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Melbourne, Let's Talk about the Future, Oct 2012

Over the next 40 years, Melbourne's is to be projected, or force-fed, to grow geographically and in population.
The discussion paper is how to plan for that growth and miraculously at the same time “ensuring our city remains one of the most diverse, distinctive and liveable cities in the world”. The “discussion” is not about democratically deciding whether we want the growth or not, but propaganda that endorses the benefits of growth, and how to implement it. It's a long term vision, of continuous growth- whether we want it or not!

Melbourne, Let's Talk about the Future, Oct 2012

Over the next 40 years, Melbourne's is to be projected, or force-fed, to grow geographically and in population.

The discussion paper is how to plan for that growth and miraculously at the same time “ensuring our city remains one of the most diverse, distinctive and liveable cities in the world”. The “discussion” is not about democratically deciding whether we want the growth or not, but propaganda that endorses the benefits of growth, and how to implement it. It's a long term vision, of continuous growth- whether we want it or not!

The Victorian government wants conversation with the community on how to respond to population growth, economic challenges and profound demographic changes that will be socially engineered through record high levels of immigration – and “natural” growth. On one hand we are fortunate that our culture is not one that endorses large families, or the growth of tribes. Our population growth rate is a government-based, an economic model, one that can easily be addressed – politically.

Benefit of growth

This discussion is about people’s quality of life. It is also about finding new ways to share the “benefits of growth and investment, and the responsibilities of delivering these benefits”. It doesn't actually say what the “benefits” of growth will be – other than for businesses and the property industries. While the growth-based economic model has served us well in the past, but is no longer appropriate in a planet, a nation, of diminishing and finite resources.

While accommodating this growth, we are suppose to have “choices about where
we live and work, how we travel to and from work and what we do in our leisure time – these are all influenced by how we plan and manage the growth of our city”. On the contrary, the greater our population grows, the less choices we have about where we live, housing alternatives, how we travel, our leisure time, and the costs of living. Living in the more “affordable” fringe areas of Melbourne means having a income per year of at least 70,000, but this means being denied public transport, and more reliance on cars.

What benefits?

We face many challenges and choices if Melburnians are to continue to share the benefits of growth and development..... Urban renewal can have many positive effects. It can replenished housing stock and improve quality; it can increase density and reduce sprawl; it can deliver economic benefits and improve the global economic competitiveness of a city’s centre. It may improve social opportunities, and it may also improve safety through passive surveillance.

Planning for our future is not about the abstract – it is about people’s quality of life. It is also about finding new ways to share the benefits of growth and investment, and the responsibilities of delivering these benefits.

Growth is not a pre-condition for improving quality of housing. Increasing housing density is not a benefit, and reducing urban sprawl is not guaranteed as our city has been growing outward as well as upward. People still prefer to live in the privacy of a house, with a garden and amenities despite being in far-flung suburbs. The “economic benefits” are not for the public, but for those associated with the housing industry, and mega-stores and businesses.

The discussion paper on planning Melbourne's future, (The Age, 26/10) released by the Baillieu government, warns that housing has become less affordable, pushing people further out to where there are fewer services and jobs.

The report also says that in just two decades the number of people fully owning a home in Melbourne has dropped from 40 to 30 per cent and the number of people paying off a mortgage has risen from 30 to 35 per cent. Households on Melbourne's median income of $70,300 a year were being blocked from the city's housing market with few suburbs now affordable. “Medium” income means that there are many people living on under $70k per year and are locked out of home ownership, even if the fringes of Melbourne.

More population growth will only add to the squeeze on affordable housing, increase land prices, push up the demand for public housing and force more people to “choose” high density living.

No “sacred cows”

Jennifer Cunich, from the Property Council, welcomed the planning discussion paper and said there should be no ''sacred cows in this important community debate''. The “sacred cow” that needs to be sent to slaughter it the myth that ongoing population growth in Melbourne will give us any benefits.

The only beneficiaries will be the property developers, banks and investors.

There appears to be little inclination of governments and businesses to abandon their enthusiasm for the "sacred cow" of their growth-based economic model - something inappropriate in a world of finite and diminishing resources.

The reports includes: 2050, Melbourne's population will likely be between 5.6 and 6.4 million.

