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My Opinion Pieces

Herald Sun: Victoria must be a state of cities, not just a city state

   Monday, 14 November 2016

Herald Sun 14 November 2016

VICTORIA’S population growth of more than 100,000 people a year is the greatest challenge facing our city and our state. All of Melbourne’s problems are intrinsically linked to this growth, and it requires a government of vision and purpose to adequately respond to these challenges for the sake of us all.

Our vision for Victoria is a state of cities, not a city state. We want a growing and liveable Melbourne, but not a Melbourne that has doubled in size by 2051. And we want our regional centres to share in the opportunities this growth can bring if managed responsibly. That is why, in April, we announced the Victorian Population Policy Taskforce, representing a whole-of government approach, to turn Victoria’s huge population growth from a burden into an opportunity.

We have assembled experts from fields including housing and urban development, regional development, transport infrastructure, local government and economics. They have one question to answer: how do we take

the pressure off Melbourne by growing country Victoria? Of Victoria’s population growth, 92 per cent is happening in Melbourne. We need a state government that is committed to decreasing the percentage of newcomers, and indeed of existing Melburnians, who make their home in Melbourne. We need to give them the incentive to move to country Victoria, or give them the confidence that if they move to a regional centre, they can commute to Melbourne with ease. That is simply not the case at the moment. For too long, governments have ignored decentralisation: the last major regionalisation policy was in the 1970s, under the Hamer government. When we see almost a dozen local government areas in regional and rural Victoria lose population year after year, business as usual is not an option.

An effective decentralisation agenda is crucial to underpinning our desire to improve Melbourne’s livability and the economic growth of the regions. Our team is on the front foot over population growth because it is central to everything a state government does It is central to the gridlock on our roads and the crowds on our rail and tram networks. Whether we like it or not, Melbourne was designed during the post-war boom as a city where the dominant form of transport would be the car.

We support improved public transport infrastructure, including by adding capacity to the City Loop — as long as it includes a connection at South Yarra. But the facts speak for themselves: the overwhelming majority of

Victorians’ primary mode of transport is the car, and population growth is the biggest contributor to increased road use, especially in the middle and outer areas of Melbourne.

A disproportionate number of Melburnians drive to work — 107,792 more than do in Sydney, even though Sydney has 400,000 more people. Yet the Andrews government spent $1.2 billion of taxpayers’ money to rip up the contracts for the East West Link. We experience population growth pressures when young people try to get a foot in the door of a housing market squeezed by demand. Parents experience it when trying to find schools with

the necessary resources to meet ever-growing enrolments, and when they try to get timely access to health and other basic services.

Clearly, growing by more than 100,000 a year puts immense pressure on all government services, including law

enforcement. Our police do a wonderful job, but we need police numbers growing in line with the rapid rise in our population. The Police Association makes it clear that 3300 are needed by 2022. Nowhere is this gap more

evident than in Melbourne’s west and southeast, where population growth has been galloping. Areas such as Casey, Greater Dandenong and Wyndham have experienced increases in crime well above the state average.

Premier Daniel Andrews has ignored this issue, as a crime wave has afflicted our state. The causes

are multifaceted and the responses will have to be as well, but the fact is we need more police — now.

Through policies focusing on taxation and planning, and through better provision of transport infrastructure, law enforcement and other basic services, a booming population can bring the benefits of economic growth and improved livability to all of Victoria, not just to a Melbourne that is currently

growing out of control.