Melbourne of the future

September 2015

- Lord Mayor Robert Doyle - Flying cars and robotic servants or bikes and feet in 10 years? Trends are all about the people in the world’s most liveable city.

As a boy, my favourite television show was “The Jetsons”, a 1966 cartoon family of the ‘future’: that is, of 2016! The Jetsons promised that we would all be driving flying cars and be waited on by robotic servants. 

If you had said to people in the 1960s that the future is all about bicycles and public transport and walking, they would have laughed at you. In fact, that is what has happened.

Over the last three years, we have invested more than $10 million to increase connectivity and safety across the bike network in Melbourne.

We now have more than 136 kilometres of bike lanes throughout our city, and cyclists account for 17 per cent of all vehicles coming into the city, which is nearly double what it was in 2008.

I have no doubt these figures will grow significantly over the next ten years, as we aim to further boost the number of people riding into the city from surrounding suburbs and encourage residents to use bikes around their neighbourhoods.

The final phase of the Bicycle Plan 2012-16 will see a further six km of new and upgraded bicycle lanes, with a focus on improving connections between existing quality routes.

Similarly, the City of Melbourne is also implementing a Walking Plan. It sounds like a simple and common sense concept: transport doesn’t get much more basic than walking! But walking is the most important mode of transport in our municipality.

Our analysis has found that if walking connectivity within the CBD’s Hoddle Grid was increased by 10 per cent, the value of the economy of the area would rise by up to $2.1 billion per annum.

Melbourne is a walking city with most trips to, from and within the city starting or ending on foot. In 2010, 86 per cent of trips in the CBD were on foot. More pedestrians walk along Swanston Street daily than London’s Regent Street.

The plan supports improving pedestrian crossing times and reducing speed limits to improve pedestrian safety. These are examples of decisions we have made to cater to the needs of people. Cities where people want to live will attract the best and brightest and we all know that Melbourne has just been crowned the world’s most liveable city for the fifth consecutive year. 

When I became Lord Mayor, I wanted the organisation to create a strategy for the future; to outline what goals we wanted to achieve. The plan was called Future Melbourne and Council endorsed it in 2008.

A lot has changed in the past eight years and it needs a refresh. On Tuesday night, Melbourne City Council approved the Melbourne Future Project Plan 2026: a process to create a new 10-year plan for the future of our city.

We will invite a group of six ambassadors, one of whom will be asked to chair the group, to lead and guide Future Melbourne 2026: a strategy to ensure Melbourne’s future prosperity and status as the world’s most liveable city, attracting and nurturing talent.

These ambassadors will be well respected and leading members of Melbourne’s community. The Ambassadors will be appointed by the end of this month and will deliver the completed Future Melbourne 2026 Plan to Council at the conclusion of the project in August 2016.

Thought leaders will be engaged to open, stimulate and inform the initial phase of the public conversation about the future of Melbourne on five foresight topics: the digital city, climate change, future economies, urban growth and density, and citizens and government.

Future Melbourne 2026 will guide our decisions about the city’s future, just as the original Future Melbourne Plan did. It is about making Melbourne a city where people love to live, work, visit or enjoy themselves. It has to be easy for them to do that and easy for them to get around. That is where we are and that is the future.

Every piece of research tells me that a sustainable city that offers a high quality of life will attract the best and the brightest and that’s what drives innovation and economic growth.

As city leaders we are focussed on what gives our cities vitality, successful city communities, how we can attract innovation, creativity and stimulate economic growth.

In the years from 2007 to 2012, the central city economy grew by $20 billion and we added 77,000 new jobs. They are in smart industries like business services, employment, finance and insurance, real estate, public administration and safety, education and training and health care. We call these ‘knowledge economy workers’. They are generally young and enthusiastic. They want to live near their place of employment and they want to enjoy a quality lifestyle. These knowledge economy workers are a major driver of our economy now and will have an even bigger impact over the next ten years.

Deloitte Access Economics is forecasting white collar employment growth in the Melbourne CBD office market of 2.7 per cent in 2015, up from 1.7 per cent in 2014.

For the last two years, the Melbourne CBD has set the record for most invested CBD in the nation, with commercial office sales in 2014 approaching $3 billion. This is compared with average total commercial office sales in the CBD grid of $1 billion per year over the last decade.

The construction boom in the residential market is matched by the construction boom in office stock. We have added more than 700,000 square meters of commercial office stock in the CBD and 670,000 square meters in Southbank and Docklands over the last decade.  

The Melbourne CBD office market now accounts for the highest amount of A-grade space across Australia’s office markets. Knight Frank’s April 2015 report shows vacancy rates in that stock at 7.9 per cent.  Retail vacancy rates remain stable at 2.5 per cent down from 3.9 per cent for the same period in 2014. 

Our city has become a magnet for business and that means jobs. And it is set to continue. We have 757 hectares of land in close proximity to the CBD waiting to be developed. Development of Southbank, Docklands, E-Gate, Arden/Macaulay and Fishermen’s Bend will swell the CBD to six times its present size.

How do we make such a city walkable and safe and easy to navigate on a bike?  How do we keep it liveable?  How do we plan for growth? The only choice is to accommodate the new population in the centre of Melbourne, rather than expanding its fringes.

When I consider what the councils I’ve worked with have done over nearly seven years, it’s not so much the towers and the buildings that have been approved or refused that strike me as the important city making decisions.

Building a ‘city for people’ is about keeping pace with our changing population by having well-planned infrastructure and services, providing safe and welcoming public spaces and supporting people to stay healthy, socially connected and engaged with their community. I look forward to the process of establishing Future Melbourne 2026 and all that this plan will bring over the next decade and beyond.