Another recent document from the Planning Department (DPCD)
“Victoria in the future: 2012 - Population and household projections 2011 – 2031 for Victoria and its Regions”
states that:
Over the 40 years to 2051, Victoria’s population is projected to increase by 3.2 million to 8.7 million. Over the same period, Melbourne’s population is expected to grow to 6.5 million, while regional Victoria is projected to grow to 2.3 million. The “projected” growth will obviously be controversial, so they dose out their growth plans in small, digestible doses!

....a possible new airport in the south west of Melbourne, serving one third of Victoria's population. There is adequate capacity to increase the number of aircraft flying into Melbourne ...

A new airport denies peak oil, and the increasing costs of aviation fuel. According to a graph in the Sydney Airport Master Plan of 2009, there should have been 42.5 million passengers at Kingsford-Smith airport in 2012. But extrapolating growth data up to August this year, passenger traffic in 2012 is likely to be just 36.3 million or 85% of this estimate. While international traffic grew continuously, domestic traffic stayed practically flat at around 24 million pa since 2010.

While the “immigration” debate rests on asylum seekers arriving by boat, the vast hoards of new arrivals arrive at air ports – without debate! But jet travel is also something that does and will always depend on liquid fuel, so it is likely that constraints in the liquid fuel supply will directly show through into constraints in jet travel. Fossil fuels are being relentlessly depleted, it takes an inexorable amount energy to produce them, resulting in a cumulative and rising energy demand overall.

A policy U-turn to limit the use of biofuels comes after studies cast doubt on the carbon dioxide emissions savings from using crop-based fuels, and following a poor harvest in key grain growing regions that pushed up prices and revived fears of food shortages. The amount of land available worldwide that is not suitable for agricultural use is currently estimated at anywhere between 600 million and 3.5 billion hectares, according to the Aviation Initiative for Renewable Energy in Germany (AIREG).

A “20 minute” city, with jobs and services within 20 minutes of home..

Congestion significantly impacts Victoria's productivity and liveability. In Melbourne, both the Commonwealth Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics and the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission estimated the
cost of congestion in 2005-06 was in the billions of dollars
and both institutions expect this to double in the next 10 to 15 years.

Services need to be provided in a more timely manner to urban growth areas and established outer areas of Melbourne. ...

More freeways and roads will simply attract more cars and traffic, and the cost of providing for these “services”, always failing to keep abreast to growth, need to be funded at a time households are already suffering from high costs of living.

The debate about infill housing in Melbourne must move beyond the impact of villa units on suburban streets and address how we can deliver the diverse housing, in the right locations, at a reasonable price. Rather than “diverse” housing, we are seeing more cookie-cutter developments, and more ubiquitous high density apartments and sky-scrapers. The rising costs of land will prohibit “reasonable” prices for housing. More people will be forced to “choose” higher density living and smaller living compartments.

Melbourne is a suburban city and that will not change. The environmental performance of its suburbs can be dramatically improved. The last decades have seem Melbourne not improve, but decline. TAFE funding has been cut, schools are closing, public housing waiting lists are exploding, even for “urgent” cases. (10 years). Hospital funding is being cut, public transport is failing to keep up with demands, and our city is continually suffering from “shortages”. The costs of population growth are simply ignored.

shifting housing growth to towns and regional centres...
House prices cripple many families. Mortgage pressure is an increasing concern. Population pressure and densification produce ever-worsening traffic jams which merely add to the time parents spend away from home. Victoria’s regional house market yielded a stronger result over the past year than Melbourne’s.  Over the past 12 months the regional increase was 8.5%, according to the REIV June quarter survey.

Across Victoria, there is also a large-scale population shift happening now with tens of thousands moving from the Wimmera, Mallee and Western District to regional centres such as Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo. This is putting new pressure on services and infrastructure in those areas while other towns, districts and communities are drained of people and the economic lifeblood they need to thrive. There are massive gaps in public transport, community services and employment options on the urban fringe and in regional Victoria fueling increased demand for emergency assistance and financial support, and it is community and welfare organisations that are forced to fill the “service hole” created by the lack of investment.

People in these communities find it harder to cope with unaffordable housing, rising costs for utilities and other non-discretionary spending items – such as food, health care, education, and transport, the increased cost of which have a disproportionate impact on low-income households. Meanwhile, job losses in manufacturing and other sectors of the Victorian economy are starting to bite.

The ills of Melbourne are spreading out to regional areas, and Councils are under financial stress.

The most pressing issue facing councillors about to be elected to office in rural and regional areas is how best to protect ratepayers from the impact of the developing financial crisis in local government. Over the past few years nearly all rural and regional councils have become financially reliant on increasing rates and charges at about twice the pace of their metropolitan counterparts and sometimes up to five times CPI.

options for funding new infrastructure – such as user-pay tolls, asset sales, borrowing, and project-specific bonds..

