Melbourne is too expensive, says MPA chief

PETER Seamer, the CEO of Victoria's new Metropolitan Planning Authority, said Melbourne's is one of the most expensive cities in the world and it is pricing itself out of economic efficiency.

Speaking at the Property Council’s Industry Briefing in Melbourne yesterday, Seamer said the Victorian government’s Plan Melbourne proposal is critical to the state’s future.

Seamer said one of the challenges for the new MPA in implementing Plan Melbourne will be addressing the prices in Melbourne and making the city more competitive in the world.

He recalled that a head-hunter recently recruited an overseas executive to work in Melbourne. However after visiting the city and hunting for houses, the executive decided not to go ahead because property prices were too high.

Seamer said Melbourne risks “pricing ourselves out of economical efficiency… It is simply too expensive to live here and Melbourne is too expensive to do business,”

Seamer said Melbourne needs to lower its “cost base”, ensuring housing is not overly expensive in order to attract new as well as keep educated people in the state.

“The Docklands is probably one of the best examples, where development led policies have resulted in the creation of 38,000 jobs. If It hadn’t been for the Docklands, these jobs would have gone interstate or overseas, would the National Australia Bank or ANZ Bank have stayed in Victoria?”

Seamer believes challenges such as the cost of living can only be addressed by a coordinated planning strategy, such as suburb master planning, and he believes Plan Melbourne is a proposal the community has been asking for in a long time.

Seamer said previous planning schemes were not focussed on suburb master planning, rather “patches of development”.

“And the quality has been patchy in the past,”

The first priority of the MPA will be “rapid planning assessments” over the coming months, where the authority will undertake a review of all the local councils and their planning and infrastructure policies. Seamer said some councils are doing a better job than others, and the authority will work cooperatively with the local governments that are lagging behind, to clean policies.

“We will work with them cooperatively, however we have to implement the government’s policies and accelerate the planning zones reforms where it is of state significance.

“The trouble with Melbourne in the past, there was no planning outside of the growth areas. The hard work hasn’t been done,”

For example Seamer said the Monash region is second to the CBD for employment with approximately 58,500 jobs in the area, including Chadstone, the region keeps 80,000 people employed.

“We might have to look at higher density around the area, turn it into a growth hub,”

The MPA will also address “bottlenecks in government” and see where it can improve and streamline the planning process.

The Property Council’s Asher Judah said the government also needs to review the funding model for infrastructure because he added that “for too long, the property industry has been used as the piggy bank” and as a result that has raised the cost of developments, which in turn affects housing affordability.

Judah said the state government owns over 70,000 land assets as well as significant infrastructure assets.

“You can’t cry poor when you have the silverware,” Judah said.

Meanwhile planning minister Matthew Guy yesterday invited further feedback from the community on Plan Melbourne prior to the close date of December 06.

“The Victorian Coalition Government is committed to listening to the voices of the community so that we remain the world’s most liveable city and a global city of opportunity and choice.

“The contributions to date have ensured that Plan Melbourne has a truly integrated approach to land use, infrastructure delivery and transport planning. Plan Melbourne will provide communities with clear direction about the future of their neighbourhoods, about areas that will be protected and areas that will change.

“It will seek to build a vibrant, active central city and will be the first metropolitan planning strategy for Melbourne that genuinely integrates our regional and peri-urban areas to create a ‘State of Cities’,” Guy said.

The government is hoping to start implementing the Plan Melbourne policies by January 01 2014.

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