The Property Council of Australia has called on the State Government to throw its weight behind efforts to revitalise Melbourne’s CBD as Victoria emerges from lockdown.

Office occupancy in the CBD has plunged to its lowest level on record as Melbourne officially became the world’s most locked down city. The Property Council survey showed office occupancy in the CBD fell to just six per cent in September, the lowest level since the start of the survey in July 2020 and down from 45 per cent earlier this year.

Victorian Executive Director Danni Hunter said: “No part of Melbourne has been harder hit by the pandemic than our CBD. Many businesses have closed, office occupancy and vacancies are at record high levels and the CBD is on life support.

“The City of Melbourne has done everything it can to keep the city alive as workers, tourists and students have been forced to stay away and our iconic retail and hospitality sectors have had to close their doors.

“We know that office occupancy is also at record lows and overseas experience shows the return to office will be a gradual one as we deal with the likelihood of increased COVID cases as we start to reopen the city.

“It is critical that the Victorian Government works together with the City of Melbourne and business and traders to revive the CBD and turn Melbourne from the world’s most locked down city into the world’s most liveable city once again.

Ms Hunter said initiatives to revitalise the CBD should consider:

• Vaccination hubs and testing sites in CBD office buildings;
• The lifting of work from home directions as soon as it’s safe to do so and a proactive communications campaign from Government leaders to encourage people to return to the office; and
• A minimum three day a week return to the office for public and private sector workers when the state reaches the 80 per cent double-vaccination threshold.

Ms Hunter said Melbourne’s central city economy supports 500,000 jobs and produces about seven per cent of Australia’s GDP and 25% of Victoria’s GSP at its peak.

“We welcome the Government’s decision to allow fully vaccinated workers to start to return to office when we reach 80 per cent vaccination and we look forward to the lifting of work from home directions at the soonest opportunity,” she said.

“We need people back in the city as they are the lifeblood of Melbourne and support our businesses. The hybrid working model is here to stay and it’s great to have flexibility to work from home but there’s also no substitute for being together to collaborate and exchange ideas and knowledge.

“The CBD won’t bounce back of its own accord. It will require proactive action by the State Government working in tandem with the City of Melbourne and business to revitalise the CBD over the coming 12 months as we switch our mindset from survival to revival.”