On 9 October 2013 the State Government released Plan Melbourne, the new metropolitan planning strategy.  The formation of Plan Melbourne followed the release of the discussion paper, Melbourne Let’s Talk About the Future in 2012 and the extensive period of consultation in late 2012 and early 2013.

20 min

1          PM Summary

Plan Melbourne (PM) will guide the development of the City until 2050.  Key concepts of PM include:

  • delivering a new integrated economic triangle centred on Melbourne but extending to Hastings, Geelong and Beveridge;
  • protecting the suburbs by delivering density in defined locations;
  • developing a state of cities (rather than a city state);
  • delivering a pipeline of investment opportunities;
  • making better use of existing assets.

One of the main objectives of PM is to facilitate employment growth.  The related strategy refers to an economic triangle from Geelong to the Beveridge Interstate Freight Terminal and to the Dandenong-Hastings corridor which contains a number of identified employment clusters.  These clusters include the established centres of Parkville, Monash and Dandenong and three new emerging employment centres of Latrobe, Sunshine and East Werribee.  The Port of Hastings is set to become a new transport gateway and a potential new airport in the south east and improve jobs in outer areas.  Growth in the central City will continue to be encouraged with a key goal of the strategy being for the central city to become the largest commercial and residential centre in Australia by 2040.

PM seeks to put in place a permanent City boundary to prevent the continual expansion of growth areas on the fringe (we note that the current urban growth boundary provides 30 years supply of urban zoned land).  Residential growth is to be directed to strategic redevelopment sites and to the well serviced areas of established suburbs.  The strategy also seeks to achieve a balance between the metropolitan growth of Melbourne and growth of rural and regional areas in Victoria by developing a ‘State of Cities’.

Urban renewal is a key focus of the Strategy.  Projects such as Fishermans Bend, E-Gate, the completion of Docklands and other smaller renewal sites, will assist in providing housing for thousands of new residents.  To quicken this process, quicker remediation is encouraged of contaminated land in areas identified for residential development.

Transport projects are identified as being critical to the liveability and function of the City.  The majority of transport projects are identified as medium to long term projects.  The first new transport infrastructure item to be delivered is the East West Link with construction commencing in 2014.  It is expected that the East West Link will significantly improve freight management.  The Melbourne Metro train line is identified as a vital precursor to the train lines to Rowville and Melbourne Airport.  A second rail tunnel (Melbourne Metro 2) from Clifton Hill to Fishermans Bend is another rail link that will be investigated in the long term.

Unlike the last metropolitan strategy (Melbourne 2030), PM includes a section detailing implementation of the Strategy.  Implementation will largely be driven by the Metropolitan Planning Authority (MPA) which will commence operation once the final PM has been released.  One of the key tasks of the MPA will be to review and update the State Planning Policy Framework.  The MPA will also have a regional role where it will provide advice and support to local governments in implementing regional growth plans.  It will continue the role of the Growth Areas Authority by preparing precinct structure plans for growth areas and redevelopment sites.  The MPA will be given decision making powers through an amendment to the Planning and Environment Act 1987, allowing the Planning Minister to delegate decision making to the MPA.  The MPA has also been given the task of investigating and trialling new ways to streamline the planning system.

PM provides a timeline for various projects over its 37-year life.  The short term goals include the completion of many projects which are already underway including the Regional Rail Link.  In the medium term (2017-2025) the first stage of the East West Link will be constructed, Docklands will be completed and development of Fishermans Bend will be well underway.  In the last 25 years, the Melbourne Metro rail link will be completed, train extensions to Melbourne Airport, Rowville and Doncaster will be constructed and the Port of Hastings will be fully operational.

2          PM Issues and Gaps

In many ways PM is similar to previous metropolitan plans and has been criticised by some experts as being identical to Melbourne 2030.  While the objectives and strategies of PM are based on good intentions, they will not be achieved without funding commitment from governments.  The section on implementation has no specific discussion regarding the funding of each project, and without such funding, there is no implementation.  PM refers to principles of ‘innovative public-private partnerships’ and new ways to deliver state-significant infrastructure but no detail is provided with regard to these strategies.  Like many sections of PM, the objectives are laudable but the gaps beg the question, is it just another dream?

In the Victorian Auditor–General report (August 2013) it is noted:

  • $36 billion is required over the next 30 years to fund needed infrastructure in Greenfield sites alone;
  • some of the ‘long term’ public transport projects identified in PM were identified in 1929 (Plan of General Development: Melbourne) so ‘long term’ in 2013 must be ‘very very very long term’ in the 1929 context;
  • “over many many years, the state has failed to deliver the transport infrastructure and services needed to support rapidly growing communities… urgent action is required to address this serious problem;
  • “… the absence of a supporting funding and implementation strategy integrated with broader state-wide transport and land use plans remains a key shortcoming”.

The MPA has been directed to ‘drive delivery and facilitate action’ and ‘better align infrastructure delivery and growth’, it is not clear in PM how this is to be achieved.  PM continually refers to a pipeline of infrastructure projects to be delivered throughout the life of the Plan, providing greater certainty to the community, but this wish-list of projects is not accompanied by any information or strategy on how these projects will be funded.  Precinct structure plans for example, continue to be rolled out with the accompanying development contribution plans which detail funding from applicants via required contributions but provide little or no information on the implementation (funding and timing) of those and other needed projects that rely on funding from State (including GAIC contributions already being taken), authority, local government and other sources.

In the Liveable Communities and Neighbourhoods section, PM refers to the recently introduced reformed residential zones which are currently being implemented across all municipalities.  A key initiative of this section is to apply the most restrictive zone, Neighbourhood Residential “to at least 50 per cent” of the residential land in Melbourne.  Surely this contradicts the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure Practice Note 78 (Applying the residential zones) which contains the principle that the Residential General Zone should cover “most residential areas where moderate growth and diversity of housing that is consistent with existing neighbourhood character is to be provided”?

If a recent article in The Age newspaper (‘Councils opt for NIMBY approach on growth’: Jane Frances-Kelly and Paul Donegan; 7 November 2013), it was reported that the Planning Minister has already approved new residential zone amendments in Glen Eira that relate the most restrictive Residential Neighbourhood Zone to 80 per cent of residential areas across the Municipality.  The article suggests Booroondara is seeking approval for an amendment that proposes:


If this becomes the trend for the majority of Councils, then one of the objectives of PM to create a more compact city will be in jeopardy.

Application of the Neighbourhood Residential Zone does not encourage infill development in established suburbs which is necessary to limit the continual outward expansion of Melbourne.

Submissions to the PM will be received until 6 December 2013.  It is expected that the final PM will be released in January 2014.