Development spotlight on Wollongong

Have you ever been downtown Wollongong on a Friday night? If not you will be pleasantly surprised – a bustling restaurant scene and active streets filled with young and old alike. There’s little wonder when you look at some of the town’s economic drivers… Wollongong is often forgotten in Sydney discussions but is closer to Sydney’s south and south-west than parts of Sydney itself. It will play an increasingly important economic function in years to come. New motorways proposed for Sydney – the outer western orbital – will only add to its economic and housing appeal.

MacroPlan actively monitor property development trends across Australia. This month, we look at Wollongong, New South Wales, specifically focusing on the student market.

The University of Wollongong (UOW) is a key demographic driver for the region. In 2001, UOW had the second lowest enrolment levels in the State, but since then enrolment numbers have climbed significantly – doubling to over 30,000 enrolments across seven campus locations1. On its current trajectory, UOW will reach enrolment levels equal to the State’s currently largest institution, the University of Sydney, by 2027.

Enrolment Numbers at New South Wales Universities

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Source: Australian Department of Education and Training

1 UOW campus locations (NSW): Wollongong (incl. Innovation Campus), Batemans Bay, Bega, Loftus, Moss Vale and Shoalhaven

Mirroring UOW’s enrolments, since 2001 Wollongong’s population cohort aged 20-24 years has experienced growth of over 3,000 persons (or an increase of 23%).

Population Profile, Wollongong, 2014

Population graph

Source: ABS; AIHW

We expect the strength of Wollongong’s student market will remain strong given:

  • Australia’s strength in education exports combined with a competitive Australian dollar and an established international market (42% of UOW enrolments international)
  • Proximity to Australia’s largest market (Sydney), including south west growth areas, and
  • Continued growth in service sectors.

In addition, UOW is currently finalising its master plan, which includes new infrastructure investment in teaching and residential buildings. Already this investment is beginning, with over $100 million of new construction approved in December 2015 by the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP). This proactive governance and investment is likely to drive further Wollongong’s student market attractiveness.

In addition to the Wollongong campus master plan, UOW will build a 7000-student campus in Liverpool and offer courses from its business, science, engineering, social sciences and arts faculties.

Draft Master Plan, June 2016, Concepts for Discussion

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Source: UOW

We expect the strength of Wollongong’s student market will remain strong given:

  • Australia’s strength in education combined with a competitive Australian dollar
  • A maturing international education market (currently 42% of UOW enrolments), and
  • Proximity to Australia’s largest market (Sydney), including its south-west growth areas.

UOW also plans to further invest in its teaching and residential buildings, with over $100 million of new construction recently approved. Also, by 2017 UOW will build a 7000-student campus in Liverpool, offering courses from its business, science, engineering, social sciences and arts faculties.

Wollongong remains an affordable housing proposition in comparison to Sydney markets – a plus factor in growing its university appeal but also providing a locational and life style advantage to Sydney.

Median Rents, 2001-2016

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Source: NSW Department of Housing

Developers are aware of the affordability advantages that Wollongong presents - building approvals have steadily increasing since 2011 – including some significant apartment developments in Wollongong.

Wollongong is also investing in important infrastructure that will aid its transition to the new economy:

  • NSW Ports plans to extend the Outer Harbour of Port Kembla, providing additional land and berthing facilities to cater for future trade growth.
  • GPT has recently expanded and modernized its Wollongong Central shopping centre with 75 additional specialty stores, a new Coles supermarket, a new Target discount department store and over 650 car spaces.
  • The new Wollongong Hospital Elective Surgery Unit, costing $106 million, is now complete and further stages of the hospital’s expansion are underway. Te new surgery unit encompasses 7 operating theatres, 60 surgical beds and significant improvements to critical care capacity.

Building Approvals, 2011-2016

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Source: ABS

These investments will help to secure Wollongong’s continued contribution to the state economy – they are all in the right areas – health, education and logistics, providing important building blocks for a productive future. Along with its bustling city centre and tourism and entertainment appeal, we expect to be seeing and hearing a lot more about the attractiveness of the Gong in years to come.

If you are interested in finding answers to these or other questions through our analytics and research services, ask us or call us to discuss on 07 3221 8166.