Building our liveability: How good planning is critical to Melbourne’s long-term future

Tuesday 15 August 2017

This interview was provided to IPAA Victoria as part of Public Sector Week 2017

While many town planners look two or three years into the future, Infrastructure Victoria is taking a longer-term view, says its CEO Michel Masson

Melbourne has been voted the world’s most liveable city six years in a row. This accolade in itself focuses much attention on the definition of ‘liveability’. Is it true for all our communities, regardless of education and income, and how do we retain this title – not just for the few but for the many?

Michel Masson, the CEO of Infrastructure Victoria, says good planning can make all the difference.

Infrastructure Victoria was established in 2015 to investigate and provide expert advice to the Victorian Government on what infrastructure our state will need in the future – and how the methods and tools used to make decisions can be improved. As well as offering evidence-based recommendations, it consults broadly with different sections of the community to ensure that as many people as possible can be heard.

Last year, Infrastructure Victoria released a 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy for Victoria’s future development. We asked Michel Masson to encapsulate some of the highlights for us, as a prelude to our Metropolitan Regionalisation session at IPAA Victoria Public Sector Week on August 15. Michel will be part of an expert panel considering one of the most talked-about examples of metropolitan regional development in Australia – the City of Greater Dandenong.

1. Does your 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy recommend actively directing population and employment growth away from Melbourne? No. What we do recommend is increasing development in established areas where there is already great infrastructure – including inner city areas of Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo – in and around employment centres, as actions for the government’s immediate consideration.

While we see enormous growth in the inner areas of Melbourne, not everyone wants to live in apartments in the city, and not all jobs are located in the inner city. It’s important, however, that more jobs are located closer to where people live, which is a major challenge for our growth areas on the fringes of Melbourne.

2. How can the government actively promote more jobs and ‘liveable’ environments outside the inner city? If we ultimately want a spread of jobs across the metropolitan area, we need to think through how we can make Melbourne’s major employment centres – National Employment and Innovation Centres like Monash, Latrobe and Sunshine, and Metropolitan Activity Centres like Box Hill, Footscray and Broadmeadows – not just places to work, but great places to live and enjoy. If more people live closer to where they work, this will help to lift the productivity of the whole city.

3. What will you and your panel be discussing during Public Sector Week? We have a very experienced panel, including academics, policymakers and senior planners from Dandenong and the State Government, looking at the example of Dandenong – which is the focus of the largest urban renewal project in Victoria since the Docklands. The plan aims to establish central Dandenong as a thriving economic hub, and it will be interesting to discuss the impact of this initiative and the lessons that could be applied to other areas to help manage vital issues of growth and equity. It’s an opportunity to learn more about how the renewal of Dandenong has helped the centre become an even stronger employment centre – and whether or not this has meant more people living in outer suburbs can more easily access jobs.

4. How relevant are these lessons for other urban centres? They are very important for other areas of Melbourne. What works and what doesn’t? What critical infrastructure exists, and what gaps are there in public infrastructure in these different areas that we need urgently to address?

Robust discussion about the opportunities and challenges of different infrastructure initiatives is always welcome – and is essential to holding our politicians to account. We want to build more community trust in how infrastructure decisions are made and ultimately develop the best initiatives for the best outcomes.


Michel Masson will be joined at the session - Can Metropolitan Regionalisation Help Us to Prosper at IPAA Victoria Public Sector Week on Tuesday 15 August  by Professor Michael Buxton, Paul Kearsley from City of Greater Dandenong, Andrew Clark from Development Victoria, and Steve Booth, who is Director of Metropolitan Economic Development at DEDJTR. For more information, please follow this link.