Melbourne at risk of becoming 'Australia's most unliveable city'

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Melbourne Traffic
Trucks carrying goods are seen in a traffic jam in outer Melbourne August 31, 2010. Reuters/Mike Tsikas

Melbourne is at risk of becoming “unliveable’’ within ten years, and Victoria may languish in recession, a new report suggests. This can be prevented with a comprehensive plan to encourage more people to reside and work outside the city.

Based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 6.1 million people reside in Victoria. Ninety percent of new arrivals settle in Melbourne.

The report warns that such degree of centralisation is not sustainable. “Without a comprehensive plan, Melbourne is at risk of becoming Australia’s most unliveable city within a decade and regional Victoria may not share the prosperity that comes with increased population,’’ it reads.

Victorian Population Policy Taskforce’s interim report also shows increasing support for a policy that will lessen Melbourne’s population intake that supercharged economy and housing market. Authors of the report have recognised that the state governments do not have control over the nation’s policies on immigration.

It also includes an economic dividend to rebalance the state’s population growth. The Essential Economics report, which found that the cost of welcoming new arrivals is three times the cost of settling them in regional areas, was quoted.

Furthermore, the report finds comprehensive support throughout Melbourne and regional Victoria for decentralisation. The Hamer government was the last to pursue the policy in Victoria in the 1970s.

The Victorian opposition considers measures to decentralise the state’s city. These include land tax, payroll tax concessions for regional businesses and stamp duty concessions on properties outside Melbourne.

According to population researcher and taskforce member Bob Birrell, the permanent migration intake of least 205,000 people results to a “disastrous impact’’ on Melbourne. The situation is the same for Sydney. Taskforce chairman and Liberal MP Tim Smith has confirmed Melbourne and Victoria are Australia’s fastest-growing state and city.

An SGS Economics analysis indicated that in the past two years, the Melbourne economy has grown at more than 4 percent per year. Meanwhile, Victoria’s regional economy has dropped.

The Age notes several Melburnians believe planning and commensurate investment in infrastructure and services are needed in redirecting population growth towards the regions. The proposed solutions were picked from a broad menu of economic incentives and improved regional rail links.

Another community suggestion that is being considered is the relocation of more government departments to regional cities. Special economic zones are also proposed to attract investments. A final report with suggested policies will be delivered at the end of the year. For other news in Melbourne, watch video below.

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