Melbourne with 8 million

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Committee for Melbourne promotes a vision for Melbourne in 2060 that is even more liveable than today. To become more liveable we need to plan a city that accommodates its population in a better way than even today. 

To do this we need to plan our city on a likely population figure.

In 2010 in my role of CEO of the Committee, I published the following.

Getting better as we get bigger.

It is important to note that the figure should be based on a realistic figure – neither unachievably high or unachievably low. If we extrapolate the 150 year growth average for Melbourne for a further 50 years we would get a realistic ‘continuity figure – ie continuing for the next 50 years that which we have done for the last 150.

If we continue out 150 year average of 1.4% per anum, not the spike of 2.2% we saw 3 years ago, we wouldn’t get to 8 million until 2060. This is not a figure that CfM ‘aims’ for, rather a figure that logical analysis says is likely.

Even if you take the anti-growth views of people like Kelvin Thomson into account we would still reach that figure. Thomson, who argues for population controls on migration and financial disincentives from government for people to choose their family sizes, would see Melbourne reach 8 million by 2096.

On the growth figures that Melbourne experienced in 2008 of 2.2%, the city would reach 8 million by 2042.

Committee for Melbourne plots a moderate middle course of 2060, based on the 150 year growth average (Melbourne grew at an average rate of 1.4% for the past 150 years).

Some people are scared by this number. But regardless of whether it is 2096, 2060, or 2042, unless Melbourne becomes ugly or an economic wasteland, 8 million will be reached at some point in the future. Recent discussions have become bogged down in a debate about numbers. The best debate is not about numbers or time frames. The debate is about the Vision. The question then is how do we plan for it

I spoke recently to the growth Areas Authority on this subject here.

Many issues will need to be planned and resolved if Melbourne at eight million is to maintain its status as one of the World’s Most Liveable Cities. We will need a vision for our future, much as Hoddle had a vision when he planned the CBD grid. Our vision will need to be equally as broad ranged as Hoddle’s.

One of the many questions that we face in visioning Melbourne is: Where will all these people live? Will we have many more Docklands? Will we see Fisherman’s Bend as a new residential heartland?

Many people have a view on Docklands, some positive and some negative, but does the Docklands development provide us some lessons in determining how we plan, and where we plan, future growth?

Take Fisherman’s Bend for example. Surely we could extend Docklands all through there?

Fisherman’s Bend, the area separating the south bank of the Yarra from Port Melbourne is, when looking only at the map, ideally placed for residential development. Tell me Web Dock would not be a great place to live, surrounded on three sides by water?

Currently it is a giant car park.

Closer to the CBD than St. Kilda, potentially more accessible than Footscray, surrounded by great suburban locations, yet Fisherman’s Bend is made up of light industrial lands.

There are reasons for this. Some industries went in back in the days when Fisherman’s Bend was to be Melbourne’s airport. Some industry is there to service the Port. Some industry is there as the Garden City area of Port Melbourne, where I did a paper round as a kid, was envisaged as a cheap dormitory area for the industrial workers.

Now the prices have gone up and many of those working in Fisherman’s Bend have long commutes.

The vision of close housing and work no longer applies, due to changes in area based demographics.

However, major decisions need to be made before Fisherman’s Bend could be a great new Docklands.

Where would the Industry such as Holden go? How could we cost effectively move the different industries and employers without risking jobs and production? How would we clean up the contaminated land and who would pay for it? Where would you put the Port?

Clearly, if we take a short and a medium term vision, say five to 20 years, the cost effectiveness of a conversion of Fisherman’s Bend would not stack up. We would leave it as an industrial area and try to find other interim solutions for a growing population.

But what of the longer term vision? What of Melbourne at eight million?

When planning a major city, or the significant growth of a major city, a long term comprehensive vision is surely more likely to lead to a better city, than short term ad-hoc responses, or medium term incremental changes.

We do not argue that Fisherman’s Bend could provide the entire solution, or only solution, to a growing Melbourne. Nor does the Committee for Melbourne put forward the view that Fisherman’s Bend must become residential.

My point is more subtle than that. My point is that many other growth options open up, many other solutions can be found, when a long term visionary approach is taken to planning Melbourne. Short and medium term plans don’t give us exciting options for moving forward, geographically, economically, culturally and socially.

In a series of Shaping Melbourne Reports, (see here) Committee for Melbourne has engaged the community to look more at Density, Infrastructure , Community and Governance and will ask us all to look at the vision.

Above all our series of reports will call upon all of us Melbournians to engage in that ‘Vision thing’. If we get the vision right, we get the city right. If we don’t get the vision right then we get whatever just happens to come to pass.

More discussion like this is in: 


5 Replies to “Melbourne with 8 million”

  1. Stop the population growth – it is not benefitting our country. Already our roads, public transport and hospitals are clogged and too much native flora and fauna is being lost for the benefit of a few, certainly not the residents. Why have a carbon tax when the population issue is not being acknowledged by those in power.


  2. My apologies if my earlier comment caused offence Andrew, that wasn't my intention. I do agree we need vision, I guess it was more that it needs to be a collective vision of a wonderful Australia in balance with it's wildlife as well as concerted focus on future food and water security.

    The whole country would benefit from Australia moving to a stable population. Our economy is actually doing increasingly poorly because the old mechanism of growth through pro-populate policies are no longer viable. This can readily be achieved by a) balancing emigration with immigration, b) changing the baby bonus to paid paternity leave or even phasing it out, c) investing in education and d) looking into ways of attracting/keeping the best minds.

    This would also make the job of managing our infrastructure far less costly, with good vision and planning, we could move to more pleasant cities and towns that allow re-instating the wildlife corridors that would allow our Koalas and Kangaroos and other creatures to once again be an ever present reminder of what is special about Australia. But this is all the more difficult to acheive when our population is growing as quickly as it is. I hope this better conveys my meaning.


  3. Thanks Matt,

    I think the most important thing is to continue to encourage open and respectful dialogue. People will always have differences of opinion, we just need to make sure that differences can be aired in an open and positive way.

    We all want the best future for the country – we just need to recognise that different views are legitimate.

    I think that you and I would agree on a fundamental point that the future needs to be planned, not just evolved.


  4. From a housing perspective: an overhaul of ResCode. There are far too many standards in there that prevent progressive moves towards truly sustainable developments (setbacks) and too much emphasis on preventing overlooking as if privacy is a democratic right. It's a luxury, but community spirit comes from knowing your neighbour instead! A friend surmised recently that we will look back and grimace at the time when we designed to encourage privacy rather than community.

    Good to see that the city is thinking about beyond 5 million!


  5. Define “not benefiting our country”. In the 60s almost all the roads were built by migrants and even today, the likes of Grollo are all immigrants who have a major impact on the development of Melbourne.

    You cant blame roads and public transport congestion on migrants. That is the role of government.

    What percentage of growth rate is attributed to migration compared to birth rate of locals?

    Also, every city grows (and has challenges), it didn't stop other cities becoming great.


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