Since the launch of our Infrastructure funding and finance paper Moving Melbourne back in 2012, the Committee has continued to advocate strongly for the need to look at innovative ways to increase the infrastructure funding pool via a range of mechanisms such as value capture. Speaking as part of a panel at the Victorian launch of Value Capture Roadmap, a paper completed by AECOM and Consult Australia, CEO Kate Roffey noted that one of the key concepts that is still failing to cut through in conversations is that of hypothecation. International and domestic best practice highlights that in cases where there is a clear and demonstrable link between the levy that beneficiaries pay (businesses and/or residents), and the improvements they see in return, value capture mechanisms can be utilised with great success. The London Crossrail (part funded by a rate valued Business Rates Supplement) and Denver Union Station (part funded by a 1 to 1.5 per cent sales tax) projects, are strong examples of linking the benefits to the cost to make contributions more palatable. Value capture can work – if we have the courage to have the right conversations.
Minister for Cities and the Built Environment
As part of the Ministerial reshuffle following Malcolm Turnbull’s election as leader of the federal Liberal Party, Jamie Briggs was appointed as Australia’s first Minister for Cities and the Built Environment. In announcing the new ministerial position, the Prime Minister quite rightly noted that because cities generate most of the economic activity in Australia, the Commonwealth needed to pay much more attention to them. This is a strong move away from the more traditional federal approach of not supporting cities because they have the capacity to be self-sustaining, and instead focusing on those areas that are seen as needing more support. Australia is currently one of the world’s most urbanised countries with 80 per cent of the population living in cities along the eastern seaboard. This, combined with domestic migration showing the trend of flow toward our cities is growing rather than abating, certainly indicates that more consideration must be given to the development of our cities going forward. Clearly this should not happen at the expense of support across our regional areas, but given strong city economies will filter down to support strong regional economies, it makes good sense to support our cities.
Melbourne – heart of the arts
A freshly signed cultural agreement between China and Victoria has cemented Melbourne’s reputation as Australia’s 'arts and cultural capital' according to Premier Andrews. As the only state to sign a cultural agreement with China's national government, this gives a huge boost to Victoria's arts and culture credentials, and will enable more festivals, tours, exhibitions and artist-in-residence opportunities to be shared between our state and China. During the first year of the partnership, cultural activities that have been proposed include the introduction of a new Chinese film festival in Melbourne, and tours of China by the Australian Ballet and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Melbourne’s arts and cultural offerings make an important economic contribution to Victoria – the industry generates around $1.4 billion in exports and attracts $1 billion in cultural tourism each year. More than that however, they are also a key element in our high liveability standards, and it is often a few percentage points in these areas that help keep Melbourne ahead overall in the EIU's Global Liveability ranking.
Open space fund opens up
A private block of land in West Melbourne costing $1.7 million is the first purchase of land the City of Melbourne has made via its Open Space Fund. This fund, which includes compulsory contributions from property development within the City of Melbourne boundaries, has grown from $3.7 million in 2011 to $18.6 million. The aim of the fund is to create more parkland and open space around the CBD area, parts of which, like West Melbourne at 16.4 square metres of open space per person, have much lower rates than the recommended average of 22 square metres. Other areas of the city like Southbank, have even less open space and parkland areas. To bring open space levels up to the desired standard, there are plans to turn underused roads into open boulevards to help provide a suitable balance when other options, such as the purchase of private properties, are not available. As the rate of personal open space in the form of the traditional ‘backyards’ available in the inner-city area continue to shrink, the City of Melbourne estimates $1 billion will need to be spent by 2027 on new open space for the municipality.
Flinders St Station upgrade
This week, the government announced a $100 million upgrade to Flinders Street Station is set to commence. A far cry from the award winning HASSELL, Herzog and de Meuron designed overhaul of the entire station, upgrades will be limited to making some much needed internal improvements to signage, public toilets and improved access to platforms. Externally, the façade will be repainted, repairs to the iconic clock tower made, and some long overdue fixes made to the leaking roof which is the cause of much of the ongoing internal damage to the historic grand ballroom and gymnasium areas of the station. At this stage, there are no plans to undertake any direct repairs to the ballroom and other historic areas with the focus being on addressing passenger movement internally. With plans for the Melbourne Metro project to be started in 2018, this upgrade will be essential if the station is to cope with the additional passenger numbers expected as capacity increases.