The Victorian Government’s master planning document, Plan Melbourne— which drives high density development throughout our suburbs—assumes continuing rapid population growth over the next decade. It needs to be dumped, or at the very least, urgently reassessed.
The coronavirus pandemic, and the Federal response to it, means this assumption has been overtaken by events, and that Plan Melbourne is out of date.
The Morrison Government expects a fall of up to 300,000 people moving to Australia over the next 2 years. The Federal Government expects net overseas migration to fall by 30% in the current financial year, and to crash by 85% in 2020-21 to around 40,000.
Some of the drivers of this fall are outside Australia’s control, such as lockdowns in other countries and a collapse in international air travel. However the Federal Labor Opposition has also signalled a reduction in migration, calling for Australia’s immigration to be overhauled and curtailed in the wake of the pandemic. Opposition spokesperson Senator Keneally has written “Do we want migrants to return to Australia in the same numbers and in the same composition as before the crisis? The answer is no”.
Against this background, the Victorian Government needs to either dump or urgently reassess Plan Melbourne—which makes high rise and high density housing a planning priority at the cost of any other considerations. Otherwise we risk being caught living in the past. It is likely that businesses that have developed a dependence on rapid population growth will struggle, and the Victorian Government needs to plan for this.
It would also be wrong for the Government to continue to impose rules enforcing denser populations on communities that don’t want them. Plan Melbourne has been a vehicle for Councils to be told they have to accommodate “their share” of Melbourne’s population growth. The Government should revisit its population projections, and not be caught out by a potentially fast changing population landscape.
It certainly should not continue to impose high-rise coronavirus traps, forcing people to live on top of each other, on unwilling communities.
The evidence around the world is clear –a dense population is a vulnerable one. The Victorian Government needs to understand that the game has changed, and move with the times.