Victorian Planning Authority Deputy Chair Bill Kusznirczuk is right to say that we need to radically reimagine how we plan our cities in the light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Kusznirczuk says the pandemic will reshape now planners approach high-rise, public transport and other planning issues. He has written that “There will be less demand for highrise living, with people with people troubled by higher densities and being located close to each other, sharing lifts and other communal facilities”.

“Things like having a lot of people gathering in places like flyers and lifts will need to be reconsidered. People will place a higher value on suburban living as they will feel more safe and
secure in the suburbs”.

Mr Kusznirczuk’s comments come in the wake of Australia’s Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly describing Melbourne’s residential high rise towers as “vertical cruise ships”.

He was supported by planning expert Professor Michael Buxton, who said the predominance of high rise developments in Melbourne has made Melbourne particularly inflexible in responding to the pandemic, and predicted that high rise towers will be pulled down in the next 30 years.

Mr Kusznirczuk is doing a much better job of looking into the future than City of Melbourne Councillor Nick Reece, who is pushing on with the old property developer line about the need to make Melbourne’s population denser.

To defend more high rise, Cr Reece puts out a false choice between high rise and urban sprawl, saying “we don’t want people living in huge McMansions on even larger blocks”. This assumes that Melbourne’s population is going to continue to grow, and should continue to grow, by over 100,000 each year.

It is time civic and political leaders listened to the public opposition to ever greater, and ever denser, population growth for Melbourne.

The State Government and Melbourne City Council should get with the new reality by re-thinking their plans for high rise buildings of up to 40 storeys around Arden and Macauley, two kilometres from the CBD, with the intention of putting an extra 25,000 residents into those 2 precincts.

This overdevelopment is not sustainable. It is old thinking, and we need new thinking.