A very detailed study for the former Bureau of Immigration Research found the net cost to government budgets for an annual migrant intake of 114,000 was well over $3 billion dollars, or about $34,500 (in 1992 dollars) per immigrant. (Mark O'Connor) So the existing population needs to spend at least $200,000 on infrastructure for each new person added to Australia. If this is not spent before the new people arrive, we get the congested roads, hospital queues, overcrowded trains that we see in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Selling off more assets means more privatisation and higher costs, something that will only benefit the buyers and shareholders, not the public. Selling off capital assets that belong to the public for day to day running costs is not good business practice. It's an admission that the economic “benefits” of population growth fail to cover the costs.

creating a new metropolitan planning authority to guide development..
One option is to establish a metropolitan planning authority which, amongst other responsibilities, would coordinate relevant Government agencies in the timely delivery of city-shaping infrastructure and other projects of metropolitan significance.
Already we have too many tiers of planning, with public consultation and Councils giving approvals, then to have them rejected by VCAT. Another tier or “authority” will give one more storey of detachment from democratic input from those who carry the impacts the most – the public of Melbourne.

Environmental costs of population growth

Melbourne needs to be environmentally resilient. We need to be able to respond to changing environmental and climate conditions and ensure development does not undermine natural values.
We will need to use resources more efficiently and produce less waste.

City growth should be about expanding people’s choices and giving them the capabilities to exercise choices for a better life, while respecting the natural environment – on which we, future generations, and our native species depend.

Melbournians,due to overpopulation, already have a $24 billion bill for water from the desal plant!

On the contrary, The Baillieu Government's decision to scrap plans for the creation of vital habitat corridors for Victoria's endangered Southern Brown Bandicoot have angered conservation groups. "Obviously the Victorian Government has been captured by developers and is failing to take into account long-term conservation and community needs." VPNA

"The environmental side of growth planning in Victoria has become a shambles and is putting the credibility of the entire process under question," VPNA Executive Director Mr Ruchel said. The expansion of Melbourne's urban growth boundary will also include the clearing of critically endangered grassland and woodlands, as well as the establishment of large grassland reserves west of the city and 200m wildlife corridors on each side of creeks for to help protect Growling Grass Frog habitat.

Globally, city populations are expected to grow by five billion people and expand by 1.2 million square kilometers by 2030. Much of this expansion is forecast to occur in the tropics, which contain the bulk of the world's species.

Global population will expand to up to 10 billion people this century, with two billion additional people on the planet within 40 years, all needing food, water and shelter.  Climate change will further wreak havoc on basic human needs. We have world-wide threats of "peaks" in energy, water, soils, fertilizers and species losses.   it's obvious that growth - what served us well in the past - can't be a model for the future.

Matthew Guy and the Baillieu government, and our Federal government, seem to consider we can make growth policies in a vacuum, as if we live in a parallel universe of endless resources, untouched by Earth's limits.

Protecting future generations, an their quality of live

An Australia with a stable population promises a better and safer quality of life for our children and grandchildren, and secures more choices in the face of global threats and depletions. Although our current population is higher population than we should have, it is at least a population we can still plan for. It is logically impossible to plan for an indefinitely increasing population and ignoring the constraints, the limits to growth, will compromise us socially, environmentally and economically.

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How is our city meant to grow, and at the same time increase the quality of life, better choice of housing, and improve our economy? Obviously housing affordability is declining, while costs of living are increasing. A study by the Essential Services Commission also found electricity prices increased by an average 33 per cent over the past five years; and gas by 22 per cent over the same period.

Over 50% of the cost of power is due to distribution costs - the "poles and wires". A bigger Melbourne, geographically and in population size, will further cause power rises as dis-economies of scale become engorged even more.

Melbourne's household water bills are set to soar by an average of 34 per cent next financial year. Each distributor has flagged large increases next year, to cover the cost of the Wonthaggi desalination plant. Families face water bill hikes of up to $310 on an average bill next year, the new documents reveal. It comes as Victorians are warned of another blow - experts tipping power bill increases of at least $150 from next year.

Up to 2000 Victorian families are at greater risk of being made homeless this year because of state government budget cuts to a housing support program. A manager from one of the housing support agencies, who asked not to be named, said the 30 per cent funding cut and a proposed further 10 per cent cut next year meant more than 2600 households would miss out on help.

