Regional development – achieving decentralisation
Melbourne, the worlds most liveable city, is rapidly losing its lustre and becoming an unliveable city for many of its citizens. The planned for natural increase in population is now affected by the unplanned and continuous migrant increase that is overwhelming the city’s resources and infrastructure. This is not the only damage unplanned growth and centralisation causes to our once highly successful egalitarian society. It not only diminishes our quality of life but marginalises many of our fellow citizens, causing stratification of our society.
Only the political and societal elite remain unaffected by housing affordability, uncluttered spaces and the freedoms all Australians once enjoyed in city communities where the majority of citizens are being displaced to an urban sprawl of under serviced, poorly resourced sometime tribal enclaves where crime is king, mental health of the residents suffers, jobs are few and hope for our children’s and grand children’s future is not bright. It is a relatively simple geographical measure to assess the stratification as generally being those who must live more than 30 minutes commuting from their workplace.
This paper contends that proper planning and development would see an end of Melbourne centric Victoria to a more diversified and regionalised approach that disavows the examples of winners and losers in globalised mega cities but concentrates more broadly on citizens and their livelihoods. That the centralisation trend must come to an end is being demonstrated globally and the decision is whether that will be through a decentralised approach by a Liberal government or the actions of a conservative challenger.
However, simply creating dormitory cities around a pivotal Melbourne does not represent decentralisation. Melbourne has many examples of dormitory suburbs that have simply added to the stress and poor quality of life of their residents. To be truly effective it is necessary to create fully functional decentralised cities that provide the full life experience including meeting the employment, educational, sporting and health requirements of their inhabitants.
We already have the infrastructure in place to commence such a move. We have large decentralised hospitals, police, fire and ambulance services in Shepparton, Bendigo, Ballarat, Traralgon and Geelong. Quality secondary and tertiary education exists in each of those regions. What we need is to create the political will and the momentum to move jobs to the regions and the people will follow.
On the political front we need an action plan so that within 30 days of being elected the government can announce the regional policies and commence their implementation within 7 days of the announcement. Examples of such policies include:
The abolition of payroll tax on salaries and wages of persons whose employment occurs in regional Victoria and is at least 100 kilometres from the Parliament House.
Upgrading of inter-region road links (such as the A300 from Geelong to Shepparton) to allow cross country movement of goods and people without the need to enter Melbourne and surrounds. Re-Establishment of Rail with links into Portland and Hastings
Relocation of most State Government departments to regional towns or cities with only those essential personnel required to run Melbourne left in the city and surrounds.
Demanding the Commonwealth prioritize implementing the NBN to assist regional based businesses rather that connecting dwellings to facilitate downloading entertainment.
Construction of at least 5000 welfare housing units (houses or flats) in regional Victoria with at least two in every hamlet, village and town where there is a primary school, a rail station, general store and preferably an hotel. Recipients to take the offer or move to the bottom of the queue.