CfM calls for independent infrastructure prioritisation
Today, the Committee for Melbourne launched The case for an independent Infrastructure Victoria, a discussion paper outlining best practice principles for establishing an independent, accountable and transparent infrastructure prioritisation entity. Committee for Melbourne CEO Kate Roffey noted that while the report acknowledges Melbourne’s good track record of delivering infrastructure and the role it has played in shaping the successful city Melbourne is today, it highlights the fact that our rate of build has not kept pace with our rapidly growing population. We can make significant headway to close the infrastructure divide, but to do so we must move to a system that prioritises a long-term pipeline of projects that have bipartisan support in order to have clarity and certainty moving forward. Cross-party agreement can be achieved, however at some point it requires a coalition of the willing to agree to come together to make better long-term decisions. Independent prioritisation of infrastructure projects may be a politically contentious issue, but it is a necessity to ensure the long-term growth and development of our city and it is a path down which we must proceed.
The Committee would like to acknowledge and thank all our member organisations which have had direct input into the development of this paper.
Funding a critical element for success
A reliable funding base as well as best practice project delivery will be critical factors in delivering best value for money infrastructure projects. As such, we must give careful consideration to providing a direct funding link to our independent infrastructure entity. According to UK infrastructure expert Sir John Armitt, organisations that have an attached funding stream are more likely to be robust over the long-term. In addition, best practice shows optimal results will be achieved when there is a direct link between the prioritisation of projects and the allocation of funds. In today's Herald Sun, CEO Kate Roffey noted that we need to be thinking about how we can create new funding streams to ensure the next wave of independently prioritised major projects are appropriately funded. New South Wales is emerging as a domestic leader in this space with the establishment of a dedicated “Restart” infrastructure fund which will be used to fund the priority list of projects assessed by Infrastructure New South Wales. Establishing a similar fund that is directly linked to Victoria’s project pipeline must also be considered.
The future of our cities is fiction
On Wednesday, Committee for Melbourne members joined Dr Chris Luebkeman, Director Global Foresight and Innovation at Arup, to discuss Cities of the Future. As an expert futurologist, Chris travels extensively around the world looking at the way cities grow and develop over time. Looking forward, Chris noted that ‘the future is fiction’. We have the opportunity to write our own future, but this requires a lens that has a 20 year focus rather than the short-term focal range we commonly work under. According to Chris, one of the keys to the successful growth of a city like Melbourne is to focus on better understanding why people will choose to live here in the future, and working to ensure we make our city a place of choice, not a place of fate. Conversely, one of the key threats to the ongoing growth of a city is supply chain fragility in the form of urban sprawl. If we become too stretched, the chain will break. This is a highly relevant point we should take heed of as a metropolis that continues to spread rapidly into urban growth corridors.
We are willing to give
Yesterday, the front page of The Age told the story of ‘Alicia’, a homeless schoolgirl living under a bridge as she completes her Year 11 studies. From the age of 9 or 10, this young girl has slept on the streets to seek refuge from her violent home. Since then, she has lived in shelters and youth refuges, but these options were so traumatic she decided a tent under a bridge was preferable. The Age’s coverage of this story sparked an overwhelming response from the community who have provided funding support, offers of accommodation and work experience opportunities for 'Alicia' who is determined to achieve against the odds stacked against her. Melanie Raymond, Chair of Committee for Melbourne member organisation Youth Projects, who came across Alicia at their drop-in centre and has since raised awareness of her situation, told The Age that there are ‘big-hearted readers who are prepared to get behind an issue that is plaguing Melbourne’. The support provided to Alicia will hopefully ensure she can continue her studies without having to worry about survival on a day-to-day basis. But much more needs to be done. There are many more Alicias out there who need support.
Accommodation a key for international students
The 2014 National Census of University Student Accommodation Providers report, released this week, warns there is a lack of quality student housing in Australia that adequately caters to the market, and this has a negative impact on our appeal as an international student destination of choice. Over the past eight months, the Committee has been undertaking an extensive review of Melbourne’s international student sector. One of the areas that students themselves highlight as a growing concern is the lack of affordable and suitable accommodation options close to university campuses. Increasingly, we hear cases of international students resorting to suboptimal options like ‘hot-bedding’ (sleeping in shifts) or sleeping in garages and sheds. It is important to note that with the significant numbers of apartments being built in and around the CBD, the issue may not be one of volume alone, but rather one of lack of suitable, affordable and accessible options. With more international higher education students than any other city in Australia, ensuring the provision of the right accommodation solutions for all our students is an issue Melbourne must seek to better understand, and ultimately solve.