Livability options in outer suburban Melbourne: Outer Suburban/Interface Services and Development Committee

I rise to speak on the Outer Suburban/Interface Services and Development Committee’s report on livability options in outer suburban Melbourne. As a former member of that committee, I congratulate the team who worked on this report, which is quite substantial.

The terms of reference for the report come to light in the title: it is all about livability. I would like to focus on two terms of reference in particular today. These are terms of reference (b), ‘examine population growth trends and impacts’, and (f), ‘recommend options for enhanced livability of residents’. In particular, this report looked at the predictions of growth for our interface council areas and the needs for improved livability there.

There were hundreds of submissions received and many witness statements made. Particularly pertinent were those from councils in Melbourne’s outer suburban growth corridor, which operate at the interface. These councils put up some strong economic arguments about the sort of investment the state government needs to be making to ensure that livability in Victoria is equitable and that there are not two Melbournes rather than one, divided on economic opportunity.

The councils that presented to the committee included Casey, Cardinia, Melton, Wyndham, Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Ranges, Nillumbik, Whittlesea, Hume and the recently added Mitchell, which is also now considered an interface growth area. Those councils painted a picture of a future where they expect to accommodate up to 650 000 more people in the next 15 years, which is 64 per cent of Melbourne’s population growth. The interface councils have put forward an agenda to keep up with that population growth. Their financial need is quite overwhelming: $9.8 billion is required to keep pace with population growth over the next 15 years.

The specific needs of these areas include 70 000 additional primary school places, 8595 additional aged-care beds, 2560 additional hospital beds and an extra $6 billion investment in public transport to move an additional 120 000 commuters.

Residents in the outer suburbs face significant setbacks when it comes to livability. One area in particular in which the residents of these suburbs are disadvantaged is education. Only 14 per cent of interface residents over the age of 15 hold a degree or higher, compared to 28 per cent of residents who live in non-interface areas. Also, young people who live in the outer suburbs are less likely to engage in higher and post-secondary education compared to their counterparts in the inner city. Five to six new schools need to be built annually to keep pace with the population growth occurring in the outer suburbs. Under this government’s watch that has not happened.

There is a need for 290 new primary school buildings in total to be built over the next 15 years and 95 secondary school buildings, which would house over 50 000 additional students.

My electorate, which includes a big growth area, has significant issues regarding the number of secondary schools that are needed to keep pace with population growth. However, the Department of Treasury and Finance and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development presented to the Brimbank City Council their plans to sell off five surplus school sites in the Brimbank area. These school sites border the Melton area, which is one of the highest growth areas in outer suburban Melbourne. In addition, the government plans to sell off nine sites across the city of Greater Bendigo and the cities of Monash and Casey. Casey in particular is a massive growth area.

Surely the government could put those school sites to better use by keeping up with the schooling needs in these areas rather than flogging off the land to make a quick buck for developers. The needs are clearly there, and they are painted in this report. The government needs to hold onto that land.