Victoria’s new Labor Government: plans, policies and promises

The removal of 50 level crossings in Melbourne, a twelve-month trial of 24-hour public transport on weekends, the termination of the East West Link project and the construction of the original Melbourne Metro rail tunnel are among a number of plans, policies and promises of the new Victorian Labor Government.

Premier Daniel Andrews and his new Cabinet were sworn in at Government House last Thursday, with Member for Richmond, Richard Wynne, becoming the state’s new Planning Minister. The new Minister’s responsibilities will include overseeing changes to wind farm rules, a review of the state’s residential zones and a review of the Fishermans Bend planning process. In other changes, Victoria will soon have its own independent body (Infrastructure Victoria) to provide advice on the state’s long-term priorities, and another new body (Projects Victoria) to ensure the successful delivery of these priorities.

Melbourne Metro

Labor will provide $300 million in its first budget to complete planning, design and early works of the original Melbourne Metro project.

The project involves a tunnel between South Kensington (on the Sunbury line) and South Yarra (on the Pakenham-Dandenong line) with 5 new underground stations at Arden Hospital Precinct, Parkville University Precinct, CBD North (Melbourne Central), CBD South (Flinders Street) and Domain.

West Gate Distributor

Labor will construct the $400 to $500 million West Gate Distributor, which is expected to remove trucks from the West Gate Bridge and local roads by providing a direct route between the Port of Melbourne and the West Gate Freeway. The project will consist of three main components:

  • Component 1: West Gate Freeway on-and-off ramps and an elevated road along Hyde Street, Yarraville;
  • Component 2: Upgrade and duplication of Whitehall Street between Francis Street and Somerville Road; and
  • Component 3: Strengthening of Shepherd Bridge and upgrades to Footscray Road.

Removal of 50 level crossings

At an estimated cost of between $5 and $6 billion, Labor will remove 50 of the ‘most dangerous and congested’ level crossings on the metropolitan rail network.

In its ‘Project 10,000’ document, Labor said it will actively pursue appropriate development and value capture opportunities and reinvest the proceeds back into further improvements to the public transport system.

No East West Link

Labor has stated that it will not proceed with the $6.8 billion East West Link road tunnel between the Eastern Freeway and CityLink.

Fishermans Bend

Labor has said it will review the planning process for Fishermans Bend to help protect the suburb from ‘overdevelopment, congestion, flooding, and a lack of schools and services’. It will seek to develop the precinct into a series of distinct neighbourhoods that showcases ‘best-practice’ urban renewal outcomes. This will be done by a dedicated office within the Metropolitan Planning Authority (soon-to-be renamed the Victorian Planning Authority).

Review of residential zoning

Labor will conduct an independent review to understand ‘what went wrong with the Liberals’ residential zone changes’. The review panel will consider protocols for best practice consultation and the appropriate role of the Minister, councils and the community in the planning process. It will also consider the impact of the zone changes on suburbs and alternative ways to meet the city’s housing needs. Once complete, a full report is expected to be tabled in Parliament.

Infrastructure Victoria and Projects Victoria 

Labor will establish two new bodies to ensure Victoria has a steady pipeline of infrastructure projects. Infrastructure Victoria will be an independent body and will be tasked with providing advice on the state’s long-term priorities.  Projects Victoria will ensure that these priorities ‘are delivered on time and on budget’.

According to Labor, the establishment of Infrastructure Victoria – a standing, independent expert body – will ensure a long-term approach to capital projects beyond election cycles.

While the decision on whether to proceed with a project will remain with the government of the day, Infrastructure Victoria will assist in identifying infrastructure needs, consult on proposals and consider funding and financing models. It will also publicly release its advice.

Projects Victoria will be tasked with ensuring that major public projects ‘stay on track’. The new body will directly manage those projects where the relevant department or agency does not have expertise and will provide oversight where the project is managed in-house.

Projects Victoria is to be funded in the same way that Major Projects Victoria (which will be absorbed by it) is currently funded: through cost recovery charges on client departments and agencies.

