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No Greenline cash in state budget

No Greenline cash in state budget
David Schout

The City of Melbourne is relying on big state and federal contributions to fund its “city shaping” Greenline vision, but again missed out on funds from the Victorian Government.

Plans to build a four-kilometre green trail along the Yarra River by 2028 have hit a snag, after the Victorian Government failed to allocate the City of Melbourne’s Greenline project any funds in the 2023-24 state budget.

The $300 million project, which Lord Mayor Sally Capp has said would represent Melbourne’s “biggest transformation” since the opening of Federation Square in 2002, requires significant contributions from all levels of government.

Proposing a Northbank trail all the way from Birrarung Marr to the Bolte Bridge, the council has floated a three-way funding model of $100 million each from itself, and its state and federal counterparts. However, to date only $20 million has been promised by the Commonwealth Government.

Premier Daniel Andrews was yet to come to the table, and the state’s snubbing of Greenline in its May 23 budget was a blow to the project.

An expected completion date of 2028 now looked in peril.

The government has not said whether it shared the council’s vision for Greenline, or whether it was a project being actively considered for future funding.

“The budget delivers on every promise made to Victorians at the election while repaying our COVID debt and investing in the jobs and projects that build our state,” a government spokesperson told Southbank News.

The City of Melbourne’s own draft budget (released a week prior to the state government’s) revealed a growing deficit and delayed return to surplus, placing questions over its ability to make up any Greenline funding shortfall from the state and federal governments.

The latest council budget included $97 million for Greenline over the next four years, including $48.5 million delivered by the city.

It has already allocated $20 million to Greenline in the current financial year, plus the $20 million from the grant from the Australian Government, included in the federal budget.

In September last year an economic analysis for Greenline revealed the project would more than pay for itself, delivering more than $3 of value for every dollar spent according to consultancy group Ernst & Young.

The business case forecasted an increased economic activity of $740 million over 20 years because of the project, which was expected to create more than 3400 jobs during construction and more than 6400 ongoing jobs by 2042.

Cr Capp said at the time the analysis would be essential to securing crucial funding.

“[It] helps set us all up for success, as we continue to work with key stakeholders on the delivery of Greenline, particularly in relation to our discussions with state and federal governments,” she said.

However, there were no state funds currently forthcoming for the four-kilometre trail, and as Victoria’s net debt projections were forecast to grow each year until 2026-27, the state’s appetite to fund the project was in question.

Cr Capp did not comment on the state’s Greenline snub and what it meant for the project’s future, instead focusing on what the council did receive in May.

“We welcome the state budget’s investment in the Melbourne Arts Precinct Corporation, plus our live music and events sectors, supporting our brand as a cultural capital,” she told Southbank News.

“These investments continue the pace we’ve been setting in Melbourne for the first quarter of 2023, off the back of a strong summer of events and activations.”

“We are acutely aware of the tough conditions our traders and resident continue to endure. Council will continue to work with the state government and our constituents through this period.”

In April the council released new designs for all five precincts along the Greenline trail, including an “ecological restoration” of North Wharf, and further details of the river’s edge outside the World Trade Centre, Crowne Plaza and Seafarers Bridge.

On May 17 it concluded consultation with the community and key stakeholders after gathering information to “further develop ideas” for the project.

Works at Birrarung Marr, which represents the first section of the path, won’t begin until late-2023 at the earliest. •

 

Caption: The City of Melbourne’s Greenline project was yet to receive any state government funding.

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