No new funds for CBD revival, injecting room in latest state budget
The Victorian Government’s latest budget contains no new funding for post-pandemic business recovery in the CBD, or any commitment to a proposed safe injecting facility.
But while the state opposition used the budget’s release to attack the “slap in the face” to CBD traders, the government pointed to its recent record on post-pandemic city funding.
The 2022-23 budget included $12.8 million for “trade recovery and global engagement”, which included funds for a new office in Paris, something seized upon by the opposition.
“Daniel Andrews has made it crystal clear he cares more about the Champs-Élysées than the CBD,” shadow minister for CBD Recovery David Southwick said.
“How can business owners in our city gain the confidence to recover and rebuild when the state government refuses to deliver the support they need and deserve?”
However, the state government said that the $200 million Melbourne City Revitalisation Fund announced in last year’s budget was a two-year fund, and further initiatives were due to be announced “shortly”.
It is understood only half of the funding pool, which the City of Melbourne contributed $100 million to, has been spent.
Initiatives from the fund to date include the popular Melbourne Money scheme, which offered diners a discount on meals within the city from Mondays to Thursdays.
“The Melbourne City Revitalisation Fund is designed to boost the central city economy, renew city spaces and assist CBD businesses as they recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” a Victorian Government spokesperson said.
Attracting more people to the city is critical to the vibrancy of the CBD and will increase revenue for local businesses.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said delivery of the fund “continued to build city confidence” and the discount dining scheme had been “incredibly successful” with a flow-on effect of more than $100 million to the city economy.
Notably, there was no funding in the budget for Victoria’s second medically supervised injecting room, which is expected to be located in the CBD.
Former Victoria Police commissioner Ken Lay continues to work on a report, originally due by the end of 2020, which will recommend the most appropriate site.
This was pushed back after the government’s initial preferred site, community health service Cohealth on Victoria St — was taken off the table after strong pushback from the council due to its proximity to vulnerable residents and the Queen Victoria Market.
The government is widely tipped to locate the safe injecting facility at the former Yooralla building at 244 Flinders St, which it purchased in 2021.
Treasurer Tim Pallas sent tongues wagging when he said in a budget interview that the government had finally received the report.
“The government is still considering the report we’ve received from former police commissioner Lay,” Mr Pallas said on 3AW.
“We’re yet to make a final decision about location and as such any commitment to the resourcing and ongoing operation of a second facility is yet to be made.”
However, a state government spokesperson confirmed with CBD News that the treasurer had misspoken, and the government was yet to receive the report.
The only commitment the government could make was that the report would be completed in 2022, although it was unclear whether this would be before November’s state election.
Elsewhere, there was no funding in the budget for the City of Melbourne’s landmark Greenline project; a proposed four-kilometre trail along the north bank of the Yarra River from Birrarung Marr to the Bolte Bridge.
The council has pledged to fund a third of the $300 million project and wants $100 million each from both the state and federal governments.
And while Federal Labor pledged an initial $20 million a week prior to the May 21 election, the Andrews Government was yet to commit to Greenline.
There was also no state funding for an extension on stamp duty concessions within the City of Melbourne — a key part of the council wish list ahead of the state election in November, released earlier this year.
Cr Capp said the council would “maintain our advocacy” for an extension of the current stamp duty relief, which was due to conclude on June 30 •