The “Outcome principles” as set out in the discussion paper, are aspirations with which no-one would disagree but they do not encompass an overall vision for Melbourne. Furthermore, they are, in our view in reverse order of their actual importance! Confining this part of the submission to what is before us we will examine the importance and substance of each “principle.” Firstly it is necessary to look at the rate of growth which underpins the whole strategy and discussion paper. The present rate of population growth should not be “non negotiable.” [...] One must ask “How much harder does a high level of growth make the achievement of any of the aims underlying the principles?” [...] While the Minister invites the public to “talk” about Melbourne's future, its growth is considered inevitable and non-negotiable. That is, “Over the next 40 years, Melbourne will continue to grow, both geographically and in population.” This is not compatible with the overall aims and objectives of preserving and enhancing the 5 principles stated above.
Submission of Sustainable Population Australia, Victorian and Tasmanian branch to the Metropolitan Planning Strategy for Melbourne
[Dated:] 28 3.13
By Vivienne Ortega Secretary and Jill Quirk, President SPAVICTAS
[The submission begins by referring to statements in the Government document:]
Melbourne, Let's talk about the Future:
"What we want to achieve
The discussion paper refers to five outcome principles:
Principle 1: A distinctive Melbourne
Principle 2: A globally connected and competitive city
Principle 3: Social and economic participation
Principle 4: Strong communities
Principle 5: Environmental resilience"
[The Government document asks the following questions, which SPAVICTAS responds to in ordinary font:]
Question 1. What do you think of these outcome principles?
The “Outcome principles” as set out in the discussion paper, are aspirations with which no-one would disagree but they do not encompass an overall vision for Melbourne. Furthermore, they are, in our view in reverse order of their actual importance! Confining this part of the submission to what is before us we will examine the importance and substance of each “principle.”
In reverse order: We take Principle 5, “Environmental resilience” to mean an aspiration to maintain a healthy environment and not to degrade it , this is essential to our long term survival and present health and well being. The environment in an urban context refers to plentiful fresh water, adequate vegetation to reduce urban heat island effect (especially in light of changing climate ) , open space and gardens- public and private, excellent air quality and biodiversity- especially in adjoining natural areas. Environment is a primary concern. Due to urban expansion and the stretching of the urban growth boundary, more people are being put at risk from bushfires, food bowls are being buried under housing, our green-wedge buffer zones are being invaded, and natural water production has been overshot, necessitating a desalination plant.
4 “Strong communities” should go second. A society will have problems maintaining its environment if it is not united in its efforts to do this. Factors that fragment communities, e.g. frequent need to move house, homelessness, unaffordable housing, factors that impede people from using local amenities and facilities – e.g. parking restrictions and traffic congestion will break down communities. A lack of common facilities for local sport and passive recreation as well as venues for community meetings mitigate against strong communities. Living in high rise apartments and housing estates increases social dis-connection, and stigma. There are many stairs, balconies, limited emergency escapes, limited space for gardening and outdoor exploring for children, stranger-dangers, and noise disturbances. High rise affords little opportunity for environmentally advantageous options such as water harvesting, recycling, outside clothes drying and solar panels. Inside living is inherently carbon-intensive and energy-consuming.
3. Social and economic participation is a subset of strong communities rather than a separate principle.
Each individual should firstly have somewhere to live (Melbourne does not even meet this basic requirement) and a place in the life of the city of Melbourne. There are many and varied ways that people can fit into a megalopolis such as Melbourne: as a worker, a parent, a volunteer, an elder, a neighbour, but the basic requirement of a place to live underpins participation. Rising house prices and declining affordability are undermining exactly what is essential to meet “principle 3” (which would remain principle 3 if the order were reversed.)
Our “ageing population” should be celebrated as the back bone of communities rather than considered a threat. Older people are living longer and healthier lives. Greater longevity is a sign of good health care and living standards. Older people’s contribution through paid and volunteer work needs to be facilitated, encouraged and appreciated especially given the necessity for 2 members of younger couples to be in paid work in order to service mortgages.
2 A globally connected and competitive city. Thanks to the Internet and other modern communications many of which have actually been around for about 100 years, Melbourne can't really help but be “globally connected”. In a resource constrained world which we are entering as we hit the wall of non renewable resources, especially oil it is more critical to our long term survival that Melbourne connect to its outskirts and agricultural regions than to remote sources of essentials.
1 A Distinctive Melbourne. This is a less important aspiration. Any place be it city, town or village is naturally distinctive due its geographical location and natural surroundings. Melbourne is distinguished by its bay setting, the Yarra River and the Dandenong Ranges. The more the underlying natural beauty of Melbourne’s setting is engulfed by housing, shops, roads, and concrete, the less distinctive it becomes with respect to its setting. Secondary to the natural endowments are our (remaining) heritage from the founders of Melbourne and those who came soon after. Examples are the Botanic Gardens, Carlton Gardens, Treasury Gardens, The Windsor Hotel, Victorian architecture through the older inner suburbs, modernist architecture in suburbs such as Eltham in their bush settings and the most humble and suburban, post war suburbs with their brick villas surrounded by gardens front and back. These last “ordinary” suburbs that allow space for children to play and habitat for suburban wild life are real treasures and an indication of what was once (but no longer) the expected standard of space, comfort and amenity for the working people of Melbourne.
