This article was written by Kenneth Davidson in The Age on the 17th. October 2002. With the benefit of hindsight and DADA’s experiences, it seems that his predictions have indeed turned into our nightmare.
Submitted by lhealy on Sat, 24/09/2005
Why Melbourne 2030 is a dream come true for VicRoads
October 17 2002
Developers will love this reconstituted Kennett plan, which tries to hide three wasted years under Labor, writes Kenneth Davidson.
Town planning is about identifying options leading to choices. There are winners and losers. If you believe Melbourne 2030, released last week, every punter with a vested financial interest in Victoria is a winner.
It is simply a restatement of the main elements of the Kennett government’s 1995 planning document (Living Suburbs).
This is not surprising when it is understood that both planning documents were drawn up by the unreconstructed Department of Infrastructure, which is still run from the inside by VicRoads.
What’s different is style. Jeff Kennett was in your face (sometimes literally, with a shovelful of sand, if you were a journalist). Steve Bracks tries to sugar-coat the same pill with phoney consultative processes and documents in warm, earthy colours, subliminally evocative of a sustainable environment, with lots of pictures of happy people enjoying caffe latte society, trams and trains, and hardly a freeway in sight – apart from the odd blurred picture evoking speed and mobility.
Leading up to Melbourne 2030, the Bracks Government undertook a consultative process in two stages over two years, involving 30 meetings with more than 5000 people from across Melbourne. And while they may not have been a representative sample of the population, they were committed, and put a range of sensible ideas up to their interlocutors that deserved serious consideration.
A real plan would go something like this.
First the big question. What are we trying to achieve? Most people agree, it is a liveable city. But for whom? Upper-middle-class Camberwell is serviced by trams that run seven days a week until midnight. In the lower-middle-class Cranbourne/Pakenham growth corridor, buses stop running after 7pm on most nights, and don’t run at all on Sunday. And yet the corridor contains a population of 300,000, the size of Canberra, which manages to run an extensive bus service 365 days of the year.
Just by looking at some of the raw facts, we are already confronted by the issues. Should the scarce public transport infrastructure of the city be shared equitably? If not, why not?
After the issues are defined, this leads on to the consideration of options (freeways versus buses or trams) and evaluation of the possible choices via environmental impact and cost benefit studies. If these studies are honestly and openly carried out, they should lead to the right choices that will be backed by public opinion.
Finally, after the choices are made, a proper planning process requires an implementation plan that lays down a clear set of rules, against which citizens can plan their lives – and developers their investments – with some degree of certainty.
Instead, what we have got is pre-election spiel that attempts to hide three wasted years of government with more spin.
The reader is tantalised. There are worthy statements, such as the government “intends” that public transport’s share of Melbourne trips will double to 20 per cent by 2020. But how? Instead of choices and firm recommendations, we get politico-speak like “Possible future options are . . . facilitate . . . study . . . investigate . . . and prepare a plan”, which can all be brushed aside after the election, while VicRoads gets on with the real business of extending the road network that crowds out public transport development in the outer suburbs.
The worst aspect of the report is the adoption of the Kennett plan that allows major development to occur in 104 “activity centres” around Melbourne. This is virtually an invitation to development, wherever developers want. A decent, equitable transport system and widest possible access to the specialised services that make city living a civilised joy rather than an isolated hell depends on concentrating sub-centre or CBD-type development in no more than six centres about Melbourne.
These centres were identified in the 1950s by the late and much-lamented Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW), and they still remain valid today. They are Box Hill, Frankston, Dandenong, Footscray, Preston and Moorabbin.
Planning is about choosing. The activity centres concept is about freedom of choice for developers. Planning is about picking winners and telling developers where and under what conditions they can invest.
Firm planning, backed by tough, unambiguous legislation – rather than backroom negotiation and case-by-case arbitration as exemplified by VCAT – is the best way to avoid corruption and probably leads to better planning outcomes.
The only thing Melbourne 2030 tells us is that a thoroughly politicised planning process doesn’t work in Victoria. Melbourne planning needs an arm’s-length authority along the lines of a reconstituted MMBW.