Acting on a grand vision

In a very welcome end to the year, the Victorian Government has delivered its draft strategy for metropolitan planning.

Plan Melbourne has been presented by the Minister for Planning as the blueprint for the city’s future.  An important objective of the document is to ensure that Melbourne can retain the qualities that have made it the world’s most liveable city, as we plan to sustainably accommodate future growth.

The final strategy promises to be the biggest planning change in recent decades and should be commended for the extent of its engagement and consultation. Packed full of policy recommendations to address key development challenges, it is a welcome decision with respect to creating a vision for Melbourne’s future. However, as we have learnt from Melbourne 2030 and Melbourne @ 5 million, great visions need to be underpinned by mechanisms that move decisively on their implementation.

The creation of a Metropolitan Planning Authority is arguably the most important initiative in the strategy. With a metropolitan-wide mandate the MPA is in an ideal position to deliver strategic planning policy in the best interests of the whole of Melbourne. This governance approach is crucial in areas such as delivering jobs growth, transport connectivity and services provision. It is also important for urban area residential development, where decisions should be made with respect to the overall shape of the city.

The Property Council has long called for a depoliticised planning authority to oversee city-wide development and welcomes the potential for serious planning reform posed by the MPA. The challenge now for industry is to ensure that the MPA is given sufficient authority so that it is a genuine decision making body.

Through the MPA, the Government will have many opportunities to work closely with the private sector on infrastructure delivery. On this front, the MPA should reflect an understanding of the commercial realities faced by the property sector, in order to develop frameworks that are capable of sharing risk and delivering attractive benefits to all participants. As ever, Victoria’s business community is eager to invest in urban renewal and major projects that will transform our city, open up our suburbs and improve our quality of life.

Victoria is in need of a planning system that provides the property industry and community with certainty, facilitates business activity and grows the state’s potential. The Metropolitan Planning Authority promises to Victoria on the front foot on these objectives. For now, we know that the governance authority will be primarily responsible for the delivery of the plan’s recommendations and driving major planning reform. It is only in the coming months that we will see the full scope and limits of its power for achieving these aims.