Manage Urban Change
Victoria’s population and economy have grown quickly, putting pressure on land use and infrastructure. The COVID-19 pandemic temporarily slowed this growth. Population and economic growth should resume in the medium term, and continue to increase over the next 30 years. The Victorian Government can make decisions now that prepare Victoria to better manage growth and avoid the problems of the past.
Fortunately, most of the infrastructure required to meet future needs already exists. If better used, integrated, priced and managed, this existing infrastructure can meet demand faster, more cheaply, more equitably, and with fewer environmental impacts than most new construction projects.
Planning reform and transport infrastructure can affect people’s preferences and choices about where they live. Integrating land use and infrastructure planning can create better urban environments, enhance economic performance, support more inclusive communities and minimise ecological impacts.
Government decision-making alone does not determine the shape of urban environments. Individuals, families and businesses make housing and location choices, considering affordability, safety, amenity, neighbourhood characteristics, and access to education and employment.1 Business needs determine desirable locations, including market access, land costs, worker availability and transport infrastructure.2 Effective government interventions consider and are influenced by these decisions. Victoria’s cities and regions must reflect that people, and their aspirations, are different than in the past and may continue to change. People have different needs, more diverse family structures, cultural heritage, career options, service needs and housing choices. A changing economy and society also alter people’s choices, behaviours and preferences. These characteristics will continue evolving, including from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Land use planning and regulation, together with infrastructure planning and delivery, can affect the location choices of people and businesses. Planning reform and transport infrastructure can affect people’s location preferences and choices, in turn affecting patterns of economic and social activity and movements that affect people’s daily lives. For example, they influence the economy’s productivity, job creation, road congestion, public transport crowding, and the location of new homes and businesses. Integrating land use and infrastructure planning can combine these forces to create better urban environments, deliver superior economic performance, support more inclusive communities, and minimise ecological impacts.
Many established suburbs of Melbourne can accommodate more homes in better locations, with plentiful access to jobs, services, and good transport connections.3 Better integration can draw upon their existing infrastructure. By understanding community needs, and carefully investing in supporting infrastructure and upgrades, these established places can add more homes, and be sustainable and inclusive communities.4 Similarly, Victorians can better use existing infrastructure if demand for it is managed. People can be encouraged to use infrastructure more when it has spare capacity and be rewarded for curtailing unnecessary use when it is under strain. Prices can send strong signals that influence behaviour and help manage demand. This can vastly reduce the need to build new infrastructure and provide better services.5 As Victoria grows and changes, land for building infrastructure will become scarcer and more expensive. It will increase the cost and complexity of infrastructure projects and multi-unit housing developments. The noise and disruption of these projects will affect more residents. Improving the management of existing infrastructure by investing in strong asset management capabilities – the cycle of procurement, construction, maintenance, repair, renewal and disposal – means Victoria can use infrastructure more effectively for longer, and ultimately achieve better value for money.