Planning Minister Richard Wynne
Over lunch today with Committee for Melbourne members, Planning Minister Richard Wynne spoke about some of the priority areas for planning going forward. Within four kilometers of 101 Collins Place, in the heart of the Melbourne CBD, we have 640 hectares of developable land. In the City of Wyndham, there are 74 children born every week – enough to fill three classrooms. We have a rapidly growing population, and by far and away the largest area of inner city developable area of any major Australian capital. But we need to think more creatively about affordable housing options, look more sensibly at urban infill along our transport corridors, set some clearer principles for development approvals, and think about becoming a more energy efficient city. As the Minister noted, this means we need to work better to get our planning right. We need to innovate, learn from past mistakes and fill in the urban planning gap between design and development. Most importantly though, we need to put politics aside and look for bipartisan support on our long-term vision.
Tulla Widening & Western Distributor projects
The announcement the much needed Tullamarine Freeway and CityLink project PPP is finally set to go ahead after a post-election stall is good news, and Transurban’s Western Distributor project should also get the nod. The Tulla Widening project will add capacity between the city and Melbourne airport, reportedly improving travel time by up to 20 minutes, as well as deal with bottlenecks around the Bolte Bridge and West Gate Freeway connections. The Western Distributor proposal, which includes an essential second river crossing that will ease pressure on the West Gate Bridge, is a key building block in finally connecting the east and west sides of greater Melbourne. Primarily funded by Transurban, together these projects will build vital capacity on our freeways. While many want to buy into the roads versus rail debate, this is not an either-or discussion. There are areas in and around the greater metropolitan area that do not have ready access to public transport options, and there is a freight task we need to consider as well. These projects are good ideas. Let’s get the building phase underway. More information from Transurban.
A sensible talk on funding mechanisms needed
Raising the question of direct and indirect user pays mechanisms to help fund infrastructure is controversial, but necessary. In fact, in 2012 the Committee raised these issues in our Moving Melbourne: A Transport Funding and Financing Discussion Paper. While we have become quite comfortable with direct charges like tolls on freeways and public transport travel fares, we are not so welcoming of concepts like business or property developer contributions. There are many good examples of value capture mechanisms having been successfully implemented, in particular the Business Rates Supplement being used to part fund the London Crossrail project – a charge in fact voted in by businesses in the area themselves. In The Age today, CEO Kate Roffey noted that as a sophisticated and smart city we can, and must, have a sensible conversation around how we can all make a reasonable contribution if we want to fund our infrastructure build at the rate we need. The big upside of contributing is that it places the pressure directly on government to hypothecate, and when you refocus the discussion to say we will contribute to that specific project that does benefit my business or provide value uplift, you get a completely different conversation.
Securing Avalon flights important for our future
This week’s announcement from the Andrews government to secure Jetstar flights from Avalon airport for the next 10 years under a $26 million deal is an important step in retaining a second domestic airport in the greater Melbourne area. You only need to look to Sydney as it struggles to secure agreement over a second airport location to realise that part of this deal is about providing some security for our future needs. Finding a parcel of land close enough to any city to accommodate an airport is difficult, and once gone, the chances of getting this land back in the future when needed are slim. Securing this facility now for the future is crucial, as is the process of zoning nearby land to ensure that the curfew-free status of our airports is retained in perpetuity.
Hume City Council are looking to take an innovative step forward by introducing solar-powered compactor bins into their parks and reserves. These Australian-built solar bins have their own internal compactors that regularly crush rubbish thereby providing an eight-fold increase in can capacity. Equipped with Wi-Fi, these bins also send out alerts when they are almost full meaning they can be emptied as and when needed. They are more expensive to install than the traditional trash can, but in the long-run the savings appear to add up. Having these bins in New York’s Times Square has reduced bin emptying requirements from nine times daily to three. Iin Nambucca Heads, New South Wales, a 200km per day rubbish collection trip has been reduced down to 50kms. Innovations that change the world are sometimes so simple, we wonder why they are not the norm rather than the exception.