. The three hectare site is now being proposed to be rezoned to allow a residential estate for 350-450 homes and 400 jobs in commercial and warehousing space.
And only last week we saw the demolition of the 200m high chimney stack at the former Port Kembla copper smelter site, where 290 people lost their jobs in 2003 when the plant shut down. The stack demolition is likely to allow the site’s regeneration as an industrial estate and is touted as potentially helping lead the revival of the Illawarra region as a technology hub.
“As the smoke clears, the Illawarra is left with a brownfield site that swells with promise and optimism,” one University of Wollongong environmental research student blogged.
No-one likes, or wants, to see manufacturing workers lose their jobs. However, history tells us these sites have the potential to play a valuable urban renewal role for housing or jobs.