What made Melbourne distinctive in the past was its seamless public transport but this is no longer coping with increased population. The people of Melbourne have enjoyed high standards of living, good quality public spaces, and heritage values. It is difficult to see how these can be preserved with a rising population with no limit envisaged into the future.
While the Minister invites the public to “talk” about Melbourne's future, its growth is considered inevitable and non-negotiable. That is, “Over the next 40 years, Melbourne will continue to grow, both geographically and in population.” This is not compatible with the overall aims and objectives of preserving and enhancing the 5 principles stated above.
Federal government policies mainly the baby bonus and the immigration program are the biggest levers on population growth but the Victorian government is remiss in its responsibility to fellow Victorians in reducing the ability of local authorities to determine the level of population they can accommodate and in its gung ho enthusiasm for population growth e.g. the website http://www.liveinvictoria.vic.gov.au/
That which works well in making Melbourne distinctive is its livability which needs to be enhanced and shortcomings addressed . This means extending and improving public transport, protecting our city from endless expansion as well as the loss of amenity from intensification of development in residential/family suburbs and from towers blocking sunlight, and puncturing the horizon. Melbourne’s assets should be celebrated and protected especially, the natural setting and the heritage values bequeathed by planners of the past. Living standards, and affordability, can only erode with higher population.
The Ponzi-demographic model, relying on population growth as a source of revenue, means growing costs of infrastructure, pressure on land and open spaces, and loss of productivity due to congestion. These are counter-productive and contrary to the aims of keeping Melbourne distinctive in a positive sense.
Question 2. What do you think is needed to achieve these outcome principles?
Firstly it is necessary to look at the rate of growth which underpins the whole strategy and discussion paper. The present rate of population growth should not be “non negotiable” It is true we need to accept the present pattern of natural increase for a few more decades, but the over- all level of population growth should be curbed in the interests of people living here now. One must ask “How much harder does a high level of growth make the achievement of any of the aims underlying the principles?”
The current population of Melbourne is suffering because of traffic congestion, periodic water shortages and consequent construction of the desalination plant, cut-backs of public services, pressure to accommodate ever more people in existing suburbs, the threat of high rise in established suburbs, and the swallowing up of arable land on the fringes of the city for housing to accommodate extra population.
From the point of view of social and economic participation, jobs need to be brought back to Melbourne. They are being lost through the high Australian dollar, and the free-market economy. Business rents need to be affordable, local people need to be employed, training opportunities need to be increased (not quashed as they have been through privatization of State departments and utilities), and closure of TAFEs.
Already $10 billion is needed to bring the infrastructure of Melbourne's fringe suburbs up to standard, so we need to avoid more debt.
There needs to be a period of reduced growth, a stock-take of Melbourne's infrastructure assets and an assessment of essential road and public transport upgrades. Melbourne needs to have its transport bottle-necks fixed to achieve a fluid, flexible city. Melbourne once had a vibrant manufacturing base, and it needs to be restored.
Question 3. What are the key ingredients for success in achieving the vision of an expanded Central City?
The expansion of the Central City will only be the result of organic growth, and in response to economic demands and natural resources. Expanding the city, and then trying to create jobs and infrastructure in hindsight, does not work. Already Victoria is in recession, and our economy, and jobs growth, is failing to keep up with population growth. No more public assets should be sold, and the infrastructure in demand for many years - such as a rail link to Tullamarine and Doncaster link - should be priorities. Melbourne needs to be more accessible, not bigger.
We do not see any advantages in the expansion of Melbourne's CBD, and it would be detrimental and expensive to retro-fit our politically-imposed growth.
Question 4. What do you think of the idea of identifying and reinforcing employment and innovation clusters across Melbourne?
“The Central City is the core location of the ‘knowledge economy’. Building an expanded Central City can attract new jobs to Melbourne and reinforce Melbourne as a world city and tourism hub”. This won't happen while TAFE courses keep being slashed, teachers are retrenched, universities, starved of funds are forced rely on revenue from international students, and temporary visa holders instead of our own skilled workers. A 'knowledge economy' must rely on high standards of education, training, investment in R&D, and innovation – not housing!
Housing is not a consumable commodity, and maintaining Stamp Duty revenue means perpetuating ongoing population growth, and ignoring the downstream costs to the 5 above principles.
A jobs market heavily reliant on housing is fragile and market-dependent. It needs to be reassessed in the light of the massive infrastructure costs. Australia must invest in skills, education, innovation, knowledge and cutting edge 21st century technology, not in population growth and housing. It served us well in the past but can't be assumed to do the same in the future.
Question 5. What is needed to support growth and development in regional cities?
