Development Victoria

Unlocking the western suburbs


Key facts

Project area: 460 hectares
Development timeframe: 20+ years
Estimated population: 10,000

Cairnlea is situated on the site of the former Albion Explosives Factory, a Commonwealth Department of Defence facility that operated from the early 1940s until the 1980s.

Contamination from the explosives factory made development problematic, so in 1996 the Department of Defence turned to Development Victoria (then VicUrban) to assist in unlocking the value of the site.

When land at Cairnlea was released, potential buyers camped overnight outside the land sales centre so as not to miss out. The advertising campaign which urged people to ‘Move up without moving away’ resonated strongly with aspirational buyers in Melbourne’s western corridor.

Today Cairnlea is a thriving community with:

  • Almost a third of the suburb devoted to public open space and grassland reserves
  • A strong community base – the residents’ association successfully lobbied for Cairnlea to be recognised as a suburb in its own right
  • Boardwalks
  • Parklands
  • Picnic areas
  • Sports grounds
  • Cycling and walking tracks

Future development

The Cairnlea Master Plan was developed in the late 1990s and the undeveloped land bordered by Cairnlea Drive and the Western Ring Road was shown as a Business Precinct for many years. This work was revisited in 2013-14 and, in response to community feedback, the plan was updated to provide more land for new homes.

In September 2016, the Minister for Planning approved Amendment C120 to the Brimbank Planning Scheme, rezoning the land for residential use, with a small commercial area on the corner of Ballarat Road and Cairnlea Drive, and some public open space. View the amendment here.

The site was transferred to Development Victoria in late 2016.

Fencing has been installed around the site to prevent the dumping of waste and to minimise any safety risks associated with unauthorised entry. Site investigations, including soil and groundwater testing, will be carried out during 2017. These preliminary investigations are required to be substantially complete before any meaningful design work for the Cairnlea development can begin.

An arborist report commissioned by Development Victoria found mature Sugar Gum trees on this site are a hazard. They are being monitored and will be progressively removed. Development Victoria intends to replace these trees with more appropriate tree species set within improved landscape reserves and green corridors. View the arborist's report here.

Innovation and awards

Cairnlea received the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects Land Management in Landscape Architecture award in 2008. Cairnlea demonstrates how an environmentally degraded site can be transformed through the successful integration of land management techniques within a new residential development. The estate features:

  • An extensive storm water harvesting and recycling scheme which was designed with the potential to save up to 160,000 kilolitres of potable water a year;
  • Regenerated streams and creek systems which have encouraged increased bird and aquatic life;
  • Remnant grasslands integrated into the design of the estate.

Cairnlea was also the site of the Ecohome project, a collaboration between VicUrban, RMIT and Metricon Homes, which aimed to demonstrate the application of environmental principles for individual home owners.

Project partners