Committee Communiqué

2015 Federal Budget

The general response to the 2015 Federal Budget handed down on Tuesday is one of cautious approval. Most argue that it is a reasonable budget – as expected given the current political constraints – with some positive upsides, in particular incentives for small business designed to stimulate this key sector to boost jobs and economic growth. Financially, most consider the budget does little to harm the economy, and the confirmation by Standard and Poor's, Moody’s and Fitch that our AAA rating will remain intact for the time being reiterates this. From a state perspective, cuts to Federal contributions to health and education are key areas for concern. Once again, the East West Link has managed to sneak into the spotlight, with the $1.5 billion dollars secured by the Napthine Government for the now defunct project having been included in the bottom line of both the State and Federal Budgets, raising the question of who will get to keep the money. With Tony Abbott calling on its return, and Daniel Andrews insisting it will stay in Victoria, it is clear the budget bottom line is yet to be clearly drawn. Committee for Melbourne's Federal Budget Overview.

Old fashioned thinking set to limit speed

Recent reports that a standard 80km/h speed limit will become a permanent fixture along the Tulla Freeway between Power Street and the Melrose Drive exit after completion of widening works, must surely raise the question of why we aren’t tapping into technological advances to set variable speed limits for different times of the day. It seems insensible to think that at 11pm on a weeknight or 10am on a Sunday, when traffic flows are minimal, a 100km/h speed limit would not be appropriate. Variable limits allow for fitting speeds to be set to suit traffic conditions. This not only means increasing speed limits when traffic volumes are low, but also allows for speeds below 80km/h to be set if needed, for example in the case of a breakdown or accident. Implementing a broad brush one-size-fits-all approach makes a lot less sense than setting speed limits to suit  travel conditions. We have access to the technology. It is well past time we introduced variable speed limit management on all our major roads.

Can urban design create culture

On Wednesday, CEO Kate Roffey joined Rob Adams, City of Melbourne Director of Design, and UK visitor Andrew Dixon to discuss urban planning and renewal on the 'Conversation Hour' with Jon Faine. The focus of the discussion was on the role of cultural renewal, and in particular, how to create cultural regeneration. In a recent CityLab article, international expert Richard Florida noted that the urbanity and organic texture of cultural development means that it tends to evolve over time rather than respond to efforts to engineer it from scratch, although it will develop if the right urban environment is provided. The Postcode 3000 initiative – widely acknowledged to be one of the best examples of cultural rejuvenation worldwide – is a great example of how the seeds of culture will sprout if you plant them in the right environment. Andrew Dixon, an expert in cultural rejuvenation of a number of Northern English towns has embarked on an ambitious plan to make Hull in the UK’s Yorkshire region the UK ‘City of Culture’ 2017. We will watch with great interest to see if the seeds of this idea prove fruitful.

Smart Seeds

Last week, CEO Kate Roffey joined a panel of experts to judge the 2015 GHD Smart Seeds competition. Smart Seeds is an innovation competition for young professionals focused on solving challenges in the urban design and infrastructure sectors. The winner of the 2015 competition was DREAMHOME, an idea that put an innovative new slant on the challenge of finding houses for everyone that are still quintessentially 'Melbourne'. The DREAMHOME concept aims to bring together home owners or potential investors to create their own solutions. Using the example of three neighbours – a young single professional, a 60 year old grandmother who wants to downsize, and little Max who lives with his parents and wants a playground close by – DREAMHOME provided the process for these groups to come together and combine their land to build five townhouses and an apartment block housing 30 people which includes amenities like a playground and BBQ area. It is fascinating to see how innovative our young minds can be when they are not hindered by automatically deferring to numerous problems experience has, over time, taught the rest of us to think of as insurmountable obstacles.

3D printing weighs in on construction

Arup engineers in Amsterdam have used 3D printing to create individually designed steel construction components that have the potential to radically change the way we build. Using the additive 3D printing process, these engineers have produced structural nodes made of metal that are half the size of traditional nodes and about 25 percent of the weight, yet still have the same structural load and force capacity. The Dutch Arup engineers suggest this technological advance has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of construction materials in the future, and reduce the weight of a structure by more than 40 per cent. It also allows for highly complex, individually designed pieces to be printed directly in metal. This additive manufacturing advance has positive implications not just for the construction sector, but for any sector that uses high quality and complex metal products. It is also good news for Melbourne given the CSIRO Manufacturing flagship located in Clayton leads the world in 3D printing of titanium products.

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