Dear Prime Minister,
I note that your government is keen to get the concept of 'City Deals' up and running in Australia, with the recent focus on Western Sydney, the Emerald City's second airport and associated infrastructure.
I would like to draw your attention toward the ongoing planning work underway in Victoria; the redevelopment Fishermans Bend as well as the large-scale upgrades to Melbourne's rail network.
Our state government released the Fishermans Bend vision after several rounds of consultation and key amongst its priorities is getting the transport hierarchy right. With walking at the top and private vehicles at the bottom, it's bound to upset a few tabloid columnists & talkback radio presenters, but this is Melbourne: we don't give them as much cred as the Sydney media bubble does.
As I understand it, the basic premise of a City Deal is for the community, represented by the government, to get a positive return on investment on the money the government provides to build new or upgrade existing infrastructure - be it in transport, health, education or social spheres.
Well, Fishermans Bend linked to the rest of Melbourne through an underground train line - let's call it 'Metro 2' for the moment (and 'Metro 1' is the current Melbourne Metro Rail project that kicked off early works construction last month) - is, if you'll excuse the parochialisms, the country's largest urban renewal precinct that will pay out (pay back?) for decades to come.
In fact, we need to widen the scope of where the benefits will be derived from the investment made into a second cross-town rail line in Melbourne.
Both the South Morang (soon-to-be Mernda) and Werribee Rail lines would join - much like the Pakenham/Cranbourne and Sunbury lines will join with Metro 1 - and become operationally independent rail lines capable of a frequency of service and therefore carrying capacity that will would tinkle on any freeway business case from a very great height.
While the South Morang & Werribee lines would still function as a commuter pathway into central Melbourne - of which, Fishermans Bend will make Australia's metropole even more marvellously grand - I'd like to draw your attention to other mooted projects outside central Melbourne.
Australian Education City will be located right next to the Werribee Rail line and the Victorian Planning Authority is currently devising a plan for the La Trobe National Employment cluster. The South Morang Rail line will not directly service the La Trobe National Employment Cluster, however that's not to say something can't be worked out when Infrastructure Victoria refreshes its state infrastructure plan.
The point is, Prime Minister, Metro 2 has the potential to fulfil its current commuter obligations, guide development in Fishermans Bend and most importantly supercharge & spread the benefits of development of employment, R&D and new housing clusters beyond central Melbourne. All on one train line.
The traditionalist view of the great Australian dream of owning a home [in a suburb with 3-4 cars in the driveway] needs a refresh and a city deal for Fishermans Bend could be the way forward for Melbourne; the city that is one equal half in the symbiotic Melbourne-Sydney "front bench of parliament" relationship in the Australian federation.
Our planning scheme is starting to facilitate innovation and entrepreneurialism when it comes to development of land - just look at the Nightingale series of developments. That's not to say the Victorian Planning scheme (or strategic direction) is perfect - as the Nightingale architects will tell you, they're still confronted with bygone-era car parking requirements.
Similarly, Spring Street planning policy to date has been focused on curbing the excesses of the previous state government's hands-off approach (the Fishermans Bend vision is a prime example of this) and we're still waiting for a meaningful affordable housing policy with proper mechanisms in place to ensure housing choice for urbanists isn't linked with specific income brackets.
Nevertheless, we're hoping a direction on market affordable and social housing policy will come soon and the Victorian Urban Industry - architects, marketers, planners, engineers, real estate agents, surveyors, academics, financiers and developers to name but a few individual urban industry professions - is diverse, growing and hungry for more work.
Commitment to a 'City Deal' in Fishermans Bend with a Federal Government focus on helping to finance Metro 2 and associated level crossing removals on the existing rail lines that will be joined would be the gold-standard level of assurance the Victorian Urban Industry needs to get on with its job.
- passionate Melburnists everywhere.