What’s VECCI’s vision for Melbourne?

I've always said street art is rubbish (video)

The Victorian Employer’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) released five policy papers on Monday aimed at guiding the pre-election decision-making of the major parties.

The paper on Infrastructure and Liveability is of particular interest to the Melbourne Urbanist. Apart from a short introduction emphasising the economic importance of infrastructure, it’s essentially a list of actions, some very specific, which looks like it was cobbled together by the proverbial committee.

It includes some current projects such as the planned Melbourne Metro, but there are some other ideas that are very interesting, to say the least.

For example:

  • All road users, including cyclists, should be licensed and vehicles registered
  • The next State government should adopt ‘zero tolerance’ approaches to crime
  • An airport rail link should be planned for long term, as well as better rail links to Avalon Airport and its upgrade to international status
  • The precinct on the Federation Square east site over the Jolimont rail yards could house a Melbourne residence for the Prime Minister and an internationally focused hub to incubate innovative industries spanning contemporary art and culture, sustainability, innovation and trade
  • Removal of level crossings
  • Completion of metropolitan ring road – North East Interconnector
  • Cross-city tunnel links – east-west and north-south
  • Construction of Outer Metropolitan Ring Road
  • Develop the ports of Hastings and Geelong and related road and rail transport links

I wouldn’t know where to start with this shopping list. Each proposal throws up issues that would require a separate post to consider properly (although I’ve previously discussed bicycle licensing and the airport rail link).

As fascinating as it would be to comment on a breathtaking idea like building a massive platform over the Jolimont rail yards in order to provide subsidised incubators for start-up arts businesses (!!!), I’ll settle at this stage for a more general comment.

What I don’t get from this policy is in any sense of a broader framework or strategy about where VECCI thinks Melbourne should be headed. Where do they want to go? If they know, how do they propose we get there?

I don’t even see how many of the proposed actions fit with each other or their relative priority. Symptomatic of this non-strategic thinking is the relative paucity of actions related to key policy areas like housing affordability and public transport. This is surprising in a policy on liveability, given the increasing importance of human capital in the State economy.

What, for example, does VECCI propose in order to increase the supply of affordable housing within established suburbs? What does it propose in order to deal with traffic congestion and to lessen the fuel and emission impacts of cars? Is the Metro (a new rail line from the West to the CBD and on to the Domain) all that’s needed for public transport?

And where are the full implications of the proposed actions evaluated? Eliminating level crossings, for example, would be extraordinarily costly with significant environmental impacts. Which crossings? What would it cost? What are the benefits (presumably mainly in the form of better traffic flow)? What is the timing?

An organisation of the size and influence of VECCI should take a much more considered and strategic approach to where it wants to take the State and Melbourne.

PS: when I get time I’ll look at the specific proposals

22 Comments on “What’s VECCI’s vision for Melbourne?”

  1. Matthew says:

    The VECCI have no credibility whatsoever for suggesting bicycle licensing. (That is the litmus test for transport policy idiocy) What next? shoe licensing? Idiots. And all those ring roads and cross city tunnels. I think they’re road building anti-sustainability yobbos. It’s not a statement of liveability, but unliveability. As followers of my comments might already know I already decided that Melbourne was unliveable and buggered off elsewhere. The only good idea is the removal of level crossings, but they probably don’t want their precious cars to have to wait, and couldn’t give a stuff about the trains reliability.

  2. Chris says:

    Can I just say that I agree with EVERYTHING Matthew has said, although I’m still awaiting my opportunity to bugger of somewhere else, I’m thinking Canada looks good?

    I just wanted to say I think that if the Jolimont yards are built over it should be with a view to replacing some of the park land lost to all those sports precincts and stadiums. Melbourne’s CBD was supposed to be ringed by parks, not football stadiums that sit empty most of the time.

  3. TomD says:

    Would be very interested to hear more on why Melbourne is supposedly unlivable and what qualities other cities elsewhere in the world are supposed to possess to provide a better option in this regard! If Melbourne is unlivable I would hate to imagine what would be thought of Sydney.

