WHAT THE NORTH NEEDS

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By Charlotte Pordage

 

Local councils have banded together to reveal a lack of investment in roads, public transport, hospitals, educational and recreational facilities in Melbourne’s northern region.

The findings came as a result of a recent report, titled North Horizons-50 Year Infrastructure Strategy for Melbourne’s North, which was released on the eighth of April. The report was prepared by independent consultants Arup and commissioned by NORTH Link, Northern Melbourne RDA Committee, La Trobe University and the eight municipalities of Banyule, Darebin, Hume, Mitchell, Moreland, Nillumbik, Yarra and Whittlesea.

The report assessed the entire area north of Melbourne, which has a population of close to one million and generates 13 per cent of Victoria’s total economic production. It is predicted that by 2050, the population in the north will have grown to 1.6 million so effective regional planning is a major concern.

For every $2 spent in the Eastern and South Eastern suburbs, the north gets $1.”

Moreland CEO Peter Brown says the north simply hasn’t had access to same level of funding from state and federal governments as other regions in Melbourne. Mr Brown said: “For every $2 spent in the Eastern and South Eastern suburbs, the north gets $1.” The report clearly identified critical shortfalls in infrastructure provision, particularly in relation to road infrastructure, public transport, health/aged care services, gas and industrial zoned land.

The future directions section of the report highlights over 30 different priority projects and programs to address current and future infrastructure gaps. Some of the short-term priorities include: a program of grade separations, improving tram operations, a co-ordinated bus network, accelerated National Broadband Network rollout, new aged care facilities, new primary schools and 1500 new hospital beds in existing institutions. Many of the medium and long-term solutions propose extending rail and tramlines, improving local road routes and building new freeways to reduce traffic.

According to Rob Turk, author of the report, the north had the greatest road congestion in comparison to the west, east and south. Mr Turk said: “When we went and spoke to all the different senior leaders, who represent both local government and business in Melbourne’s north, transport congestion was the number one issue they all spoke about.”

The city of Yarra has Australia’s highest proportion of commuter cyclists. We need better, safer bike routes to keep up with demand and encourage more people to ride. It’s good for our environment and our health..”

Better, more frequent public transport services and safer bike routes were two of the key ways mentioned to help take cars off the road. Cr Geoff Barbour, mayor of Yarra, said: “The city of Yarra has Australia’s highest proportion of commuter cyclists. We need better, safer bike routes to keep up with demand and encourage more people to ride. It’s good for our environment and our health.”

Cr Craig Langdon, mayor of Banyule, also wants to see better use being made of the existing educational, research and health facilities in the area, which include Austin hospital, La Trobe University and RMIT, and recommended linking these institutions together with local businesses to create jobs for the north.

While separately and independently prepared, Northern Horizons aligns closely with the Victorian Government’s Plan Melbourne and presents information that will inform, support and build on the strategic direction and initiatives outlined in Plan Melbourne.

Michael Butera, executive director of NORTH Link, said: “By outlining priority projects we hope the report will lead to partnerships between the local, State and commonwealth governments, the private sector and the community, to delivery major infrastructure projects to help drive productivity, growth and livability for the Melbourne and Victorian economies.”

 

 

Charlotte Pordage arrived in Australia from the UK in 2013, after spending six mad months travelling round Asia. She has a degree in English Literature and Latin and her interests include riding her horse Oscar and exploring Melbourne’s eclectic nightlife. You can follow her on Twitter @charpordage.

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