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Improved investment in transport is crucial to reshaping
our suburbs, writes Trevor Budge.
Melbourne 2030 is like a three-legged stool: remove one of the
key props and the whole strategy falls over. The Planning Institute
of Australia, the professional planners' association with a
national membership of more than 4000, has consistently supported
Melbourne 2030 as a far-sighted and realistic long-term reshaping
of metropolitan Melbourne.
The three legs are: controlling urban sprawl, focusing
development around activity centres and investing in public
transport. A critical element of the strategy is to focus a much
larger share of residential development in and around enhanced
community and commercial functions that are well served by public
Each of these three legs does not work independently - they are
mutually reinforcing and facilitate the overall plan. The institute
believes the Government has performed well on reining in urban
sprawl. In a far-sighted move, the legislation has created an urban
growth boundary, expansion of the urban area is a managed process
and Melbourne's long-valued green wedges have been largely secured.
While there has been criticism of the speed of planning around
activity centres, it was never going to be able to be rolled out
The jury is definitely out on the third leg. There is widespread
concern among planners that the commitment to public transport
investment is not there. While large amounts of money continue to
be allocated to roads, public transport seems to be regarded as too
It is interesting to reflect on what the public said in the
consultation program that was undertaken during the development of
Melbourne 2030. There were three overwhelming messages: stop
sprawl, we don't want high-rise developments in our backyards and
we want better public transport.
The institute is calling on Planning Minister Rob Hulls and the
Government to bring forward a review of Melbourne 2030. The
strategy is scheduled to be reviewed in any case in 2007 but the
institute believes that an independent review setting the strategy
in the context of best-practice management of metropolitan growth
would confirm the core principles that underpin Melbourne 2030 and
would enable the Government to consolidate the strategy and renew
critical elements such as the importance of investment in public
As the planning institute sees it, the world is already
different from when the strategy was prepared. Traffic congestion
has increased in some places to the point where tram travel has
slowed to a level that is no longer acceptable. Capacity issues
have emerged on the rail system at places such as North Melbourne
station and on the Dandenong line, while rising petrol prices
appear to have turned more commuters to public transport.
A relatively modest financial commitment every year for the next
30 years to expand the capacity of the public transport
infrastructure will reap rewards. Such a plan needs to closely
integrate public transport facilities with agreed land use and
We need bold, long-term plans to extend the rail and tram system
to service the new communities on the edge of Melbourne and to
shape future housing and commercial investment around such
Have we got anyone in government who can imagine an underground
railway that links Docklands with Melbourne University, Melbourne
central, the MCG, the tennis centre, Bridge Road, Chapel Street and
St Kilda? What would it cost - $6 billion - that's only an
investment equivalent to $200 million a year over 30 years.
Can we provide dedicated rights of way in our suburbs where
trams can travel at speeds that have car drivers looking enviously
at the tram passengers?
There has been considerable criticism of the allocation of money
being spent on the regional rail upgrades.
As a resident of Bendigo, I know that the rail and station
upgrades are a massive vote of public confidence not only in the
rail service, but also in making a statement that a facility is
there for the long term. Such investment and confidence stimulates
private sector investment.
A similar injection of confidence is needed from this Government
in the public transport system. More bus services is an obvious
The Government is not going to be believed on its commitment to
public transport until some fixed assets go into the ground. Why,
because bus services can be given and can be taken away. Train and
tram infrastructure will be here to stay.
Trevor Budge is a senior lecturer at La Trobe University
and state president of the Planning Institute of
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