More investment in food production, and farming is needed. Land in our food bowls needs to be protected and preserved, not absorbed into a rubbery urban-growth-boundary. Regional growth should be in the understanding of food production, permaculture, alternative energy sources, organic farming and practices that mitigate against climate change, an anticipated energy crisis, loss of soils and shortages of oil-based fertilisers. Rail links to peri-urban food bowls should reinforce our food security. The “growth” of regional cities must be forged on growth in support of agriculture, natural resources, conservation, tourism and heritage.
Question 6. What do you think of the idea of a ‘20 minute city’?
A “20 minute city” can only be feasible by getting more traffic off the roads and increasing the efficiency and availability of public transport. Greater road, infrastructure and housing density is counter-productive to creating such an ideal. Private traffic needs to be kept to a minimum, in local areas, and the freeway mentality needs a good dose of reality. They only attract more dependence on private transport and on trucks and heavy road transport.
Question 7. How can established suburbs accommodate the needs of changing populations and maintain what people value about their area?
There needs to be a change in our immigration policy from one that is growth-based, to zero-net growth. This means that immigration should be equal to emigration, and much fewer categories of visas to reflect and reciprocate the immigration policies of our nearest neighbouring countries and the higher-per-capita wealthy nations.
While immigration in the past has benefited Australia, and created the diverse population we have now, our record-breaking levels of population growth can only erode our standards of living and entrench us further in debt. A Ponzi-economy based on perpetual growth is detrimental economically and environmentally especially in light of the planet's diminishing natural resources.
According to Australia's Energy White Paper 2012, 'Projected reductions in our crude oil production and refining capacity will mean that demand will increasingly be met by imports of crude oil and refined product.”Overseas sources of liquid fuel will mean Australia must rely more on international supply chains with increasing competition for dwindling supplies. The cheap fuel that drove our economic growth in the past will become more and more expensive and prohibitive. Stretching Melbourne's boundary any further will leave more people isolated in the outer fringes of urban sprawl, exacerbating the costs of infrastructure.
Question 8. How do we ensure a healthy and sustainable environment for future generations?
Good living spaces, backyards for families, community gardens, unencumbered and protected green wedges and buffer zones, sporting facilities, protection for our parks and gardens, bike paths, seamless and regular public transport, protection of neighbourhood values and character, and high standards of amenities are all important contributors to a sustainable environment . Cities should be built for people and families, not for a “bigger” economy that's not in the interests of ordinary people. We need to bequeath a city offering a positive experience and environment and social justice for future generations.
Question 9. What do you think about the possible ways of funding infrastructure?
Infrastructure to accommodate population growth is extremely expensive. It has been worked out at over $200,000 per additional person. If we are not to live in perpetual infrastructure deficit , infrastructure and services must be in place before the population is in place!
Ref . The downward spiral of hasty population growth
By Jane O'Sullivan - posted Monday, 8 March 2010
Melbourne’s present infrastructure needs a stock-take, audit and assessment. Priorities must be set. Good household and economic management means not overspending. Likewise, Melbourne needs a plan rather than ad hoc expansion. Without adequate infrastructure funding the public is condemned to live in deprivation. There needs to be a long period of consolidation, and improvement of infrastructure and services in Melbourne, not more stretching to accommodate growth.
Question 10. How can all levels of government, business and community work together to create the city you want?
What makes a pleasing and liveable city are comfortable living standards, heritage values, clean air, cultural venues, recreational facilities, accessibility, transport, and vegetation. One of Melbourne's greatest assets is the Yarra River, plus the accessibility of beaches, coasts, parklands, Mount Macedon and the Dandenongs for tourists and residents. Our near regional centres and coastline must be protected from generic urban sprawl. Rather, they need to be preserved to encourage tourism and day-trippers.
Melbourne must retain its position as a “liveable city” .We should be investing in 21st century technology, cutting-edge inventions, and be leaders in sustainability. A growth-basis served us well in the past, but must be replaced by sustainability - by building resilience into our communities, environment, and economy.
Unfortunately the “principles” as discussed describe qualities we are losing in Melbourne rather than qualities to which we are aspiring in an improving and developing situation. Unfortunately, all that makes Melbourne distinctive and livable is in jeopardy because of never ending population growth and increasing dominance of the built environment.
Planning is for the long term and as such it should not respond to short term pressures. Developers will act in their own interests. This means that government regulations are imperative and strategic plans are the role of government. Strategic plans should also be bipartisan since they are long term if not “forever”.
Planners, economists and politicians are generally well educated, with logical thinking skills and the ability to link cause and effect, but when it comes to population growth, logic often fails. The cornucopia myth is that when it comes to the human species, barriers and constraints to Nature don't exist and the Horn of Plenty will keep providing food, land, water, energy. This fallacious perspective is one where there are no limits to Nature's abundance, nor to how many people can be crammed into our finite urban areas.
Building cities and retro-fitting them is expensive, and standards can only be eroded. Sustainable growth is an oxymoron, and if the State's economy depends on profits from housing, then there's little to look forward to for the residents of Melbourne- and the city which future generations will inherit.