Residents being heard …

Susan Saunders

How a city grows, what kind of place it becomes and whether it is prosperous depends on a small group of decision-makers, each of whom have different agendas and mandates. How do residents fit into the process of shaping our city’s development?

The City of Melbourne (CoM) has published a document “Victorian Election 2022 – Advocacy Priorities” outlining its vision for the future of city. Of note are some statistics from the document.

  • 183,756 residents
  • 16,700 businesses
  • 910,800 people, live, work, study or socialise in the municipality

As is their role, the CoM focuses on building infrastructure to serve the community and to encourage economic development post-COVID. Its advocacy document is letting state and federal governments and other interest groups know its vision and the most pressing initiatives that are needing to be implemented in the short term.

The business community is driven by pure economics. If it’s not able to operate profitably then businesses depart. It is so sad to know that the fall-out from COVID was an 18 per cent loss of retail in the CBD. Melbourne’s business community’s wellbeing is vital for the city’s ongoing relevance.

Residents, a substantial percentage of the city’s population, naturally support the local economy by simply living here. This group’s focus is largely associated with lifestyle and amenity. It’s a group that can influence the economic and reputational wellbeing of the city.

There are other players influencing the success of a city. State and federal governments whose mandates see the city as just one of several, give priority alongside many other wider community needs.

Melbourne is a university city with a student population considered to be large on the world scale. Students play an important role in contributing to the city’s economic health and reputation.

The community comprises a mixed bag of players who make decisions with often long-term effects on the wellbeing of the city and its occupants. It is a “push-me, pull-you” mix of politics and vested interests.

Residents want to have a significant role in shaping their city. It is easy to say that no-one listens when a particular issue is not resolved. But often resolution takes time and many players are involved in implementing change. There is an argument to say that residents are being listened to. Initiatives are being taken by residents’ groups to make their views known and these activities should continue to be vigorously pursued. There needs to be continuous effort and that effort will reap results in the long run.

Residents 3000 is a group that actively engages in dialogue with the community and decision-makers through many channels. These activities allow residents’ views to be discussed and communicated widely. Just last month, at our monthly forum, the group welcomed City of Melbourne CEO Justin Hanney. Justin was able to update the 60-odd attendees with statistics on the effect COVID has had on the city and what is being done to revive the city’s economic health, ecological and lifestyle amenities.

A large part of the meeting was taken up with pre-prepared, thoughtful questions from the residents in the audience. There was effective communication happening. Some of the issues raised included:

  • People being concerned for their safety from drug-affected individuals;
  • Clean up the city, remove graffiti, be vigilant about unnecessary noise and pollution;
  • The pros and cons of adding more bike lanes in the city;
  • E-bikes using footpaths;
  • Continued concern for rough sleepers, homeless and poor citizen behaviour that is not being policed.

Apart from monthly forums, Residents 3000 regularly posts on social media and maintains an informative website. The group encourages residents to take part in “Participate Melbourne” run by the CoM.

This coming month on Thursday, April 7, Residents 3000 will be hosting its annual Neighbourhood Market Place – a 6pm start at the Kelvin Club, 14-30 Melbourne Place. Each year, this is a well-attended event where members and their guests discover more about the participating businesses and service groups. This is another way people can communicate and be informed. All part of the fabric necessary to grow our city back to pre-COVID levels and then move on to make it again one of the world’s most delightful and liveable •

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