Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Plan for future of Melbourne as sustainable and liveable

24-HOUR public transport, plenty of affordable housing and 30km/h speed zones are among plans for a new Melbourne outlined today.

Rated a few years ago as the world's most liveable city, and still among the top few, Melbourne is now aiming to emerge at the top of cities spruiking their sustainability credentials, with ambitions to be in the world's top 10 within 12 years.

A draft plan released today envisions a city that by 2020 has public transport running 24/7, low energy emissions, and a decent chunk of affordable housing.

The Future Melbourne plan, developed over the past year with input from 15,000 people and groups, also hopes to increase the proportion of workers commuting to the CBD without cars from 72 per cent to 90 per cent.

But the city hasn't given up entirely on its liveability ambitions, with a target to regain its number one place on the Economist Intelligence Unit's Quality of Life Ranking high up on its list of priorities.

The Future Melbourne plan was developed by a reference group for the City of Melbourne municipality, which covers the inner city and surrounding areas including Southbank and Docklands.

Reference group chair Carol Schwartz admitted today some of the goals were ambitious.

"We actually believe that what we are handing over to the city is quite achievable,'' she told reporters in Melbourne today.

"I think it's very ambitious and I think it's great to be ambitious.''

Some of the draft plan's more ambitious targets include reducing residents' and workers' greenhouse gas emissions.

By 2020, the plan envisages 140,000 people living in the inner city municipality, up from about 86,000 currently.

It proposes reducing residential greenhouse gas emissions by 35 per cent per capita by 2020 from 2000 levels, and 59 per cent per worker from energy consumption levels in 2006.

Drinking water usage is proposed to be reduced by 40 per cent per resident and 50 per cent per worker, compared to 2000 levels.

Under the plan, chronic homelessness in the inner city would be eliminated and 20 per cent of all new housing developments would be affordable or social housing.

When it comes to reducing traffic congestion, Lord Mayor John So said the council would work to encourage modes of transport other than cars to ferry people to the city, rather than imposing a congestion tax.

"Public transport at the moment is one of the challenges facing Melbourne,'' he said, adding the council was working with the State Government to tackle the problem.

With the number of peak-hour city cyclists doubling from four per cent in 2006 to eight per cent last year, the plan envisions encouraging two-wheeled transport further.

This would include slowing down traffic to 30km/h to make streets safer for cyclists, designing dedicated lanes and offering a public bicycle rental system, akin to Paris.

One of the 152 targets in the plan is to have a 24-hour stimulating and safe city, including round-the-clock transport.

To achieve this the council would need to work with the State Government and service providers, Council chief executive Kathy Alexander said.

"If you have got a 24-hour city you do need to consider the range of services, it's not just about transport,'' Dr Alexander said.

The draft report, which cost more than $500,000 to compile, was officially handed to the council today and will be considered at a council planning meeting in September for inclusion into the next four-year strategy.

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