Council wish list goes begging in state budget

Council wish list goes begging in state budget
David Schout

A City of Melbourne list of short-term priorities has been left largely ignored in the latest state budget.

Key pillars of a council wish-list released earlier this year, ahead of the state election in late 2022, pushed for funding for an extension on stamp duty concessions, additional support measures for CBD businesses, and City Rd upgrades in Southbank.

However, the latest budget did not include funding for these initiatives and projects.

The council’s advocacy document featured key priorities “where the city ambition needs to be matched by other levels of government.”

Notably, it stated that the state government should “fully fund” outstanding projects in the already delayed City Road Master Plan.

Last year’s budget included $107 million to support business recovery in the CBD, however the latest budget did not feature further targeted support for the central city.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp did not say whether she and the council were disappointed with the budget and said it would continue to work with the government.

“Our ongoing partnership with the state government to deliver the Melbourne City Revitalisation Fund continues to build city confidence,” she told Southbank News.

“The incredibly successful Melbourne Money discount dining program has had a flow-on effect of more than $100 million for our city economy.”

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.

It was pointed out by the state opposition that the budget included more money for Paris (where funds were included for a trade and investment office) than Melbourne.

“[Premier] 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?”

“Victorians deserve a government that is focused on the best interests of Victoria.”

There was, however, strong investment in the creative industries in the 2022-23 budget.

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) will receive $32.1 million ($10.7 million over each of the next three years) to support its summer exhibition program, including the NGV Triennial. The series has attracted almost 11 million visitors to exhibitions and activities since its inception in 2014.

There was also support for Arts Centre Melbourne’s Australian Music Vault program, which celebrates and explores the history and future of Australian music.

“Victoria is known as the creative state for a reason – our galleries, museums, libraries and theatres bring thousands of people here every year, helping grow our economy and create jobs,” creative industries minister Danny Pearson said.

“We’re backing Victoria’s multi-billion-dollar creative economy so it can keep delivering the jobs Victorians need and the cultural experiences they love.”

The government also indicated it would provide funding for a key event space, something Cr Capp said was “welcome”.

“We further welcome news the budget will enable the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre to deliver more world-class business events and activities and look forward to seeing the detail on the $4.4 million for an events recovery and support program,” she said.

“We will continue to work with the Victorian Government on the delivery of city-shaping projects like our Greenline boulevard along the north bank of the Yarra.” •

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