Though Cardinia Shire residents are undoubtedly aware of the many perks and benefits of living in the region, this feature showcases the best aspects of life in Cardinia Shire, from the its natural wonders and the myriad of tourist attractions to the great education options, local businesses and industries that provide local employment, the leisure and sporting options and the area’s growing retail and entertainment sectors.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics over 130,000 people called Cardinia Shire home in 2022. That number is forecast to hit 200,238 by 2041, a staggering increase.
There were 33,220 local jobs in 2022, with the largest number of people being employed in education and training at 4,473. Other main employers are construction at 4,145, retail trade at 3,657 and agriculture, forestry and fishing at 3,098.
Many of the businesses are locally owned. In 2021 there were 9,559 businesses in the Shire of Cardinia and the Gross Regional Production in 2021 was $4.43 billion.
One of the fastest growing sectors of the local economy is tourism.
Cardinia Shire offers wineries, potteries, restaurants, cafes, working farms, adventure playgrounds and iconic tourist attractions like Puffing Billy, Emerald Lake Park and Gumbuya World.
Cardinia Shire is an easy day trip for people living in the vast majority of Melbourne’s suburbs.
The reestablishment of Gumbuya World in 2016 produced a surge of tourists flocking down the Princes Highway with the kids loaded in the car.
Tourists are also drawn to the northern part of the municipality, affectionately coined ‘The Hills’ by locals, including the villages of Emerald, Gembrook, Cockatoo and Upper Beaconsfield. This area sits at the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges and offers tourists attractions such as Puffing Billy, Cardinia Reservoir, Bunyip State Park and Emerald Lake Park.
The shire’s central area includes the towns of Beaconsfield, Pakenham and Officer, and also includes the railway towns of Nar Nar Goon, Tynong, Garfield and Bunyip.
These areas are home to easily accessible restaurants, old style country pubs, shopping and new sporting venues. They mark the divide between town and country that Cardinia Shire does so well.
The southern coast area includes world acclaimed RAMSAR wetlands, the townships of Kooweerup and Lang Lang and further afield Pearcedale and Tooradin. This area is especially rich in asparagus growing, supplying most of Australia’s asparagus crop and there are several working farms that attract tourists from home and abroad.
Cardinia Shire has a network of great education options that includes private schools such as St Clare’s Primary School at Officer, St Francis Xavier, Beaconhills, Chairo Christian School and Lakeside College.
The shire’s government schools include Pakenham Hills Primary School, Cardinia Primary School, Pakenham Primary School, Pakenham Consolidated, Bridgewood Primary School and Pakenham Springs.
There are also numerous Catholic Primary Schools including St Patrick’s, St James and Columba Primary at Bunyip. State-run high schools in Pakenham, Kooweerup, Officer and Emerald are also preparing young people for the future.
For those students struggling in mainstream education, Pakenham’s ECG College gives students a second chance at education, focusing on their wellbeing and welfare. ECG College offers VCAL qualifications and classes are hands-on with students doing rather than theory.
The shire is also lucky to have Officer Specialist School, which is a purpose-built school providing educational programs for students with mild to severe intellectual and associated disabilities.
The dedicated team of staff includes special education teachers, a physiotherapist, speech therapists, occupational therapists, a social worker, specialist teachers, and Education Support Staff, working collaboratively to provide outstanding learning programs.
The corridor from Beaconsfield through to Pakenham has seen an explosion of building activity in the past decade as former farmland has been transformed into planned communities such as Timbertop, Heritage Springs, Lakeside and Cardinia Lakes.
The shire’s building boom is set to continue in coming years when the huge Pakenham East development comes online. The development area comprises approximately 630 hectares bounded by Princes Freeway to the south, Mount Ararat Road to the north and south to the east, and Deep Creek and Ryan Road to the west.
Local developer Parklea is playing a huge role in Pakenham East with its Ridgelea Estate, a self-sustaining community with plenty of local facilities and open space. Pakenham East is expected to become home to over 9,000 residents and hold approximately 3000 residential lots.
Residents will also be provided with a town centre, convenience centre, sporting reserves and recreation centre, a government primary school, a non-government primary school, a government secondary school, parks and waterways, and a Lifestyle Village.
Residents are serviced by a network of healthcare providers led by general practitioners and allied health professionals such as radiologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dietitians, psychologists, audiologists and podiatrists.
Kooweerup is the only town within the shire that has a hospital. First opening its doors as a bush nursing hospital on 11 April 1921, Kooweerup Hospital staff provide round-the-clock medical services on the large hospital site as well as district nursing in and around the community.
Cardinia Shire has long been a hub of sporting activity in Melbourne’s south-east.
Its football and netball clubs – including the likes of Beaconsfield, Officer, Pakenham, Nar Nar Goon, Kooweerup, Garfield and Bunyip – have long fought ferocious battles in their respective leagues, with some of the best playing talent around stemming from those clubs.
AFL Outer East and the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition draw bumper crowds on a weekly basis as the Cardinia-based clubs compete with those throughout Casey and, in the case of West Gippsland, right down to tourist hotspots Inverloch and Phillip Island.
Pakenham is one of AFL Outer East’s biggest clubs, and its proud history of premiership wins spans through the generations.
Though Kooweerup in West Gippsland hasn’t won a senior football premiership in decades, the Demons’ faithful are hungry for their next glory days following the Melbourne Football Club’s 2021 Premiership win.
On the cricket field – in the West Gippsland Cricket Association – powerhouse clubs Pakenham and Kooweerup cruised through the 2021/2022 season, with both teams going down in the semi finals.
Cardinia Cricket Club vs Tooradin March 26
Pakenham Racing Club’s showpiece venue, Racing.com Park in Tynong, is not only the home of local racing, but has forged a reputation as one of the best facilities in the country. Some of Australia’s leading trainers have already relocated their stables to the Tynong facility.
On the basketball and netball courts of Pakenham’s Cardinia Life stadium, players of all ages and abilities put their all into the nightly competitions; while other indoor sports such as floorball also take pride of place within the shire.
Cardinia also has a number of hugely-popular bowls and golf clubs that many throughout the region proudly call their sporting home.
The future looks bright for the growing shire as new road, school and level crossing removal projects progress over the next few years.
Meanwhile, in the growth areas of Pakenham and Officer, congestion busting projects are well underway, with the removal of the Cardinia Road level crossing completed in late 2020.
Level crossings at McGregor Road, Main Street and Racecourse Road in Pakenham will be replaced with a rail over road design, expected to be completed in 2024, while level crossings at Brunt Road and Station Street in Beaconsfield are expected to be removed by 2025.
Residents in Pakenham welcomed the opening of the new Edenbrook Secondary College on Henry Road in 2021.
And the future is also looking green, as Cardinia Shire Council is a part of a group of 30 councils in Melbourne as a landmark collective tender to build a waste-to-energy facility at a yet-to-be-decided location. The initiative will see nearly one million tonnes of Melbourne’s household waste managed to reduce landfill and increase resource recovery.
After six years of waiting, the Cockatoo BMX Pump Track at Alma Treloar Reserve officially opened on Saturday 21 March 2020. The BMX track was just one of the projects to be completed as part of the Alma Treloar masterplan.
An upgraded off-leash dog area in the reserve features an enclosed area with temporary agility equipment which can be to moved to make way for circus tents and community events.
Meanwhile, the $20 million Puffing Billy Railway Lakeside Visitor Centre opened recently, with the all-weather facility providing unique cultural interpretations of the relationship between the Dandenong Ranges and Puffing Billy, as well as a new cafe, function spaces, upgraded toilet facilities, and retail, food and beverage options.