City in crisis – Melbourne’s new State Museum as mistake putting at risk our heritage, Our Gardens and long term interests
[Archive publication September 1996]
Melbourne’s economic decline, aided and abetted by State Government and the impedance of the City of Melbourne, continues at an alarming rate. At a time when we need clear strategic goals and positive action our Community leaders continue to burry their heads in sand and walk away rather then address the situation. Melbourne retail activity already suffering from lure and expansion of major regional shopping centres now faces, potentially greater blow, another nail in its waiting coffin. The recent decision to extend trading hours along with the continual removal of major cultural and administrative activity from the City Centre will severely impact on Melbourne which will be left standing not as a centre of excellence, the focus of cultural activity, the arts, entertainment and heritage but as a City devoid of soul and character servant to the interests and domination of the new Casino culture.
Melbourne new Casino with over 20 cinemas and theatres and major retailing space will result in a dramatic shift of economic activity. The Bourke Street entertainment precinct, already suffering from the expansion of suburban cinema complex, will be unable to remain viable or compete with the new facilities provided to lure customers to the new City Casino complex. The concentration of economic activity and wealth centred on Melbourne’s new Gateway “The Crown Casino” and its resulting power and influence will be like no other seen in Victoria. Melbourne must address and come to terms with the need to implement strategic planning.
Where is the commitment to our City, what is the vision for the future. The ‘Kennett’ State Government having been in office for over four years has failed to generate real confidence in the future of our City. With an large number of vacant development sites now existing within the heart of the City, each site having a proposed planned hotel, none of which in spite the State Government reassurance and propaganda have proceeded beyond the concept stage. Do we really believe that Melbourne needs and can support 24 more 5 star hotel complexes?
The State Government is contributing further to the City’s planning crises by failing to strategically allocate community resources where they will benefit Melbourne the most. Instead of centrally locating major civic buildings and institutions within the heart of the city on one of the many vacant bomb sites the Government continues to add to the city’s decline by using valuable park land as cheap development sites. Destroying further the heart, soul and character of our City once renowned as the ‘Garden State’. The proposal to relocate the State Museum to the Carlton Gardens on the outskirts of the City is one example that clearly demonstrates the need for strategic planning and development. The State Museum currently located in Swanston Street generates over 600,000 visits to the City centre. It is estimated that the proposed new State Museum will generate over 1 Million visitors per year.
The economic impact of the relocation of 1 Million visitors from the Swanston Street along with the expected decline the Bourke Street entertainment precinct and retail activity is considerable. RMIT and the State Library will remain as the only Civic institutions left in what was once Melbourne’s Civic centre. Melbourne is in desperate need of commitment and continuing cultural identity and given that there are a number of vacant sites ideally situated along the Swanston Street corridor why is the Government pursuing the relocation of the State Museum to the Carlton Gardens as opposed to retaining the Museum within the heart of the City.
The new Museum instead of being located where it can do the most good is to be located where it will do the most harm. The allocation of over 250 million dollars for a proposed development of the State Museum would go a long way in reinforcing and providing long term commitment to a city. If the Government is not prepared to consider the proper allocation of resources and commitment to the City Centre how can it expect to instil public confidence in the City’s future.
We must ensure that the development of our City is in balance with social and economic needs that fulfil the aims and objectives of a healthy and culturally vibrant City. Our City Councillors and Community leaders must take on the role of facilitator and engage the community in discussion and debate about the future planning and development of our City. Out State Government and State Institutions would better serve the interests of the State if it stopped and consulted with the community before making irreversible discussions that are not in the communities best interest. We should all head the motto embedded in the foyer of the State Parliament reads,. “In the absence of counsel the people fall but in the multitude of counsellors their is safety” .
Anthony van der Craats
September 30, 1996
Comment: Already the Museum is suffering with attendance rates below expectations and blow out in budgets. (This and more was forewarned) The City Council only this week proposed a trouist bus to help feed tourists to the Carlton Museum site. Had the City Council shown true integrity and te lieks of Bamboo Rob and Peter McMullin not betrayed Melbourne teh Musuem could have been located at the centre of Melbourne incorporated into an expanded Federation Square. – Opportunity lost and a monument to Jeff Kennetts many disasters in planning Melbourne’s future.
Credit should go to John Brumby, who following a meeting with Trevor Huggard, Sigmund Jorgensen and myself, supported the proposal that Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Buildings be nominated for World Heritage Listing – the rest is history.