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A New Partnership - The Capital City and Regional Victoria

Sue Wilcox

Strategic Planning Unit Leader, City of Melbourne

Much of this paper is based on a paper “A New Partnership – The Capital City and Regional Victoria” prepared for the City of Melbourne by Spiller Gibbins Swan Pty Ltd. in February 2000

Globalisation and Regional Development

The growth in information technology means that cities and regions now compete on a global level.

Globalisation is pushing Melbourne towards stronger links with other world cities than with the rural hinterland.

Over the past two decades, metropolitan Melbourne has experienced a shift away from a commodity and traditional manufacturing-based economy and seen new industries emerge.

The growth of export-oriented high value added goods and services including sophisticated machinery, scientific instruments, tourism, information technology and telecommunications, and eCommerce processing is now generating rewards in job creation and investment. At the same time, however, many rural communities are struggling with the decline in commodity prices and the impacts of rationalisation amongst both private and public sector service providers.

There is increasing disparity between the city and regions in terms of job and wealth creation. Divergence in life prospects, (both perceived and real), across the State is damaging to the community and our ‘sense of belonging’. It can also lead to political volatility which is not good for any of us.

All Victorians have a stake in their Capital City - its health and economic vitality is essential to the well being of the State as a whole. The relationship between the Capital City, the major provincial cities and regional Victoria – the interdependencies, the synergies - is therefore important to us all.

As the gateway to the rest of the state for local, interstate and international business and tourism, the City of Melbourne is keen to review opportunities to work closely with regional Victoria, to strengthen Country – City links and to establish how and where it can most effectively “add value“.

The Role of the Capital City in Regional Development

Whilst the metropolitan area’s economic prospects are no longer as dependent on the rural hinterland as they once were, the City – and the City of Melbourne in particular – is crucial to economic growth and quality of life in the country - and equally, a thriving regional Victoria is crucial to the City’s well being.

Melbourne is an important driver and contributor to the competitiveness of local and metropolitan enterprises alike through the quality of access to business services and the efficiency of radial transportation systems:

  • The metropolitan highways, the airport, and the seaport provide vital links for the export earning sectors of rural regions, including tourism;
  • The City provides a skills base and the capacity for specialisation required for the formation of advanced business services such as financial brokerage, information technology and telecommunications, education and training, engineering design and management, advertising, marketing and distribution and management advice

These urban services make essential contributions to the rural industry value chain and help maintain the international and inter-regional competitiveness of country enterprises.

In addition, quantum improvements in data transfer services, increased flexibility in working arrangements and the growing tendency to outsource a wide range of corporate services has created a large pool of ‘footloose’ metropolitan workers. This has provided the opportunity for a lifestyle choice embracing a split between a Melbourne base and a residence within, say, some 2 hours of Melbourne.

The domestic spending of these workers, sustained by export linked jobs in the metropolitan area, can have a significant impact on regional communities, with multiplier effects extending beyond local retail and commercial service providers to education, health and other community services, thereby contributing to the fabric of regional communities.

Eight out of ten Victorians live within this expanding ‘economic footprint’ of the city.

In addition, the Capital City also contributes to the quality of life of country residents - Victoria’s relative ‘compactness’ enables the majority of the State’s residents access to high quality cultural, sporting and recreational facilities.

The Need for a New Partnership

Globalisation and the need to ensure that we are competitively ‘positioned’ for the challenges of the new century may well be pushing metropolitan Melbourne towards stronger links with other world cities however the imperative to forge closer ties between the Capital City and Regional Victoria has never been stronger.

The Melbourne City Council believes that local government is well placed to make a difference in this area, being the level of government closest to Regional and City constituents.

Most importantly, we believe that it is now time to look to the wider region and develop relationships between the Capital City and regional Victoria, to ensure that the economic growth attracted by the Capital City is successfully built upon across the State.

The re-integration of the City with its hinterland will not only assist with strengthening our ‘sense of belonging’ and the building of community strengths, but it will assist in keeping welfare expenditures under control and provide a wider menu of lifestyle benefits and opportunities for us all.

Earlier this year, the City of Melbourne commissioned consultants Spiller Gibbins Swan to undertake a study to examine the relationship between the City of Melbourne as a Capital City and Regional Victoria.

The resultant paper A New Partnership - The Capital City and Regional Victoria stresses the strategic importance of Melbourne as the driver of the State’s economic growth and outlines how the Capital City might better serve the interests of its region to achieve mutual growth and benefit. The paper provides several recommendations for joint development with the regions, the State and the Federal Government.

The paper makes recommendations in relation to:

  • Capacity Building
  • Improving Country-City Connectivity
  • Access to Business Services and
  • Better Access to Melbourne’s Cultural Sporting and Recreational Facilities

One recommendation around capacity building is to establish a Regional Mayors Forum to discuss the evolving partnership and to address in particular:

  • infrastructure investment priorities across the State;
  • the scope for integrated regional and metropolitan planning strategies;
  • the spatial implications of external policy decisions (Greenhouse targets, GST, business taxation reform etc);
  • the development of innovative programs specifically focussed on areas of marked social exclusion;
  • opportunities to institute new infrastructure planning processes which give real power to local communities; and
  • ways of resourcing better training and professional development opportunities for local government officials, elected members and other community leaders in country areas.

It is hoped that participation in this week’s events and the State Government’s proposed Regional Mayors’ Economic Development Summit planned for early August, will enable the City, the State and regional governments to pursue some of these options, ultimately resulting in the implementation of practical value-adding initiatives and stronger Country – City links.

