28 May 2014

Council last night unanimously supported Greens Councillor Cathy Oke’s motion to reaffirm the City’s “strong support for the Melbourne Metro Rail project as originally envisaged”.

Councillors were scathing of the State Government’s announcement, which has undone years of City of Melbourne work, involving millions of dollars worth of staff hours and the resourcing of detailed planning.

Most significantly, it has removed from Melbourne’s most significant knowledge and employment cluster in Parkville all plans for the required mass movement of current and future populations of residents and workers, and thus undoes the basis for Council’s City North planning scheme amendments which were developed in good faith to accommodate for tens of thousands more people.

The original Metro Rail project has been central to the City of Melbourne’s major planning policies: the Council 4 Year Plan itself, the Municipal Strategic Statement, the Transport Strategy, and the Urban Renewal Structure Plans in City North and Arden Macaulay.

The removal of heavy rail stations from the University precinct alone has done the most damage to the City of Melbourne’s work. To illustrate the extent to which Melbourne Metro is embedded in City of Melbourne’s plans, take these excerpts from Council policy:

Council’s Transport Strategy 2012

Urban renewal areas will require new train services

Major urban renewal areas such as City North and Arden-Macaulay will require new rail services to provide excellent accessibility and high passenger capacity to serve what will be high intensity, mixed-use areas very similar to the current central city. The long-term planning for land use development and transport planning in these contexts must be coordinated.

Council’s City North Structure Plan 2012

Boost transport infrastructure

The growth and development of City North as an extension of the Central City requires a boost in the mobility infrastructure. This includes high capacity public transport, accessible and reliable ways of moving within and around the central and inner city, and high connectivity to the surrounding metropolitan regions.

Two new Melbourne Metro rail stations at either end of the precinct will be central to this mobility. Rail will be integrated with new and upgraded tram and bus services throughout the area. There will be high quality, safe, pedestrian connections at all public transport interchanges.

Council’s City North planning scheme amendment C196, April 2014

The Amendment will strongly integrate transport and land use by providing for more intensive land use near proposed public transport nodes including the planned Melbourne Metro stations at Parkville and City North …

This last excerpt is from the planning scheme amendment which changes the built form of the City North area (between Victoria Street and the University of Melbourne) which will triple the population density in the area in 15 years. It was endorsed by Council a week before the State Government announced the scrapping of Melbourne Metro Rail.

This entire debate comes off the back of another major transport project announcement contrary to an election promise, the East West Link, causing chaos for Council planning. The Arden Macaulay planning scheme amendment C190 has been on hold for a year and will be on hold for a lot longer yet, with a real prospect that the Arden Macaulay Structure Plan itself will need to be completely redrafted.

Greens Councillors cited the situation as an example of multi-level Government relations at their worst. The City North case demonstrates well how none of the core principles of good public policy are being respected by the State Government in planning Melbourne: quality information, transparency, consistency and cooperation have all been absent.

Cr Oke’s motion concluded by requesting City officers to “seek urgent talks with the state government seeking details of their alternative transport plans”, in the hope that there aren’t more ad hoc and detail free announcements from the State Government around the corner which will throw Council’s years of planning into even more disarray.