In a decade’s time, Melbourne will be a very different city from today.
Take a time machine 10 years into the future and you are likely to find a very different Melbourne. Driverless electric cars could be purring along Princes Bridge near Flinders Street station. Or perhaps this area has been completely shut to ordinary motorists and turned over to cyclists and pedestrians. By 2026, 1 million people are expected to flood the central city every day.
Intermingled among the crowd you may notice little robots – they look like suitcases on wheels as they scoot around purchasing sandwiches and dropping off parcels for their owners.
The streets will be noticeably greener, as the thousands of trees planted by the council in the previous decade begin to throw shade from their thickening canopies.
And then there will be the things you can’t see. The engine room of Melbourne’s economy is likely to be fed by knowledge industries, including new and exportable innovations developed to respond to climate change.
It is this changing landscape that will be at the core of Melbourne’s new 10-year plan. Led by Melbourne City Council and a committee of six high-profile ambassadors, the latest Future Melbourne plan envisages a “bold, inspirational and sustainable global city” come 2026.
Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle said the document was “like the overarching game plan” for the city.
In the coming years Melbourne is likely to undergo huge physical change, with the Melbourne Metro Rail project to be constructed and the city to continue its rapid expansion with dozens of new skyscrapers and the development of high-rise neighbourhoods outside the Hoddle Grid.
Cr Doyle said in many ways it would be a period of disruption, through construction of the metro, new technologies upending traditional business models (such as Uber and the taxi industry) and the havoc caused by climate change.
“What happens if we have another heatwave like the one that led to Black Saturday back in 2009? We know that they are on the cards.”
Professor Glyn Davis, Melbourne University’s vice chancellor, is chairing the panel of Future Melbourne ambassadors and said he expects climate change to produce a lot of creativity and innovation.
He said when the last 10-year plan was completed in 2008 manufacturing was still a notable presence in the economy, but in recent years that force had petered out in Victoria while education has taken a front seat.
Professor Davis said in the next decade he expected technology development across a range of industries to become new economic drivers.
For example, he said Melbourne researchers were on the cusp of creating “personalised medicine” where drugs were individually tailored to patients based on their genetics. “We can reinforce Melbourne as the nation’s leading health centre, but also make it a whole new export industry. That’s what we did with education,” Professor Davis said.
The previous Future Melbourne plan had eight broad goals, including that Melbourne be a creative and economically prosperous city. Professor Davis said these goals would probably be refreshed to better reflect the opportunities of the looming decade. A “digital city” would be an obvious inclusion.
Meanwhile, there is still a lot of work needed to create more affordable and social housing in central Melbourne – where only 0.8 per cent of rentals are affordable.
Future Melbourne ambassador, MGS Architects co-founder Rob McGauran, said the city would not work properly if key city workers and families couldn’t afford to live there.
“Like our forefathers, we have to plan for a civic community life in the future,” Mr McGauran said.
The final Future Melbourne plan is expected to be completed by August. Visit http://participate.melbourne.vic.gov.au/future to have your say.
Read article at The Age