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 Places Victoria (then VicUrban) to assist in unlocking the value of the site.

Revitalising Cairnlea

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

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