East West Link controversy continues
Yesterday’s Victorian Auditor-General's report into the termination of Stage 1 of the East West project has shown that 1.16 billion Victorian dollars were spent to build nothing. While both sides of politics are keen to lay the blame for the lost dollars at the feet of the other, the bottom line is that both sides must accept some responsibility. Let’s not forget that the aim of the full East West project is to link the outer west of Melbourne to the outer east with a connection to the north of the CBD. The only genuine East West connection we currently have is the M1 to the south – which is already heavily congested – and with the twin bottlenecks of the Burnley and Domain tunnels it will always struggle capacity wise. An East West link to the north is not a new idea – it has been on the planning agenda for decades, and it will still be on the agenda for decades to come. It is unfortunate that a lack of independent assessment and prioritisation, an unwillingness to take the time to fully explain to all Melburnians why this link matters and a propensity to enter into a rail versus road debate (when clearly we need both) has cost a lot, with nothing to show.
Western Distributor gets the nod
The eastern section of the East West Link may be on the back burner, but for those in the west, approval to commence construction of the Western Distributor is set to provide some welcome relief to increasing congestion levels as population growth continues. What is in effect an improved plan for the original western section of the full East West Link, the Western Distributor will provide an alternative option to the West Gate Freeway by linking the M80 to the City Link. To be funded primarily by Transurban as a tolled road, there will no doubt be some controversy over the build. However, in the absence of large government surpluses available to fund major projects, and an unwillingness from government to borrow money to invest in infrastructure for fear it may impact on the AAA rating, we are left with few options but to look to alternative means of funding. The Western Distributor is a much needed project, and the funding model proposed ensures that government dollars can be directed to the equally important Melbourne Metro rail project. It is a good idea. Let’s ensure we do get a shovel in the ground on this project ASAP.
City Resilience Index
Arup, in conjunction with the Rockefeller Foundation, have developed the City Resilience Index (CRI), a comprehensive and technically robust basis for measuring city resilience that is globally applicable. The CRI focuses on four key ‘cityshaping’ dimensions: Health and wellbeing (ensuring the health and wellbeing of everyone living and working in the city); economy and society (the social and financial systems that enable urban populations to live peacefully, and act collectively); infrastructure and environment (man-made and natural systems that provide critical services, protect and connect urban citizens) and leadership and strategy (the need for informed, inclusive, integrated and iterative decisionmaking in our cities). 58 indicators, which are assessed based on responses to 156 questions, are aggregated through a combination of qualitative and quantitative data and are presented in relation to 12 goals (or indices) that underlie the framework. The CRI is not intended to be used as a tool for comparing cities or for providing a world ranking of cities, but rather as a measure of relative performance of an individual city over time. The CRI will be available as an interactive online assessment tool in 2016.
Port of Melbourne lease
Following the release of the results of the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Privatisation of the Port of Melbourne this week, intense discussions are continuing as the Andrews Government hopes to reach agreement on a deal by close of business today. It appears the government has agreed to remove the provision for an optional 20 year extension on the 50 year lease term, however, there are still two key sticking points to resolve in the negotiations. Labor want to retain a provision to pay compensation to the lessee of the Port for income lost if a new container port is built during the period of the lease agreement, which the opposing parties feel may leave the state exposed to a potentially expensive payout. Treasurer Tim Pallas is also keen to ensure that an option of paying 50 years of annual port licence fees (valued at around $80 million a year) as an upfront lump sum remains. He argues this will maximise the sale price and potentially the federal payment available as part of the asset recycling initiative. Opponents however argue this requirement will limit revenue streams for future governments. All parties have indicated they are negotiating in good faith, so let’s hope an agreement that works in the best interests of Victoria can be struck.
As we continue to look for ways to make housing more affordable and still give a sense of distinction and flexibility for use of space, the Tetris House may be just what we need. This new concept designed by Janjaap Ruijssenaars of Dutch firm Universe Architecture, is a modular system of blocks that slot together in a number of different arrangements. This not only allows the Tetris owner to place rooms such as bathrooms or kitchens wherever deemed fit but they can also be relatively easily moved if needed. More blocks can also be added should the family home need to be extended. Universe say the simplicity of the modular system should ensure that costs for a Tetris home will be well below that of the average local price per square meter. It’s an interesting concept that may provide a solution to the housing affordability issues many cities now face. In fact, given the Tetris blocks can be stacked, this concept may also provide an infill solution for growing populations.