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Plan Melbourne Lays Out Development Options

Waterfront view of the City of Melbourne, Australia
The Victorian Coalition Government has created a plan for the City of Melbourne, Australia, that outlines how the city and surrounding areas in the state of Victoria will grow over the next four decades. The plan calls for new satellite cities as well as dense urban infill and mass transit options. Wikimedia Commons/John O’Neill

In the Australian state of Victoria, the premier and the minister for planning have announced an urban renewal and development plan that plots the state’s next 40 years of urban growth.

November 12, 2013—The Victorian Coalition Government has high hopes for the City of Melbourne, Australia, and its surrounding environs. It would like to ensure that Melbourne remains the world’s “most livable city,” according to an announcement made last month by the premier of Vicrtoria, Denis Napthine, and the state’s minister for planning, Matthew Guy. Toward that end the government has created Plan Melbourne, an extensive scheme that lays out how the city of Melbourne and the state of Victoria will grow and expand over the next four decades. From designing new areas for “urban growth” and the necessary infrastructure to accompany these developments in erstwhile rural areas, to the planned creation of an “integrated economic triangle” for the city of Melbourne, Plan Melbourne is an extensive long-term strategy for the city and state.

“This is an integrated land, transport, and economic strategy that will change our thinking about better using city­shaping infrastructure projects to enhance the city’s livability and attract investment and jobs,” said Guy in written responses to questions posed by Civil Engineering online.

Approximately 4.25 million people—three-fourths of Victoria’s population—live in Melbourne, which has been growing and expanding as an urban enclave around Port Phillip Bay since the 1850s, according to the report. By 2050, that number is expected to increase to 6.5 million, requiring an additional 1.2 million jobs, according to Guy.

The plan has been created to help central Melbourne become “the largest economic and demographic center in Australia,” Guy noted. It includes eight main objectives: to create an urban structure in Melbourne that will drive productivity, support innovation, and create jobs; provide diverse housing options in close proximity to jobs and services; provide integrated transportation systems that connect people to jobs and services and connect goods to markets; create healthy, active, and livable neighborhoods; protect natural assets and develop water, energy, and waste management systems that support sustainability; develop a “state of cities” to maximize the population and economic growth of Victoria on a global stage; and produce better governance, planning, regulation, and funding mechanisms at the city and state levels.

To protect the valuable agricultural land that lies just outside the city of Melbourne, a strict urban boundary line for the city will be protected, according to the plan. This will also serve to focus growth in the regional cities that will dot the remainder of the state. 

Melbourne Map

The plan calls for adding economic centers fed by roadway and
mass transit corridors that extend in two directions from the tip of
the city toward two points along the bay, forming a triangular
expansion hub. © Victorian State Government, Department of
Transport, Planning, and Local Infrastructure, 2013

The plan also establishes a blueprint for eight regional growth plans within rural Victoria to create the desired “state of cities,” according to Guy. “By providing opportunities for decentralized population and employment growth in regional cities, we can increase their size and ability to function independently,” he said.

Long-term land use and transportation plans will be used to manage each new city’s growth. The plan also calls for “20-minute” neighborhoods that allocate residential and commercial land-use carefully so that future residents have a short trip to jobs and services, a factor that the government hopes will attract new residents and help provide a sustainable growth pattern for Victoria.

The plan calls for the development of freight and logistics infrastructure along key corridors between Melbourne and the regional cities to support these new cities, as well as strategic developments around railway stations and other transportation infrastructure, according to Guy. This “pipeline of investment opportunities” should increase land use efficiency and productivity and increase economic development, he noted.

The integrated economic triangle around the city of Melbourne specified in the plan involves creating dual transportation and employment corridors that extend from the tip of the city toward two points along the bay, with a third corridor linking the two across the edge of the bay. The city’s metro system and ring road will also be expanded, and the density of the city’s residential growth will be increased in defined locations close to public transportation. The plan also provisionally calls for the creation of an additional airport, to be located off the southeast corner of the city.

The plan has its supporters and skeptics. Some residents within Melbourne would like to see further thought given to how density in the city’s existing neighborhoods is managed. “[The] planners seem to believe that high-density development is unproblematic if done in close proximity to public transport, losing sight of the fact that many residents will still own a car and will need to park it and will use it in an already overloaded road system,” said Claudia Haake, Ph.D., a senior lecturer in history at Latrobe University in Melbourne, in written responses to questions posed by Civil Engineering online. “That is not to say that growth and more high-density housing is not possible or even desirable in some areas, but that more thought will have to go into how to cope with the problems this will bring in terms of parking, traffic volume through adjoining areas, etc.”

This criticism of plans for high-rise developments in already crowded urban environment has been echoed elsewhere by Deputy Opposition Leader James Merlino.

The newly created Metropolitan Planning Authority (MPA) will oversee the expansion efforts called for in Plan Melbourne. The creation of the oversight office was announced last month in conjunction with the plan. “The Metropolitan Planning Authority will work with key stakeholders to plan for greater Melbourne’s growth to attract investment, increase productivity, and sustain and enhance the city’s livability,” said Guy. The authority will work with state government departments and agencies, local governments, landowners, and development partners as it implements the scheme.

“In the immediate term, the MPA’s important tasks will be to implement initiatives outlined in Plan Melbourne and help change the focus of planning from regulation to facilitation,” Guy said. “Long term, the MPA will undertake planning and infrastructure coordination in key urban renewal projects that will lay the foundation for Melbourne’s evolution in generations to come.”

The plan was developed over the course of 18 months in consultation with community members and stakeholders. The government is actively gathering feedback through December 6, 2013, at which point final adjustments to the plan will be made.



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