    These livability debates need some meaningful criteria if they themselves are to be meaningful and I’m not sure these could ever be agreed upon. Way too many factors, too many subjective tastes involved. (Taking a more extreme example, a resident of a small and remote country town could find it entirely livable for reasons a big city loving person could never grasp.)

    Your own state of mind, stage of life, attitude to life (and what meaning you give it), let alone the extent and value of your personal relationships, being just some of the key non environmental and non-entertainment based factors coming to bear on our responses and evaluations here.

    In my experience no city is perfect, no community is perfect, some just happen to offer more than others for a host of different reasons – including the qualities of the dominant values in what happens, for better or for worse.

    And of course depending on their own circumstances and viewing perspectives, a thousand different residents could come to a thousand different conclusions about their ‘same’ shared city/commmunity … simply because they will be living their lives differently enough within their own particular city realms and ‘bubbles’ to perceive and measure it all by what in reality comprise totally diverging means.

    Alan, it is frequently very hard to fathom the positions that Chambers of Commerce adopt, partially because their positions on things are often reflective of trying to keep happy a far too diverse membership, with way too many differing needs and interests.

    The worst and most recent example of a Chamber working against its own small business interests and membership has been the number of times the US Chamber of Commerce’s Washington lobbyists have incomprehensibly sided with the political stances of major corporations (BIG business) in opposing fundamentally beneficial Obama led economic reforms.

    Even at the local level, aside from supporting mainstreet projects, very few are renowned for their vision, leadership and strategic planning on a broader economic and infrastructure development level. On the other hand those that are, and who believe in partnering effectively with the whole community (not just their members), have been shown to achieve amazing results in some places.

    • Alan Davies says:

      Excellent points, Tom! Liveability is indeed a very slippery animal.

    • Matthew says:

      My definition of Melbourne’s unsustainability was house prices. I couldn’t afford anything except an hour out. And to get from Spencer Street Station to my job at the WTC I couldn’t get there without lungfuls of tobacco smoke. Not the way I want to start the morning, as a sardine for an hour on a train and then an unpleasant walk of foul air. So air pollution, noise pollution, crowded trains and unaffordable housing. It was also miles to anywhere up in the Dandenongs for a decent hike. I came from Adelaide and I just couldn’t get anywhere near as good a quality of life living in Melbourne with my financial means (which is probably above average, but I’m over getting that getting a mortgage lark). I looked for another job as quick as I could and got out. I had enjoyed Melbourne as a visitor dozens of times before, but as a resident it wasn’t my cup of tea.

    • Chris says:

      Your points are good, people (my self included) should define ‘livability’ when using the term because it is subjective, and generally over used.

      I don’t think Melbourne should compare itself to Sydney because this country is already a bit of an echo chamber and we need to find some new ideas.

      And I really like your point about Chambers of Commerce not being able to represent diverse memberships because democratic governments have the same problem on a much bigger scale.

  4. jack horner says:

    Concern plan-as-shopping-list: Similarly, recent outputs of what is jokingly called transport planning in NSW (2006 pre-election ‘Urban Transport Statement’; 2010 ‘Metropolitan Transport Plan’) are mostly an engineer’s wish list of projects in search of a guiding princple.

    What do you want you city to be like in 30 years? More car-dependent? less car dependent? More CBD focus? less CBD focus? Etc. etc. Don’t expect to find answers in these ‘plans’.

  5. Russ says:

    I second what jack said here. You can hardly expect VECCI to create a decent transport plan when the Dept. of Transport also releases “shopping list” plans devoid of strategic context. A point further emphasised when they release an update every few years with a non-coincident list of projects, like a 10-year-old putting out a wish list for Santa.

  6. Chris James says:

    Even though I do not always agree with you, you usually comport yourself in a thoughtful and constructive fashion.
    Sadly, you have failed to do so on this occasion.
    Two things:
    1) Our infrastructure policy is an election policy – it is meant to be short, snappy and provocative. In your case it has obviously worked. Our more detailed work can be found here.
    2) Your remarks about policies designed by Committees are snide and inaccurate – the priorities contained within the document have been run past hundreds of businesses and other stakeholders at forums for a number of years now – they are the priorities of VECCI as informed by the business community who engage with us, pure and simple.
    I suppose it is easier to be the Quentin Pose*-style critic than work with stakeholders and do the policy hard yards.
    Regards, Chris James
    * apologies to the late Kenny Everett

    • Alan Davies says:

      Chris, I didn’t come down in the last shower. Your organisation (VECCI), like it’s rival (AIG),is comprised of a diverse membership from different industries. Not surprisingly there will tend to be different priorities between member industries and even on occasions conflicts.