A decade into the planning Melbourne 2030 scheme we have seen escalating inner city dwelling prices push most home buyers well out of contention and price increases in suburbia push more would-be property punters out to the urban fringe.

In other words, the exact opposite of what the government intended with Melbourne 2030 has occurred and in fact, late last decade, house and land prices on the fringe were no longer affordable for most aspiring first-home buyers as the stock of land marked for subdivision had depleted.

The limits of growth are numerous, and further growth for Melbourne will only exacerbate the existing problems, and add more. Monash University’s Bob Birrell says, “Those planning Melbourne’s future have not come to grips with the causes of Melbourne’s affordability crisis. The provision of even more high-rise apartment blocks or further extension of the Urban Growth Boundary, — the current Victorian Government’s strategy — will not provide a solution.”

By J Hood.
My nightly train journey home was once a joy
It was express, fast and comfortable
Every night the regular chaps
The paper tucked under their arm, colleagues joking
We all recognised each other, not by name so much
More familiar nod or hello
And we all had our usual seats

The seats used to be numbered in fact
An old timer once told me you could book a numbered seat
It was the country train then
And the nightly train journey was a joy

But then someone heralded ‘multiculturalism’
Whitlam and Fraser opened the flood gates
Millions from all walks of life arrived in my lucky country
Prices went up, houses went up, costs went up
The city grew and grew and grew
New languages, new cultures, new babies, all welcomed with open arms

And we were tolerant and accepting
But they kept coming and coming
Jamming the city

An exclusive opportunity to be briefed on the Metropolitan Planning Strategy Discussion Paper, Melbourne, let’s talk about the future.
Hear about the ideas presented in the Discussion Paper, insights for the delivery
of this critical strategy and how you can be involved.
Join the discussion on some of the challenges and ideas for Melbourne’s future
including growth and consolidation, transport, affordable living and employment.

4:00pm to 6:00pm
Tuesday 20th November 2012
Gippsland Room
Investment Centre Victoria
Level 46, 55 Collins Street
Tea and coffee provided
Please RSVP to:
Ms Nikita Walsh, MPS Unit,
Department of Planning and
Community Development
03 9208 3837
Hon. Matthew Guy MLC
Minister for Planning
Roz Hansen
Chair, MPS Advisory Committee

By J Hood
I wait on the platform
I take a seat to wait for the next train
Another half hour added to my journey
I watch my train leave with out me, crowded to the gunwales

The foreigners we let in have taken over my train
They got their seats first, I came later
But I was here first, they came later
This is my country, my birth place, my ancestors’ home
Doesn’t seem right
What’s the gov’ment done?

I board the next train
I get a seat
T’is late and I’m tired
My train fills with ethnics
My train now stops to pick up more
It’s cramped and slow
And there are no seats left

It’s no longer express
It’s no longer familiar
No longer the joy
I see the changes in the streets and shops
I can’t read the signs

MELBOURNE has been ranked eighth in a new global ''city prosperity index'' by the United Nations.

Our city prospers in New UN Test The Age

Ironically, it gets high marks for infrastructure and environmental sustainability, but less for ''equity and social inclusion''. Maybe they are hinting that our great ideal of "multiculturalism", and the fragmentation of families due to high immigration levels, is a negative influence?

The State of the World's Cities 2012/2013: Prosperity of Cities report examined 95 cities but Melbourne was the only Australian city. The top three most prosperous cities in the index were Vienna, Helsinki and Oslo. Vienna has less than 2 million people, Helsinki’s population was 595,384 at year-end 2011 and Oslo, 613,000. Immigrants are set to make up almost half of Oslo’s population by 2040, according to Statistics Norway. It's prompted an immediate call for more restrictive immigration policies from Progress Party leader Siv Jensen.

Obviously it's easier to maintain a healthy city without the "lopsided" impact of tunnel-vision focused on economic growth. "A lopsided focus on purely financial prosperity has led to growing inequalities between rich and poor, generated serious distortions in the form and functionality of cities, also causing serious damage to the environment - not to mention the unleashing of precarious financial systems that could not be sustained in the long run.." said United Nations Under-Secretary-General Joan Clos.

How economist measure a city's success is different from what residents would assess. Obviously the UN didn't go into the fringe growth areas where there's little public transport, housing is unaffordable, double figure youth unemployment, rising crime, and health care is at a minimum. It defies any sense of the terms they were using!!