Committee Communiqué

Economic engine room a focus for Melbourne

The recent drop in commodity prices has signaled the end of the mining boom, but it is not the end of the world. For a state like Victoria, that did not have access to the rich resources of Western Australia and Queensland, and a city like Melbourne, that has always relied on our innovation and creativity to generate prosperity, we have carved out a strong global space for ourselves. As times get tougher, it is now more important than ever that we keep our vision firmly on the future, and Melbourne's economic engine room must be a key focus. Speaking with Mat Dunckley of The Age, CEO Kate Roffey noted "we have always been a courageous city, not afraid to be at the forefront and try new things. I think we have lost a bit of that recently. We have to start being courageous again”. We need to be thinking seriously about the sectors we have natural advantages in that we can leverage – and start backing some winners. This does not mean reverting to the old model of subsidy-based attraction, but rather looking at ways we can help these sectors and industries grow.

A bigger and better Fishermans Bend

Planning Minister Richard Wynne has announced plans for a ‘bigger and better’ Fishermans Bend development with the addition of a new employment precinct, taking the renewal area from 250 to 455 hectares. This equates to an area bigger than the Hoddle grid and Docklands combined and ranks Fishermans Bend as the biggest urban renewal development in Australia. One of the key changes under the Andrews government’s plan is to develop Fishermans Bend as five distinct precincts rather than as one single development. This has advantages in that it makes each development more manageable, but also carries with it the risk of not optimising the collective potential of this area if a fully coordinated approach to seamlessly integrating these precincts is not taken. Fishermans Bend really does provide Melbourne with the opportunity to develop the world’s most innovative central city area, but to do this we will have to have the courage to think outside the box and challenge the status quo.

International students want quality and quantity

The 2014 International Student Survey released on Monday has shown that 88 per cent of international students were 'satisfied' or 'very satisfied' with studying in Australia. Given that the international student market is Victoria’s largest export, this is good news for our economy. The Committee for Melbourne is currently completing a discussion paper on the importance of Melbourne’s international student sector, both in an economic and cultural sense. Our city has always been an incredibly strong international student destination, in fact, Melbourne has the largest international student population of any Australian city. We cannot however afford to be complacent in our efforts to further develop and strengthen our reputation as an international student destination – our brand is dependent on both the quality of the educational offering and the quality of the off-campus living experience. As representatives from Victorian universities, TAFEs and private providers prepare to travel to Brazil, Chile, Columbia and Peru to build relationships with these emerging markets, it is important to remember that success relies on both quality and quantity.

West East Link on the cards?

According to Australian Financial Review, 'sources' have indicated the Andrews government may be looking to undertake a road project that deals with the western section of the full East West Link. The western section – which would provide redundant capacity for the West Gate Freeway in the form of a much needed second river crossing and connect the Tullamarine Freeway to the Western Ring Road – was funded as Stage 2 of the Napthine government’s full East West Link plan. In fact, it has always formed part of the capacity building plans for the city proposed in 1996 as part of the Eddington report. Many have argued that the western section of the full link should have been prioritised over the eastern section and would have proved to be a much less controversial project. With the announcement last week that the East West Link contract negotiations have finally been resolved, we can assume this highly controversial project has drawn its last breath – for the time being at least. There is no doubt however, that we need a second road connection between the west and the east and that a full East West Link will one day be built. The question of whether or not the Andrews government will take up the challenge of the western link during this term of office however, is far from resolved.

Tram timetables a tricky business

If you were surprised to learn that Melbourne’s trams run to a timetable, then rest assured, you were not the only one. It seems almost impossible to think that a tram, that shares the road with vehicles, could ever run to a set time schedule. It is the norm, not the exception, to find your tram travel almost invariably disrupted by cars queued across intersections during the peak hour rush, or a car waiting to turn right across oncoming traffic. When tram and vehicle travel intersect, it is likely that the free flowing progress of your tram will at some point in your journey be impeded. It seems a little unrealistic then, to base service standards on adherence to a timetable which in the majority of cases is beyond the control of the tram driver, or in fact Yarra Trams as the service provider, given they are at the mercy of the traffic conditions. Studies in the US show customer satisfaction is not dependent on adherence to a timetable. Rather, applications like tramTRACKER, that let the traveller know how long the wait is until the next service arrives are found to be much more useful.

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