Victoria: A State of Cities Synopsis

A joint event between the Planning Institute of Australia’s Victorian Young Planners (VYP) group and AILA Victoria’s ‘Fresh’ came together to host an event titled ‘Victoria: A State of Cities’, the first such event between the VYP and Fresh group in a long time.

The title was a reference to Plan Melbourne’s proclamation that Victoria should move towards a State of Cities, diversifying the range of living options for Victorians, and people migrating to the state.

A range of speakers presented their work, and opinions on the theme, citing projects that they have worked on, and what their response to the topic is.

Aaron Lindsay, Coordinator of Public Space Design from the City of Greater Bendigo presented on the history of Bendigo, and how design has been a key influence over the city, allowing it to transform into a contemporary city with heritage bones. Aaron spoke about the proactive nature of the Council, and the amount of typically unseen work that has gone into revitalising the city which generally goes unnoticed –such as footpath upgrades, relocating powerlines underground, and street tree planting; which has had direct and indirect effects on how people use the space. One case being the number of alfresco dining permits issued by the Council, which since these initiatives have been implemented, has increased 330%.

Damien Kennedy, an experienced planner who has worked with State Government to manage the production of broad level strategic plans, spoke about the Regional Growth Plans for Victoria, and Plan Melbourne, highlighting the importance of holistic strategic planning. He reminded us that these documents should not be considered in isolation, but rather as a part of the broader legislative framework which guides the future planning of our state. He also reiterated that planning is fluid in nature, and that plans and documents should not be set in stone, but rather reflect the need to evolve in order to produce better outcomes.

Rosalea Monacella and Craig Douglass, directors of the Office of Urban Transformations Research (OUTr) ran through their project, Future Morwell. The revitalisation project, located in the Latrobe Valley, aims to enrich the existing community through public participation and communal activation of spaces. The intent is to adjust the current status of three separate towns into one connected community, which values its identity, its local produce, and enables an enhanced sense of community and place through the participation and championing of the future direction of the Latrobe Valley by its citizens. Examples were shown of community engagement, activation techniques, and community responses, and how this can drive change in the productivity, investment and use of the city, while also engaging in aspirational and practical plans for the future.

Paul Shipp, director of Urban Enterprise, queried the statement ‘A State of Cities’ and suggested rather, that we are facing a ‘State of Maybes’. This statement reflects that regional centres cannot merely absorb the ‘excess’ population of Melbourne, but rather need to approached appropriately to ensure these regional cities can accommodate population growth with provision of services, and connectivity to other cities and towns. The implication is that population growth alone is not enough to create a great city, but rather that a review and development of the strengths of cities can ensure the retention of community identity and cohesiveness.

Both AILA Fresh and PIA VYP are looking forward to connecting together again soon, to continue the networking opportunities and social connection made available by this collaborative event.