What the City of Melbourne Can Do

Much of what is required to establish a new partnership between the City and the country lies outside the immediate domain of the City of Melbourne. But as the State’s Capital City, Council has a responsibility to show public policy leadership on this issue. We are also keen to actually ‘make a difference’.

The Melbourne City Council is keen to encourage two way engagement for mutual growth and benefit. In the same way as a new start-up business requires access to global markets, the City can provide a springboard or specialist services for regional and national growth.

Current Initiatives

There are a range of ways the City can add value, including through advocacy and facilitation, networking and strategic alliances, and business development and trade missions and I’d like to briefly detail some of our current initiatives across these areas:

Advocacy and Facilitation

The City can and does lend its voice to investment and infrastructure issues of regional significance for example, support for a high-speed train link between Sydney and Melbourne, and for better and more efficient links across metropolitan Melbourne, to the port and the airport.

Very High Speed Train Alliance (VHSTA)

The Very High Speed Train Alliance is a broad coalition of peak bodies, business groups and state and local governments that has been formed to secure an in-principle commitment from the Federal Government to the establishment of a high speed rail network along Australia's eastern seaboard, eventually linking Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide. The Alliance is headed by Mr Jack Smorgon, chairman of the Committee for Melbourne and convenor of the Prime Minister’s Rail Projects Taskforce.

The strategic and economic benefits of a high-speed rail corridor between Melbourne and Sydney are enormous – they include the potential to create 75,000 permanent jobs and contribute $11 billion to the national economy.

Organisations represented on the Alliance include the:

  • Property Council of Australia, Victorian division
  • Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce & Industry
  • Australian Industry Group
  • Institution of Engineers Australia, Victorian branch
  • Business Council of Australia

And other participating organisations include the:

  • Gippsland Development, Ltd
  • Victorian Farmers Federation
  • Australian Council for Infrastructure Development
  • Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation
  • Tourism Victoria

Networking and Strategic Alliances

Business Partner City Network (BPC)

Melbourne is Australia’s representative on the Asia-Pacific focussed Business Partner City Network (BPC).

The Network, which was established in 1988, promotes business between small to medium sized enterprises through its member cities. Cities represented in the BPC are Osaka, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Jakarta, Seoul, Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City and Mumbai.

The City of Melbourne has established a Melbourne BPC Forum, comprising representatives from the Federal Government (Austrade), the Victorian State Government, major universities, the Committee for Melbourne and industry groups to oversee our role in the network. The Australian Industry Group is co-signatory to the agreement with the City of Melbourne.

The promotion of international business between companies of BPC members and information exchange will be facilitated by an on-line "virtual exhibition space" that is currently being developed by the City of Melbourne and will be launched at the BPC Roundtable to be held in Melbourne in September.

This is an exciting initiative that will provide an opportunity for City and regional based business to promote products, services and capabilities via the Internet through BPC member cities.

Another example of Council’s involvement is through the:

Local Government Cultural Development Network (Vic)

The Local Government Cultural Development Network, a joint initiative of the City of Melbourne and the City of Port Phillip aims promote professional development of staff involved in arts and cultural development across Victoria’s 78 councils.

Through building stronger links (in person and on-line) between the growing numbers of professionals working in this sector, the Network aims to improve skills and ideas, and hence programs and policies at the local level in areas such as:

  • Festivals and events
  • Cultural tourism
  • Community arts programs
  • Heritage and conservation
  • Public art
  • Social cohesion and community strategies
  • Community planning (including cultural plans)
  • Reconciliation and other issues affecting all Councils and all communities

Business Development and trade missions

The City of Melbourne plays an active role in business development and facilitation

Examples of such involvement include:

Information City Victoria

The City of Melbourne has provided “start-up” funding for Information City Victoria, a City based high technology incubator developed to support the growth of IT ‘start-up’ companies.

Consortium members include:

  • Melbourne IT Limited
  • Information City Victoria Green Hill (the University of Ballarat’s Greenhill Enterprise Centre)
  • Information City Victoria (Redcentre)-Australian Photonics (Redcentre) in Heidelberg and the
  • Strategic Industry Research Foundation
  • Information City Victoria (Melbourne)
  • Joint Technology Parks Pty Ltd

Information City will provide specialist business and management services, access to regional and global networks and partners, and financial assistance to its incubatees.

The consortium provides for strategic industry and regional links across Victoria, strengthening our combined IT infrastructure and capabilities. The City of Melbourne provided funding for the initial feasibility study for Information City, support for the fitout of the Melbourne Incubator and the preparation of a joint publication.

In addition, the City actively promotes Melbourne’s research and development strengths across the City and the State through programs such as Thinking Melbourne – a joint initiative with the Committee for Melbourne and the Strategic industry Research Foundation.

Boston Business Mission

In March this year, the City of Melbourne led a business mission to Boston for BIO2000, the world’s largest biotechnology conference, to engage in business meetings with Boston’s research leaders in the industry. The City’s delegation included potential intermediaries in the industry - venture capitalists, patent attorneys and developers etc – and complemented the State Government’s delegation of science delegates who attended.

Strong regional links and benefits can flow from such activities.

The Way Forward

Time does not permit me to continue further, however in conclusion, I would like to say our door is always open to suggestions for future Country - City engagement; this and other planned consultation with regional representatives will continue to inform the City of Melbourne as to how the Capital City can best serve the region.

We are committed to adding value and making a difference; w e cannot afford to become complacent, we cannot "go it alone", together we must move forward to a "healthy happy Victoria".

I very much look forward to the outcomes of this conference and hope that we can effectively harness our collective energies, skills, knowledge and wisdom to ensure a prosperous sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.

I thank you for your time this afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

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