      Fact is, notwithstanding a lot of bureaucratic-like guff attempting to lend some gravitas to the policy, it is not a strategic policy. If you could give us that URL with the background you mention that might be enlightening.

      BTW I do appreciate the literary reference.

  7. Michael says:

    I’m quite suspicious about the representativeness (probably no such word) of organisations such as VECCI.

    “VECCI is Victoria’s voice for business – a powerful voice for the interests of Victorian businesses, large and small.”

    Are bicycle shops included? Do they poll their members when compiling a list like this? I’m an RACV member and I’ve never been asked my opinion about anything from them, and I can say that I categorically reject the idea of spending any money on their pet project list, yet they “represent” their members. If they are truly representative then Melbourne is doomed if this are their considered ideas.

    • Chris James says:

      We have about 6,500 members and survey them regularly on issues. We are in regular touch through our newsletters with a further 40,000.
      I am suspicious of people who make comments on websites and don’t leave their full names and organisations.
      Chris James – VECCI

      • Michael says:

        Chris James – Can you list some of the businesses that proudly support licensing cyclists and charging registration?

      • The Editor says:

        Michael, I repeat my original comment – reveal your identity!
        Chris James – VECCI

      • Matthew says:

        Are you and VECCI control freaks or something?

      • Michael says:

        I don’t think I have any obligation to supply my full name to you. I comment here regularly as an interested reader of Alan’s blog. I don’t represent any organisation or business and don’t belong to a political party. That’s all you need to know.

      • Alan Davies says:

        I’m afraid it’s the nature of the beast,Chris. Most people who comment here and elsewhere have “handles”. That’s the internet. Best to look at the substance of what people say rather than worry about their possible agenda.

  8. Ian Woodcock says:

    Why should an organisation like VECCI have such a broad vision anyway? They represent the interests of a very specific sector of the population, and a limited set of dimensions of the people/organisations within that population (there’s more to life than business, but business is business, right?). VECCI members would stand to benefit in some way or other from all of these shopping items.

  9. JamesP says:

    It’s always amusing to hear from the anti-car, anti-roads brigade who get around on bicycles and by public transport, and think road-related infrastructure is of no use to them.

    I wonder how they think their bread, milk and other fresh produce are delivered to their local supermarket? I wonder if they realise they benefit from reduced import prices because of the dredging of Port-Phillip Bay which allows larger shipping containers to dock in the Port of Melbourne and lowers average shopping costs?

    The fact is that investment in major infrastructure – yes, including roads – benefits all Victorians, and we would be all worse off without it, even those without cars!

    • Michael says:

      There is a difference between being against expanding road infrastructure at the expense of other transport infrastructure and being “anti-car, anti-road”. I’m neither. I own a car and pay registration. I don’t contribute to peak hour congestion that slows down business by driving it when I can use an alternative. There is good evidence that some road building projects fail to reduce congestion.

    • jack horner says:

      This sounds like the trucking lobby’s ‘everything you buy has been carried in a truck’ meme.

      It’s true, but irrelevant. That is, irrelevant to any sensible discussion of transport futures.

      All change is incremental. The question of interest is, ‘would it be better economically or environmentally if SOME of this stuff, SOME of the time, in SOME places, got carried in SOME other way (eg by train) for SOME of its journey, more than at present?’

      ‘Everything you buy has been carried in a truck’ does not illumintate that discussion.

      Similarly with passenger transport: ‘proroad’ or ‘anti-road’ is a false dichotomy. The question of prime interest is the direction of change: do you want a more car-dependent or less car-dependent big city future?’ Your answer to that question will inform your recommended priorities for urban transport investment.

      It is simplistic to imply that advocating a future that’s different from extrapolating the past is ‘antiroad’.

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