Establishment of the Victorian Transport Building Fund (VTBF)

The Victorian Transport Building Fund (VTBF) will be a dedicated transport investment fund established initially using proceeds from the long term lease of the Port of Melbourne, with other revenue to be invested as and when it becomes available. Proceeds from the Port of Melbourne lease will kick-start the fund and all payments out of the VTBF will be limited to funding required to deliver new transport-related capital projects.

24-hour public transport on weekends

Under Victorian Labor’s $50 million ‘Homesafe’ plan, selected public transport services will operate non-stop on Friday and Saturday nights as part of a twelve month trial that is expected to be in operation by New Year’s Eve 2015. Trains will operate on all metropolitan lines and trams will operate through Melbourne’s CBD and to destinations including St Kilda, Coburg, Bundoora, Port Melbourne, Carnegie, Box Hill and Vermont South.

The current NightRider buses will continue, with a particular focus on areas not serviced by rail. Shuttle bus services for the regional destinations of Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and Traralgon will leave the CBD at 2.00am.

Flagstaff Station to open on weekends

Flagstaff Station will open on Saturday and Sundays in recognition of the significant development and activity in the area, including apartment buildings, Queen Victoria Market, Festival Hall and the north end of Etihad Stadium.

Extension of rail line from South Morang to Mernda

Estimated to cost between $400 and $600 million, Labor will extend the rail line from South Morang to Mernda. The project is expected to include eight kilometres of new duplicated track between South Morang and Mernda, with a new station at Mernda. A new station will also be built between Mernda and South Morang at a location to be determined in consultation with the community.

$100m boost for bus services

Labor will invest $100 million to improve Victoria’s bus networks, adding more routes, increasing frequencies, restoring cut services and fixing the missing links in Melbourne’s growth areas. This includes:

  • Introducing new and/or expanded services in growth areas across suburban Melbourne and regional Victoria;
  • Reinstating some abolished routes and improving the frequency of existing services that are in high demand;
  • Providing new, dedicated bus connections for university and school students.

$100m Safer Cyclists and Pedestrians Fund

A $100 million Safer Cyclists and Pedestrians Fund will invest in new, dedicated paths and routes across Victoria. The fund will also focus on improving routes to train stations and the CBD, creating new routes in regional areas, filling the ‘missing links’ in the existing bicycle network, and pedestrian crossings, markings and signs.

The $100 million Fund will be part of the TAC’s $1 billion Safe System Roads Infrastructure Program.

Active Transport Victoria

Labor will establish Active Transport Victoria, a new division within the Department of Transport. It will focus on increased participation and safety among cyclists and pedestrians across Melbourne and regional cities.

Active Transport Victoria will develop policies, suggest changes to roads and paths, and advise on the development of the cycling and walking network. It will receive $3.3 million in funding over three years.

Wind farms

A buffer zone that was introduced by the previous Coalition Government to prohibit wind farms from being constructed within two kilometres of dwellings without the consent of the homeowner will be reduced to one kilometre.

Inclusionary zoning

Labor will pilot the use of inclusionary zoning as a new affordable housing initiative for land sold by the government for development, requiring a share of new construction to be affordable to first home-owners and low income families.

VCAT to consider community opposition to planning applications

Labor will amend Victoria’s Planning and Environment Act so that, where appropriate, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) will be required to take into account the weight of community opposition to planning proposals.

Metropolitan Planning Authority to be renamed to Victorian Planning Authority

The Metropolitan Planning Authority will be renamed the Victorian Planning Authority to reinforce its statewide role. Among its responsibilities will be working with the Victorian Government Architect and the Melbourne City Council to consider all applications for developments above 25,000 square metres.

Yarra River

Labor will introduce a Yarra River Protection Act to guard the river corridor from inappropriate development. A new Trust will develop standardised planning controls for the Yarra and work with agencies to promote the river’s amenity and significance.

Green wedges 

Labor will ‘lock down’ the boundaries of Melbourne’s green wedges to prevent inappropriate development.

Source: News Release, Urbanalyst, 04 December, 2014

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